The Środa Śląska Treasure. The Time of Plague

6 October 2020 – 31 March 2021

Curator of the exhibition: Jacek Witecki

The Środa Śląska Treasure found purely by accident in the 1970s in the small town of Środa Śląska near Wrocław, is considered to be one of the most important discoveries of its kind in Europe.

The collection of Medieval gold crown jewels originating from the vaults of Czech kings, who at that time were also the rulers of Silesia, includes a bridal wedding crown dating from the early 14th century, a 13th-century imperial clasp, a few thousand silver and gold coins, as well as other priceless antique pieces pawned to a banker in Środa Śląska by Charles IV, the Czech king who later became also the Emperor of the German Reich.

Fot. A. Podstawka

The story of the buried treasure started in one of the most dramatic periods in European history. In September 1347, twelve merchant ships belonging to the Republic of Genoa sailing from Constantinople to Sicily, docked in the port of Messina. Soon after their arrival the first few cases of a lethal disease, a bubonic fever transported from the region of the Black Sea, were registered. The pestilence, called the Black Death or the Great Plague, in just four years spread throughout most of Europe killing a vast number of its inhabitants, nowadays difficult to estimate exactly. Europe‘s population decreased by more than a third and many towns which were then depopulated have never regained their old grandeur.

Not knowing the exact nature of the disease, it was seen as punishment for sins, and often members of the Jewish diaspora were indicated as its perpetrators and accused of deliberately ‘poisoning’ Christians. The widespread extermination of Jewish communities took place throughout Europe, also in the region of Silesia in which no cases of the plague were actually recorded. At that time many people tried to hide away their jewels and valuable possessions, hoping to recover them once the persecution ceased. Yet many of those secret treasure troves remained hidden for centuries, and the famous discovery from Środa Śląska provides one of the most important examples dating from the times of the Black Death. The exhibition organised in the National Museum in Wrocław provides the visitors with an opportunity to find out more on this subject.