Františkánská zahrada, Nové Město, Prague, Czech Republic
Three small figures dance on a marble pedestal. The long, diaphanous garments they wear catch and play on the breeze. They are the Víly. The fairies. And they live here in the Františkánská zahrada, or Franciscan garden, of Prague’s New Town. The garden was originally part of the monastery built here in 1348. It was used by Franciscan monks to grow the vegetables they needed to sustain themselves, and later the monastery’s pharmacy was here. Over the course of time, the character of the garden changed, evolved, modernized. But it was used by the monks until 1950, when they were expelled from the monastery by the Communists. For the first time, the garden was open to the public. Then, in 1992, it was redesigned. And the fairies arrived. A sculpture by the Czech artist Josef Klimeš. Three sylphs moving quickly and easily through the air, dancing and flitting apace. Fairies and gardens seem perfectly suited to each other. Magical and ever-changing beings in a magical, ever-changing place. They fly like butterflies among the brightly-coloured and sweetly-smelling flowers, cool their feet in ponds and fountains and laugh with the bees and insects. Perhaps. Because the three fairies in the Franciscan garden are haunted and ghastly. Their dance is no dance of summertime and light. It is the dance of death and darkness. There is no laughter. Only gaunt faces and hollowed-out eyes. For these three fairies do not inhabit a world of wonder, of faith, of belief in magic and in things that cannot be explained. They inhabit the modern world of science, of reason, of doubt. They inhabit a world in which they may be forgotten.