(The story of Krystof Harant de Polzic and Bezdruzic)

J. B. Hurych ( 15th June, 2007)

In search of the VM history, we have to consider two main periods: before it appeared in Prague and its fate afterwards. While for the first period we have only rumors, for the second period we have a mixture of facts and rumors :-). The enormous efforts were devoted to both periods, but it is typical, that majority of research was devoted to the origin of the manuscript itself.

As for the question how did it get in Prague, there is still only one official version: it was brought in Prague by John Dee and sold to Rudolph II. This was of course only the third hand information, suggested to Marci by Missowski. Dr. Missowski could be characterized - at the best - as a "creative writer", since he provided the postmortem charge of treason for general Wallenstein in order to justify his murder :-). The proof of certain manuscript in Prague is twofold: in the letter of Marci and in the letter by Baresch to Kircher. Marci is the historical person and Baresch is also mentioned in one of Marci's books. However, the link between Rudolph and Marci (and Baresch) was supposed to be only the "erased" and miraculously "resurrected" name of Horczicky de Tepenec, the courtier of Rudolph. From then on, the even more mysterious second period of the VM provenance (thanks to Voynich :-) carries on.

If in fact the VM is the "Prague manuscript" (and there is detailed information in Baresch's letter to that effect) we still do not know how it appeared in Prague. Some western and eastern connections were provided, but no special person really fits the bill. Again, the rumor about Dee may or may not be true, but except of apparently purely coincidental "600 ducats" there is no confirmation. Naturally, if the VM originated elsewhere, somebody had to bring it to Prague. It was either bought in Prague or bought abroad and brought in Prague. It might even have been ordered tehre and sent by messenger to Prague (as later Marci sent it to Italy. Instead of sold it could ahve been donated by previous owner or even stolen during some war (as was done by Swedes, by coincidence in the same Prague). We simply do not have no proofs.

As for Baresch, he apparently was not the first buyer, since he did not know anything about its history and had no clue about the content and hardly told Marci anything about it, not even how he got it. or he knew and for some reason kept it secret. The most obvious buyer before him of course would be Rudolph or somebody rich enough to buy it (say Tepenec). Rudolph was a well known collector so he would be the preferable buyer or the receiver of such gift. And the person who brought did not necessarily have to be a foreigner either. However, except if we trust the official rumor, he apparently never even saw the VM .

Now lets have a look at famous travellers of that time, especially those who also travelled back to Bohemia. The most of them were Czech knights who went and returned from Crusades, but if we concentrate on later dates, it is only few who are famous enough.
One of them was Zdenek Adalbert Popel de Lobkovic who visited Italy, Spain and the countries en route. He also wrote the book about it. He became Emperor's Councilor, eventually the Highest Councilor and he still kept this position at the time when another traveller, Krystof Harant, wrote his book.
Another contemporary of his, Wilhelm Slavata, studied in Italy and travelled across Italy, Spain, Galicia, today's France, England, Holland, Denmark and Germany. He became the Supreme Judge and later the Emperor's Governor for Bohemia (the very same who waslater thrown by rebels from the window of Prague Castle, see below).
In sixteenth century, many traveled to the Holy Land as pilgrims: Martin Kabatnik was one, however criticized by Harant for describing only his trip, not he geography or history of those places. The other, Oldrich Prefát, born in Prague, made in 1546 only half a trip, The most famous of them all of course by Krystof Harant de Polzic and Bezdruzic, the subject of this article.

Krystof Harant de Polzic and Bezdruzic

was born in 1564, as a son of nobleman Jiri Harant z Polzic (who in 1583 became the Emperor's Councilor). He was educated in Bohemia and learned Latin, Greek, all in all seven languages (Italian among them). He also learnt geography, history and art of music and painting. When he was twelve years old, he joined the service of archduke Ferdinand of Tyrol in Innsbruck who was the brother of Emperor Maximilian II, the Emperor. There he further studied Greek and Latin literature and made short trips to Italy (namely Venice) and Germany.

