The jewels and coins that make up the Średzki Treasure are some of the most extraordinary monuments of the National Museum in Wrocław.

golden crown of Czech queens

The unique set of medieval jewels was hidden in the mid-14th century, during the plague epidemic that was devastating Europe, by Jewish lenders who supported the financial needs of Charles IV, the Czech king from the Luxembourg dynasty and later emperor, who then ruled Silesia, which belonged to the Czech Crown.

Jewels of royal and imperial origin, collected by Charles, pawned for a significant sum of money, found themselves in a trading town in Silesia and were hidden there, and after the pogrom of the local Jewish community, they disappeared for centuries.

Finding the treasure in the summer of 1988 was a great sensation, and the find was then hailed as the treasure of the millennium. The criminal adventures related to the recovery of items misappropriated by amateur finders became the subject of many articles and reportages that I followed when I was a student of art history.

Golden florin
Silver Prague penny

I had no idea then that the Średzki Treasure, donated to the National Museum in Wrocław in 1996, would become the subject of my first exhibition at the museum, as a then novice assistant professor dealing with goldsmith collections.

Carried out with the invaluable help of many people to whom I am grateful to this day, it became an event that introduced me to the world of topics and issues of museum work and the fascinating secrets of medieval history. Since then, the treasure has become an endless adventure, bringing many valuable memories, both those that I look back on with fondness and those that are less pleasant, but which I treat as professional and life lessons.

I had the opportunity to accompany the treasure on its trips to international exhibitions in Dresden, Brussels, Valladolid, Prague, Ostrava and other places, getting to know the realities of the work of museum workers and a group of many wonderful people, including those from outside the museum world, with whom contact was a joy and honor for me.

The most pleasant memories in my memory are meetings and work with the team of the Cluny museum in Paris, Spanish, Belgian, Swedish and Italian museologists and conservators, the wonderful team of the museum in Ostrava, researchers from the University of Jerusalem, chemists, physicists and gemologists from Wrocław, and finally, last but not least, nice colleagues from the Regional Museum in Środa Śląska.

I later hosted many people I had met abroad in Poland, inviting them to visit our museum and taking them to Środa Śląska, where I introduced my guests to the place and circumstances of the discovery. Only thanks to the treasure I had the opportunity to talk to the Prime Minister of Spain, José Maria Aznar, and Pat Cox, the President of the European Parliament. I don’t need to tell you what an impression such meetings had on the then young museum worker from Wrocław.

I don’t want to mention less pleasant situations here, but I assure you that sometimes I was inclined to agree with the name “Cursed Treasure”, as the Środa find was sometimes called.

In 2018, we celebrated the thirtieth anniversary of this extraordinary discovery, culminating in the publication of a book bringing new studies and scientific research results. The adventures of travels, undertakings and meetings related to the treasure could make up a long story, and I assure you that the history of the Średzki Treasure is far from a final summary, which may one day become the privilege of subsequent generations of art historians and researchers in other fields of science.

Jacek Witecki, curator at the National Museum in Wrocław


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *