The Old Alchemy Laboratory That Is Now a Museum
Under the rubble in the center of Prague a dusty alchemy laboratory was discovered that is now a magnificent museum.
A good traveler knows that in order to find the superb refinement of Prague one must search deeply because now its eternally floating population conceals – with innumerable souvenir stores and bureaus de change – the impressive remnants of an unusual and powerful past. The recent discovery of a 16th century alchemy laboratory under the rubble of the city center is a reminder of that.
In August 2002 the capital of the Czech Republic was preparing to face the worst possible scenario. It was forced to evacuate thousands of people and to pile up sandbags due to the imminent flood risk caused by the swelling of the Moldava River. The water penetrated underground and damaged the foundations of buildings that had to be pulled down or rebuilt. And that was when, in the middle of that task, an underground passageway was discovered that led to one of Prague’s oldest buildings, dating from at least the 16th century. Inside the tunnel on Haštalská Street they found a dusty alchemy laboratory, the entrance to which had been hermetically sealed centuries ago.
When the laboratory was in use, emperor Rudolph II ruled and who, although he was not an effective leader, transported his passion for astrology, magic and alchemy to Prague castle. During his reign he converted the city into the European capital of the dark arts and perhaps created the most active era of occult practices in history. Around him flocked astrologers such as Johannes Kepler and Tycho Brahe and alchemists and other magus-type figures such as Edward Kelley and John Dee.
In the alchemy laboratory some bottles containing supposedly magic potions were found, as well as an alchemist’s oven. Now it is known that that elixir contains 77 medicinal herbs macerated in alcohol and opium and provoked a stunning of the senses.
Today, the mysterious alchemy laboratory, which must have been visited by important scientists and alchemists of the era that sought to not only turn metals into gold but also alter cognitive perception, has been converted into the Speculum Alchemiae museum, which opened its doors in 2012. Inside you can obtain the Elixir of Youth, produced according to the historical recipe – with the exception of a few ingredients that are now banned.
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