In 1579 he accompanied Ferdinand of Tirol to Venice and in 1585 he acompanied Ferdinand who brought Rudolph the Order of Golden fleece awarded to him by Spanish king. Later Harant returned to Bohemia but in 1591, Turks started the war and occupied most of Hungary. In 1593, Emperor Rudolph raised the army which was joined by many Czechs, Harant among them. His fought bravely with his detachment and after the war, he was awarded in 1597 a yearly pension 700 ducats (compare with the alleged price of the VM, 600 ducats).

In the same year, his first wife died and he, entrusting his children to the care of a relative, left for his pilgrimage to the Holy Land, apparently he was deeply touched by his wife departute. On the 2nd of April, 1598, he took off form Bohemia, with one companion ( nobleman Herman Czernin z Chudenic, 12 years younger) and one servant only and reached Venice on 19th April. They spent almost three month in Italy, already well known to Harant and on 12th July they boarded the ship. They were dressed in simple Franciscan habit, not to raise any suspicion in Turks and on their way, they stopped at island Zante, Kandia and by the end of August, they reached Cyprus. When they reached Jerusalem, which was in Turkish hands in that time, they presented themselves at one time as Frenchmen, in other time as citizens of Venice, sometimes even as Polish. The reason was that the Emperor was still at war with Turks (in which Harant participated before :-), while the mentioned countries were at peace with them. He writes that Turkish custom officers were also very strict.

While our pilgrims visited all Holy places in Jerusalem, at the end were knighted in the Order of the Holy Grave, both of course being of noble descent. Once he was robbed of everything except for 22 ducats hidden in his belt. Reaching Cairo, then started the voyage back on 31st of October. They reached Alexandria and on the 12th of November and took the ship back, having no money except of one tolar. On the ship, he also suffered from malaria so he had to resta nd recover from his illness. They reached Venice on 26th October.

After he returned, he lived in Pilsen, Bohemia, where Emperor Rudolph also moved when there was the flood in Prague. He became acquainted and teh Emperor, recognizing his services for him in the war in Hungary, made him his Councilor (1699) and took him back to Prague. There Harant spent time studying sciences, writing Latin poems and composing the music as well (four of the compositions still exist). Being already a knight and from the family that was serving the king for generations, he was promoted into higher nobility on 8th January 1603.

The same year, he married for the second time. His wife, former widow, bought some more properties as well as the castle, all from her inheritance. In 1604, their daughter was born and baptized with the water of Jordan, which he brought back from his voyage. His second wife however died in 1607 (during the delivery of another child which died as well).

In 1608, he finally published the book about his pilgrimage. The book had also a lot of his own pictures (I did not se them myself, but as per witnesses, they were of high quality). We can also learn about his physical skills: he swam in the middle of sea, swan across the dangerous river Jordan six times in one run. He was great in ball games at Rudolph's court (especially in the game that was the predecessor of tennis), in various weapons, horse tournaments and hunting. He was the defender of truth, gentlemanly behavior and straight talker. In 1612, his third wife bought some more property around their already owned castle Pecka, so he spent most of the time there and not in Prague. Rudolph II died in 1612, but new Emperor Mathias II kept Harant's services and even promoted him as his Court Councilor. In 1614 Emperor sent him to return to Spain Rudolph's Order of the Golden fleece. On his voyage, he traveled via France, Spain, Madrid, Milano and Innsbruck.

At that time however, the religious unrest in Bohemia was increasing and Harant, till then a devoted Catholic converted to Protestantism (1618). When Mathias died in 1619, the Czecs elected their Government, called Directorium, and named him as its representative for several counties. Then the uprsing against Ferdinand and Catholics, culmination in Prague defenestration, when Emperors deputies Slavata nad martinitz were thrown fromt he window of Prague castle. Czechs recognized ferdiand as the Emperor but not as their king, claiming they do not approve of him. The Emperor the war against Czechs and at the beginnibg, Czech were winning. In June 1919, Harant lead the artillery of Czech army lead by Count Turn and reached outskirts of Vienna. His artillery was co close that the Imperial palace was hit several times. However, Czech army had only 155 thousand men and 10 cannons, not enough to defeat the Austrian army, especially when the enemy got reinforcements. In August 1619, Czechs elected a Protestant Elector Ferdinand of Palatine as their king and he in turn made Harant his councilor and the president of Czech Parliament. In his office, he was just to both Protestants and Catholics as well and he even issued order to pay priests of both denominations.

