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Picture It... The Holy Roman Empire... 1610

Rudolf II of the Holy Roman Empire

It's time for another Sophia Petrillo moment. "Picture it... The Holy Roman Empire... 1610". Alright, maybe that was more than a little before Sophia's time, but the general vicinity isn't too far off. 

Rudolf II was of royal blood, a Habsburg and a former Archduke of Austria, King Of Bohemia, King Of Hungary and Croatia and the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire from 1576 until his death in January of 1612. His story is and thoroughly fascinating one. His life and reign was riddled with rumors that he was a big old homo (such as myself). He was an avid collector and patron of the arts and had a vast number of very erotic artworks commissioned for him. He was a practitioner, almost obsessively, of occult arts and sciences and made it his lifelong goal to find the Philosopher's Stone (this is like something out of that Harry Potter!). He knew Nostradamus. He for a time owned The Voynick Manuscript, one of the most compelling and mysterious items in history. His son showed signs of schizophrenia and was widely believed to have murdered and disfigured a local woman. He died unmarried and stripped of all of his real power by his own brother... He lived quite a life. 

But what does a Holy Roman Emperor from the 1600's have to do with skating? More than you'd think. Being so preoccupied with his occult studies and interest in the arts that it actually was perceived by some as a problem when it came to doing his job, one particular artistic medium that drew Rudolf's interest was ice skating. In addition to botanical gardens, exotic animals and a curio cabinet (Kunstkammer) of bizarre and macabre specimens, he enjoyed skating so much that he had a large ice carnival constructed right in his court in 1610 (two years before his death) to popularize skating in Prague, Bohemia and his Empire.

Years after Rudolf's first real introduction of ice skating to the people of Prague, skating in Czechoslovakia (now the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic) has thrived. Alena Vrzanova, Eva Romanova and the late Pavel Roman and Ondrej Nepela all won world titles and today, skaters like Tomas Verner and Michal Brezina are real contenders for medals at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Skating in Prague's rich back story started from royalty and skaters like Verner and Brezina hope to become skating royalty themselves. Full circle, pussycat!

Skate Guard is a blog dedicated to preserving the rich, colourful and fascinating history of figure skating. Over ten years, the blog has featured over a thousand free articles covering all aspects of the sport's history, as well as four compelling in-depth features. To read the latest articles, follow the blog on FacebookTwitterPinterest and YouTube. If you enjoy Skate Guard, please show your support for this archive by ordering a copy of the figure skating reference books "The Almanac of Canadian Figure Skating", "Technical Merit: A History of Figure Skating Jumps" and "A Bibliography of Figure Skating":