The Środa Treasure. Royal Bankers

3 October – 30 December 2023

Curator of the exhibition: Jacek Witecki

The annual exhibition of priceless artefacts belonging to the treasure discovered in Środa Śląska in the 1980s, the so-called Środa Treasure.

It comprises medieval jewellery and gems originating from the court of Charles IV in Prague, pawned to Jewish financiers in Środa Śląska who then lent money to the king.

The exhibition, which every year presents different issues connected with the history of the Treasure, this time is dedicated to the history of the local Jewish community and its links with the royal court. It reveals more about the intriguing circumstances in which these treasures of truly inestimable value, e.g. a 14th cent. bridal wedding crown, found their way to Silesia and waited in a bricked-up cellar for over 500 years to be discovered.

Historical artefacts from the Środa Śląska Treasure

The crown is the most valuable part of the Środa Treasure. It is a woman’s crown commissioned on the occasion of a wedding, which is clearly indicated by the rings motif – a sign of marital commitment and symbol of a good omen.

The crown

The crown belonged to the Czech queens, and its last owner could have been Blanka (Blanche) de Valois, the first wife of Charles IV of Luxembourg.

This priceless piece was created in the early 14th cent. It is the only surviving medieval crown of this kind, and its exceptional value is further augmented by the supreme craftsmanship of the goldsmith.

a round clasp

The second most valuable piece of jewelry is a round clasp, decorated in the centre with a chalcedony cameo depicting the imperial eagle. Around the cameo and along the inner ring of the clasp precious stones – garnets and emeralds – are set, while the outer ring retains a sapphire and pearls circled by garlands of emeralds and garnets. Such clasps were used to fasten ceremonial cloaks of courtiers as well as the coronation and liturgical robes.

Other exhibits on display are the gold pendants dating from the late 12th cent. and the 13th cent., used to adorn women’s heads (decorated with filigree as well sapphires, citrines, garnets and pearls), a buckle with a bird figurine, gold rings, ornamental strips used as edging for precious objects, as well as gold and silver coins.

The place and probable time of hiding these precious objects – before the mid-14th cent. – and the character of the jewels allow us to speculate that they constituted a bank collateral which had originated from Prague, from the Crown Treasury of the House of Luxembourg. The valuables found their way to Silesia, which was then part of the Czech Crown, during the rule of Charles IV. It has been known that the King borrowed heavily from the rich merchants of Środa Śląska in order to finance his political campaign to obtain the imperial title.

The treasure was placed in the collection of the National Museum in Wrocław, and was first shown to the public in 1996. The Środa Treasure is exhibited annually in the National Museum in Wrocław during the last three months of the year, and for the remaining nine months it can be viewed in the Regional Museum in Środa Śląska.