In the meantime, the Emperor Ferdinand II recuperated and after a small resistance from Czech army (according to annalist Pavel Skala ze Zhore, their money for their mercenary army run out) and after reaching Prague, he defeated Czechs in the last battle at White Mountain, on 8th November 1620 . That ended the Czech war, the first stage of 30-year war in Europe. It has to be said that Emperor army also had mostly mercenaries, but he had a pile of gold from Spanish Habsburgs, brought by them from Americas.

Harant was then arrested by general Wallenstein in his castle Pecka, imprisoned and with 26 others executed by sword on 19th June 1621 in Prague. It is interesting to mention that he was still afforded cetain honor and was not quartered like others. His property was confiscated by the Emperor, but not the property of his wife. She sold some property to general Albrecht von Wallenstein, who later donated it to Cartesian Monastery near Jicin. She also converted back to Catholicism and then she married Herman Czernin, the former companion of Harant on his famous voyage to Holy Land, who was in 1619 demoted by Directorium but later made a Count by Emperor. When she died (1637), he inherited the rest of her property. Harant was for long time presented as a traitor, however in 1638, his brother Johan Georg Harant, translated his famous book to German language for another publication. Second German publication, in Nuremberg 1678, was dedicated to Emperor Leopold I (who was also Habsburg, but moderate) with explanation that Harant wanted to dedicate it originally to Rudolph II. That might have been added just to soften the acceptance, since when the book was first published in 1608, Rudolph was still around and well.


When we study Harant's life and his book (see below) we may get a feeling there might be a slight connection with the VM. Not that he would write the VM itself (the sketches would be apparently more artistic), but it was possible he bought it somewhere during his famous trip and brought it back to Prague. It could have been on his alter trip to Spain as well, but most intriguing seems to be his pilgrimage to Holy land. As he himself claimed, there was not many famous people travelling that direction before him and those who were, did not write too much. His book is also full of historical a geographical data, that he must have obtained from some other books and he surely quotes many. On the other hand, we also learn all details of his trip and what he was witnessing (say manufacturing of silver coins) so we can see he was interested in many other things as well. he was of course very good writer and interesting at that.

That he brought something back, not only the water from river Jordan, seems to us to be highly probable. They rested v many monasteries (at that time still the major storages of old manuscripts) and visited many places with antique history (Venice, Padua, Ferrara, Creta, Jerusalem, Kahira, Alexandria). We also have to take in account that the arrival of the VM from East was up to now not considered too seriously, despite the fact that many evangelia and apocrypha were found right there. Now, when the search for western sources of the VM are almost exhausted, there may be the time to turn East.

We can see several connecting points: his trip to South and East, proper timing, his connection with Prague and last but not least the dubious fate of his inheritance. One witness claimed that for instance his musical compositions on his desk were considered as "some paper from the church" when he was arrested and searched. For that reson they were discarded and later recovered. If he ever had the VM, there are hew possibilities: he could have given it to Emperor, say Rudolph, when he was in his service, or kept it for himself. Then after his arrest, the VM could have been confiscated or kept by his wife and later obtained by somebody else (Czernin or even Wallenstein). When Wallenstein was assassinated (25th February 1634) it could have changed hands again. Of course, we do not see here any connection to Horczicky, but even he could have got in his hands the part of Harant's library after his execution, say in 1621 or 1622. After all, we know Horczicky collected books as well.

