Kutná Hora

How the silver was mined

Finding silver was in many cases a matter of good luck. It could have been found during ploughing or just under a fallen tree hit by a thunder. People in Kutná Hora believe that finding silver was a miracle, more probable is, that even Cestercine monks, who established a monastery in Kutná Hora in 1142, felt that this place is rich. They were masters in finding silver. They used any type of sign available – types of trees and plants etc. They found pieces of silver in river Vrchlice, so it was enough to find a spring of this river and the silver mine could have been established. It is not important, who found silver there, but we can be sure, that he or she cried out „ARGENTUM! SILVER! DIG HERE!“ and ran to pray or to drink.

To a place of finding a measurer (maršejdník) was brought. He marked a place, where a streak of silver was the thickest or even where two streaks crossed. He ordered where to build a mine, where to dig a drifts and miners started to work. They used only two tools for digging – a hammer and a cotter. They patiently dug using those tools unless they heard the nice sound of newly found silver or unless they were killed by the rock. To make a drift took sometimes several generations. That´s why miners used a special technique called „planting a fire“. A wood was brought to the end of the drift and a fire was lit. The rock was then more fragile and it was easier to dig. Several drifts were even 600 metres under the ground, which is surely unique.

Every miner had his helper, who separated the ore from the remnants of a rock. This helper then carried the ore to „štrejchýř“, who put the ore to a bull sack. This sack was then carried upwards by a number of „hašplovníci“. Then the ore was mashed to the dust by „prejtýř“. Another important professions were the mine ironsmith and „cimrman“ – brilliant mine carpenter. His occupation was all the work with the wood in the mine and even in the medieval era they invented many useful things. For example, a special ladder. When going upwards, the function was traditional. But in the downwards direction it served as a chute. For fast and painless downwards movement miners used thick bull skins. It was used such a great amount of them in Kutná Hora that even an order that all bull skins were to be transferred only to Kutná Hora was released.

Miners work was dangerous and exhausting. It was not exceptional that miner´s wives were widows for seven times. Miners were threatened by water, lack of fresh air or by being burried under the rock. The continuous feeling of danger brought Kutná Hora miners to a very strong faith. That´s why so many churches were built in Kutná Hora. But amongst churches 60 breweries were built and a beer had to be imported from Čáslav and Kolín. Even a saying about miners, that „miners have to work to Saturday, but have money only till Sunday“ was very popular. Anyway, pubs and churches are still very important places of Kutná Hora culture.

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