Pilsen Alchemists

The days of Rudolph II made famous both Prague and other Czech towns. Some are still known in connection with names of artists, scientists and charlatans. The golden age of alchemy characteristic with its looking for the philosophers’ stone and artificial production of precious metals had its representative figures in Pilsen too.

In Rudolph’s time, alchemy spread in the Czech lands, namely the attempts to produce gold are remembered. According to ancient traditions, one member of the Stehlik and Treustatt family of Cenkov was an excellent practitioner of astronomy and astrology. He is said to have been in frequent touch with the renowned astronomer Tychon de Brahe. At the invitation of Stehlik, the master visited Pilsen several times.

The Pilsener had, according to the same tradition, his own observatory in Saska street. There, he also established a gold-producing kitchen, in which he performed several attempts to produce gold. A certain alchemist called Skot from Prague made him try it. (Could that be the very Alessandro Scotto who came to Prague on August 14, 1590?) Stehlik’s experiments failed and he found out the Prague alchemist had tricked him.

Another Pilsen alchemist lived in the Rihovsky house that used to stand at the corner of nowaday’s Presovska street and the square of the Republic. The school keeper Beringer, whose father, a hat maker, used to live in the house all his life, remembered his father’s narration about a mysterious alchemy workroom. The same evidence was witnessed by a toy maker who had his shop in the house: Many years ago, a man came to the town – god only knows from where – and established himself in the Rihovsky house. He married a rich burgher daughter, who died soon after.

He then lived alone as an odd bird. He shared his huge flat with his old servant only and never called visitors in.

He was brewing and preparing medicaments for the poor. But he was also said to keep attempting to produce gold. People thought he was helped by the devil, to whom he had sold his soul. One day, the servant came to the town hall to announce his master was dead. He had found him lying in the work room, strangled, with a strange line across his neck. The line was as if made by fire. The authorities sent a doctor, a scribe, and a catchpole to witness the matter. Indeed, they found the alchemist dead, exactly as the servant had announced. There were many strange jars on the worktable, one of which did contain pure gold. But treasures vividly talked about among the Pilsen citizens were not found anywhere. The servant was called to witness at the town hall. He said that his master had often spent his nights in the cellar, where he should not have been disturbed by anyone. Often, he carried packets to the cellar with him. He was the only one who had had the keys from the work room.

After the death of the man, his relatives had the cellar examined in search for the treasure. And indeed, they discovered a nook in the wall, in which a coffer was built in. It contained pieces of pure gold, which the family members divided among themselves.

The Golden Book of Pilsen Legends by Vladimir Havlic was published by the publishing house Vesely in 1995. The book was written at the base of Schiebl’s collection Pilsen in Tale, Legend, Tradition, and Wit. The book by Vladimir Havlic was published with the financial support of Ceska sporitelna, a.s., Pilsen dept., at the occasion of the celebrations of the 700th anniversary of foundation of Pilsen.