One way or another, the VM stayed in Prague till the time of Baresch and Marci. Another interesting point: since Harant was for long considered a traitor, it is not surprising that Baresch may have known he was the former owner, but did not want to reveal it for the fear he might be accused as well. In Harant's book, I unfortunately did not find any hint he bought anywhere any manuscript, however he had with him enough money (he was robbed only shortly before his return) and he was educated enough and had the interest in old books. Also, knowing other languages, he might have been attracted to the strange, mysterious manuscript. Still, it would be premature to close this case now when we still do not know enough. For the meantime, it should be apparent that the VM could very well came from other place than just Western Europe and Harnt could ahve been the one who brought it.

(the end)

THE ADDENDUM: The List of Contents of the book by Harant)

The original in Czech published 1608, n German in 1637, the most recent published by Matice Ceska, 1854, which is on the Net, with the list I have translated here. The names there are mostly those of the locations en route, the names of famous I translated;acted as well, for others I preferred to use author's spelling, j.h.).

Title: Krystof Harant : The Voyage from Czech Kingdom,, to Venice, the Holy Land, Judea and further to Egypt, then to mountain Oreb, Sinai, the Mountain of St. Catherine in the Arab Desert.(In original Czech: Cesta z Království Českého do Benátek, odtud do země Svaté, země Judské a dále do Egypta, a potom na horu Oreb, Sinai a Sv. Kateřiny v Pusté Arábii)

Foreword to 1854 issue

Foreword to the reader

The first volume

Chapter 1. - The voyage through Germany to Venice, Italy. . Bystřice. Landshut. Rozenhaim. Hall. Inspruk. The Emperor Maximilián I. The gallery of his forefathers. Brix. Trident. Concilium of Trident. Simeon. About the plague. .

Chapter 2. - About Venice and our stay there. Arrival to Venice. The description of the town. Palma. the grand Canal. The Church of St. Marcus. Strappacorda. The treasure of St. Marcus. The robbery. The Arsenal. The Patriarch. The count and other officers. The story about the Emperor and the Pope.

Chapter 3. - The excursion to Padua and Ferrara. The Masterpiece. Padua. The University. . The garden of the physician. Ferrara.

Chapter 4. - The necessities for out voyage. The preparation for the trip.

Chapter 5. - The sailing to the ship. Our friends. The danger.

Chapter 6. - Our voyage form Venice to the island Zante. The town Ankona. The storm. The gallera with spies. . Brundusium. Via Appia. The Roman graves. Corfu. Ragusium. Cephalonia. Zante. Morea. Modon. Islands Cerigo, Cirigoto. The fish with wings

Chapter 7. - The island Kandia . The monastery in Kandia. The Hill Santa Croce.

Chapter 8. - The island Kandia. Candia. the beautiful women of Creta. Labyrinth.

Chapter 9. - The voyage from Kandia to Cyprus. Casso. Searpanto. Rhodiz.

Chapter 10. - The Cyprus. The monastery of Arnica. The Maltese knights.

Chapter 11. - Teh description of the island of Cyprus. Venus. Paphos. Salamis, now Famagusta. Nymosina. Nicosia. The defeat of Turks.

Chapter 12. - The sailing from Cyprus to the Holy Land. Limiso. The storm. Cizí loď.

Chapter 13. - Our landing in the Holy Land. The town Jaffa alias Joppen.- The harbor of Jaffa.

Chapter 14. - The town Rama and its description Ráma. Jebneel. Lidda. The plant aloe . Sangiach. The town Ramah. The country of Samuel.

Chapter 15. - The voyage to Jerusalem Dinas. Aseca. Terebinthi. Masfa. Raphaim. Emaus. The miraculous well. Nobe. Gaba. Salem.

Chapter 16. - The monastery of St. Salvator in Jerusalem. the interrogation at the gate. The habit of washing feet. Procession.

Chapter 17. - The monks of St. Francis as keepers of the monastery. The monastery of the mountain Sion. The monastery expenses. Z

Chapter 18. - Our pay to Turks to be able to visit the grave of Jesus. The courtyard.

Chapter 19. - Our visit of God's grave. The church. The chapels: of Holy Mary, the prison of Jesus, the lottery with his garment. The desecration of Holy places. First Christian ruler. The find of the Holy cross.

