Prague’s Old Town Square is a feast for the eyes. Everywhere you look, buildings are either architectural marvels or have detailed facades. It’s easy to overlook the Stone Lamb house.
The house, number 17, is on your left as you enter the square from Celetna street. It is next to a beautifully decorated house which contains pictures of St Wenceslas on the second and third floors. Most tourists gawp at this one and don’t realise the significance of its neighbour.
First, let’s delve into the name. Between the first and second floors, there is a bas-relief of a lamb in front of what looks like a rather small shepherd. The lamb has a single curved horn. Some people note the single horn and assume this is a unicorn but this is incorrect.
Secondly, let’s tackle the symbology. This house is on the Royal Way that started at the Powder Tower. (Read my article about this.) The symbols are related to the hermetic process of alchemy.
Two twisted columns flank the main door symbolising the role of the spiritual mediator. At this point, we are approximately one-third along the Royal way. Such a mediator is necessary to help an alchemist complete his destiny.
These columns have intricately decorated capitals. The one on your left (when facing the building) has two medallions surrounded by leafs. The leftmost medallion features a half-moon, with the man in the moon looking to his left. The other medallion has the Sun with a passive human face gazing out at the world. The sun and the moon represent gold and silver, and also represent sulphur and mercury which are key elements in alchemy. Furthermore, the sun represents fire which is the first step in alchemy so this reminds us where we’ve come from. (My article about Mercury on the Royal Way contains more information about this)
The capital on the right-most column also contains two medallions. The left-most one shows a jester’s head, recognisable by a jester’s cap with bells on it. The medallion shows a hedgehog’s head in profile staring at the jester. The animal seems to be poking its head out of a barrel of sorts. In alchemy, the jester represents Mercury while the hedgehog represents sulphur.
This duality, and the repetition on the capitals, shows that the original owner knew what designs to ask for. Today, the building houses a lawyer’s office. Many people walk by, oblivious to the message that the Stone Lamb house delivers.
Have you seen any alchemical symbols on buildings lately? Leave a comment below and tell us about it!