The monumental statue in the center of Old Town Square is one of the most popular meeting places in the city. On sunny days, the benches surrounding the monument’s steps are filled with Italians in expensive sunglasses, American biftads in fraternity shirts, and travelers from all over the globe, eating, drinking, smoking and sending text messages home. Few realize that the bronze man above them, standing defiantly against hurricane-force winds, was deemed a heretic by the Catholic Church, tethered to a stake and roasted alive in 1415 — an event that touched off decades of warfare between reform-minded nationalist Hussites and the country’s German-oriented Roman Catholic leaders. To Czechs, Hus has come to represent national pride and triumph against foreign aggressors. The statue was unveiled in 1915 at the culmination of the Czech National Revival, an intense nationalist movement that resuscitated the almost-extinct Czech language and reinforced local culture. The inscription on the pediment reads “Truth will prevail.” In 1968, when Soviet-led Warsaw Pact tanks rolled through Old Town Square, someone wrapped a blindfold around the statue’s eyes so Hus wouldn’t have to bear witness to yet another foreign invasion.

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