Chapter 20. - The other trips to Holy places. The chapel of St. Helena. The chapel of Calvary. The chapel of Izac's sacrifice . The chapel of Holy Mary a St. John. The kings of Jerusalem.

Chapter 21. - The procession to the grave of Jesus. . The pace where Jesus resurrected and made s3emons.

Chapter 22. - The comparison of the Church at the grave to Czech St. Vitus grave. The return to thew monastery of St. Salvator. The description of the Holy grave.

Chapter 23. - Our trip to the top of the Olivet mountain, then to Betanie (Bethany? j.h.), . Josafat Walley. The creek Cedron. The artifacts of Olive mountain. the steps of Jesus.

Chapter 24. - From Betanie to Jerusalem. Betfaje. Betania. The grave of Lazarus, his house, the house of Simon , . The Jewish cemetery.

Chapter 25. - Some places in the Holy City. The testaments of Pilatus, the rumors about him. The Jewish Rebellion. Florus. the house of Herodes, the Church of Salomon. The destruction of the Church. The Emperor Julian. The present state of the Church. The Emperor Heracleios.

Chapter 26. - Some places in the Valley of Josafat. The caves. the graves: of Holy Mary, St. Joachim and St. Josef. The road of the prisoner. The orad of Holy Cross.

Chapter 27. - Our trip to Jericho, river Jordan and other places. Bahurim. The castle Adomin. The hill Quarantena. The places of Christ's temptation. The dangerous way down the hill.

Chapter 28. - The well of Elyseus and and the trip to Jericho. The rose of Jericho. The Valley Achor. Jericho.

Chapter 29. - The river Jordan, The Dead sea, and back to Jerusalem. The desert of St. John Baptist. River Jordan. The crossing with the feet dry. Bethabara. Macherus. The mountain Phasga. Dead sea.

Chapter 30. - Some places in Jerusalem and outside, on Sion Mountain . Holy places in Jerusalem. the monastery of Sion Mountain. The palace of David, his grave. Bersabe. The house of the bishop Annas. The palace of Herodes. The prison of St. peter.

Chapter 31. - From Jerusalem to Bethlehem. Mountain Gihon. Bethlehem.

Chapter 32. - Bethlehem monastery and the Church of Virgin Mary. the Church of Virgin Mary. The chapels.

Chapter 33. - The procession in Bethlehem Church. the Church of Virgin Mary.

Chapter 34. - Some palaces around the monastery. The village of shepherds. The castle Bethsur. The caves of Holy Mary.

Chapter 35. - The second procession to Bethlehem church . Description of Bethlehem. The Beechen monastery. Hebron. The Valley Mambre. Return to Jerusalem.

Chapter 36. - The valley Siloë. The cave of apostles. The valley Benhinnom. The well in Siloë. The grave of Absolon.

Chapter 37. - The monastery of the Holy Cross, the monastery of St. Salvator. Second visit of the Holy grave. The banquet.

Chapter 38. - Preparing for the trip. The graves of the kings of Judea. Indulgences.

Chapter 39. - Old Jerusalem and its destruction. The kings of Jerusalem. Jerusalem defeated by Babylon.

Chapter 40. - New Jerusalem. Barcochab the temptor. Julianus Apostate. Heraclius. Saracens. Gotfrid, first Christian king. Crusaders.

Chapter 41. - The knighting of the pilgrims. The ceremony.

Chapter 42. - Various orders of Christian Knights. . The beginnings in Rome. The order of the Golden Fleece. The Knight of Malta. Templars. The knights of Holy Mary.

Chapter 43. - The order and regules given by Roman Emperors and French Kings.

Chapter 44. - The documents an seals given by the guardian of the Holy Grave.

Chapter 45. - The Christian Sects in Jerusalem. The Christians. The wars with Turks.

Chapter 46. -Greeks and their religion. Greek wars. The epoch after Alexander the Great. Greek Patriarchs and clergy.

Chapter 47. - Georgians and Armenians. Georgians, their rulers. The land of Armenians. The cities. Their religion.

Chapter 48. - Nestoriáns, Syrians, Maronites, Jakobites a Abyssynians. Caramanni, Curti, Assyrians and Syrians. The cities of Syria. áni. Maroniti a Drusi. Jakobites. Abyssinians.

Chapter 49. - The Summary and the end of the first volume.

The Second volume.

Chapter 1. - Our trip to the city of Rama. Foreword.

Chapter 2. - To Rama and Gaza. Chameleon. Azotus. Dagon. Turks. . Ascalon.

Chapter 3. - Gaza. The pub v Gaza. Cheating monk. Silvanus the martyr.

Chapter 4. - Our sailing from Holy land to Egypt. Town Damiata. The Turkish treatment of pilgrims.

Chapter 5. - Description of Damiata. Consul a viceconsul. The fight with the monk. French king Louis. River Nile.

Chapter 6. - The voyage to the city of Cairo. Description of palms. Sailing on Nile. The custom fee. The towns by Nile.

Chapter 7. - Cairo. French Consul. Jews in Turkish owned countries. Arrival in do Cairo. Consul of France. Dangerous trip to castle of Cairo.

Chapter 8. - Emperor's garden, balsam bush. Turkish horse riding. The well of Holy Mary.

Chapter 9. - Our trip to Red Sea, the desert of Araby, Mount Sinai. Matharia. The caravan. Red Sea. The fort of Suez. Twelve wells of Moses. Gazellles. The desert ghosts.

Chapter 10. - The monastery of St. Catherine and mountain Oreb. The supper in the monastery.

Chapter 11. - Our climbing of Oreb, Sinai and the Mountain of St. Catherine. The chapel of Elias. The chapel on the top of Sinai. The well of Moses. The chapel of forty martyrs. The cane of Moses. St. Arsenius.

Chapter 12. - The monastery and our stay there. The burning bush. The body of St. Catherine.

Chapter 13. - Our return back to Cairo. . Dromedar or camel. The robbing of pilgrims by Arabs. Arabian bread. The place where Israelis crossed the sea. Our bath in Red Sea. The city of Suez. The ostrich.

Chapter 14. - Arabs and Arabia. The sea of sand. The baptism by sand. Eremus, the desert. ť. Mana. The city of Saba.. Maqueda the queen.

Chapter 15. - Red Sea.

Chapter 16. - East Indies, discoveries of Portuguese. . Brahmani. St. Thomas, Indian apostle. China, Siam. The Kingdom of Udia, Pegu, Narsinga, Cambay. Vasco Gama. Goa the town. Bengala, Cambaya. Towns Diu, Ormus. Former Babylon. Nimrod. Bagdet the town. Dutch in East Indies. Tamerlan the tartar. Quinsai in Mangi. The Tartars.

Chapter 17. - Our return to Cairo. The Baths in Cairo. Mummies. Pyramids. Mummy as a medicine.

Chapter 18. - Cairo. . The churches, hospitals, population. Giraffe and tatou. Turkish circumcision. The island of Míra. The flood.

Chapter 19. - Nile. crocodiles, water-horses. Nil řeka. the Sea of Ecus. The island Meroe. Thebaes. Crocodile. Tentyrité. Trochilus. Ichneumon. Dolphins.

Chapter 20. - From Bulao to Rosetta and then to Alexandria. Rosetta. Delta, the island on Nile. The bird of paradise.

Chapter 21. - Alexandria. The Column of Pompeius. The library of Ptolemaios.. S. Athanasius.

Chapter 22. - The Land of Egypt. the kings. the labyrinth. Two ships of Ptoilemaus and Cleopatra.

Chapter 23. - The voyage to the grave of of Mohammed, Mecca and Medina.

Chapter 24. - The religions of Egypt and Arabia as well about the Turkish religion. Mohammed. Mašlak. the punishments.

Chapter 25. - The short description of the land of Maurs, Abyssinia.

Chapter 26. - Our sailing back to Venice.