Friday, November 25, 2011

Monday Evening

A couple of end of day shots as I crossed back over the river to the hotel, including one of the so-called Dancing House.

Holy Trinity (Kostel Nejsvetejší Trojice), Nove Mesto, Prague

Holy Trinity church was built 1708-13 and belonged to the Trinitarian Monastery. When the Trinitarians were expelled the buildings became part of a military establishment but this closed and the monastery was demolished. The church was given to the Greek community. It has three naves and a central dome, but was locked when I called.

Our Lady of the Snows (Kostel Panny Marie Sněžné), New Town, Prague

A very prominent church outside of the old walls in the Nove Mesto when viewed across the rooftops, but at street level almost impossible to see. It stands at the bottom of Wenceslas Square tucked away in the side streets. It was founded for the Carmelite order in 1347 and building of the current church which is on a huge scale took place 1375-97 when work was halted by the Hussite wars and this church became a centre for radical Hussitism before the Carmelites returned. With the church still unfinished they left in the early C16  The ruins of the church and the adjoining monastery were given to the Franciscan order in 1604 and they completed the vault and built the west front. They remained here until 1950 when the Communists expelled them but returned here in 1989.
The church is in fact only the choir of what was intended to be a church to rival St Vitus Cathedral, and one which was to be the coronation church. A courtyard to the west occupies the site of the intended nave and aisles, parts of the foundations of which are incorporated into the walls. Nothing quite prepares you for the interior. It is Gothic with an east apse, complete with the expected Baroque furnishings. The High Altar dates from 1625 and soars almost to the vault, and it is the latter which took my breath away. This is the tallest church interior in the city. 

St Gall (Kostel sv. Havla), Old Town, Prague

The church of St Gall or St Havel was built 1232-39, and rebuilt in Gothic form a century later with twin towers. All was given a baroque makeover in the late C17, and there were further embellishments in the C18 including reconstruction of a new west facade in front of the towers towers and some additional side chapels. The church's north wall incorporates small shops below  and buildings also adjoin its east and south sides. The west front however towards an open square is impressive with its three convex bays. Sadly the interior could only be glimpsed from the west door but apparently some Gothic features still survive amongst the baroque grandeur. Keen observers will spot the no photography sign!

St Salvator's Protestant Church, Old Town, Prague

My churchdar must have been broken, or confused by the nearby church of sv Duch as I failed to notice the apse of this church down a side street. Luckily my friend pointed it out. This church was a new foundation in 1611 and has always been protestant, being built for a German Lutheran congregation. Ownership has since passed to the Czech Evangelical Church and the church today is largely a rebuilding of the later half of the C19. However to me the church reminds me of early C17 churches in Germany, with a mixture of classical and Gothic forms. The church was locked but I managed to shoot parts of the interior through an open barred window in the vestibule.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

St James the Great, Old Town, Prague

I had walked by here the day before but the church was locked (it closes at 1530). It has three towers, two dissimilar ones flank the west front (with its unusual ornate sculptures over the lower windows), and a third stands at the NE.
It is also known as the church of the Minorites and it looks suspiciously like a medieval church has been given a baroque makeover inside and out. Nave and aisles, and long aisleless apsidal chancel. The latter has three storied structures to the north and south which open into the church by round arches and little balustrades embellish the upper two floors, each with a centrally placed large urn. It is extremely handsome but compared to some of the other churches a little jaded in its decoration. The multitude of altarpieces are all of dark wood with grimy paintings and the walls are yellowish rather than white; the frescoes too could do with a clean.

St George's Basilica, Hradcany, Prague

In the classic views of Prague from the river or Charles Bridge with St Vitus Cathedral in the castle, two towers can be seen to the right of the cathedral. This is the Romanesque basilica of St George. It is the oldest church building in the city but I personally am not too sure what features are original and what are "restoration", especially the nave and the towers. However there are extensive remains of frescoes and murals inside, so maybe much of the structure if not always the detailing is medieval. The two towers flanking the east end were added in the rebuilding of the church after a fire in 1142. The east end is raised over a crypt. Later still of course the C14 apsidal SE chapel, the C17 classical west front and the small domed chapel at the SW corner.

St Vitus Cathedral, Hradcany, Prague - Curiosum

On the day I was here a party of beauty contestants seemed to follow me around the castle area, although the security guards and hoards of photographers made seeing them difficult! As my tour of the cathedral finished they were posing in one of the side chapels and I managed a sneaky shot of some of these "Miss Princess of the World 2011" entrants. Miss Mexico won apparently.

St Vitus Cathedral, Hradcany, Prague - Selected Details

St Vitus Cathedral, Hradcany, Prague - Interior

Inside the cathedral the west end is thronged with visitors who have entered without a ticket. Certainly the rest of the cathedral is much pleasanter for this as numbers looking around are reduced. This post contains some of the main vistas, another will have some of the detailing I saw but with no further text. What I enjoyed the most in the cathedral was the stained glass, none of which is old, and most quite recent it seems. The colours are fabulous and the window in the south transept and the upper windows of the apse are the best of the lot. A large tomb chest rests in the choir, the royal tombs are in a crypt below (and not open to visitors today - not sure if visitors can see these at other times). Some ancient tombs of bishops placed in the ambulatory chapels, and on the south side is the huge tomb of St John Nepomuk, with silver statues. To be honest there is not a huge amount to see, and the cathedral probably has had most of the baroque embellishments I expected to see removed.

St Vitus Cathedral, Hradcany, Prague - Exterior

Another haul up the hill to the castle area and the cathedral of Prague, which is surrounded by the buildings of the castle itself and government. The entrance is reached through two courtyards and a passageway to the west front which is impossible to photograph in any meaningful way. The cathedral was built in two main periods, the east end and transepts are medieval begun in 1344, the nave and west spires 1872-92 in a style which blends almost seamlessly with the older parts. The main tower stands west of the south transept and is the work of several periods, being topped by double helms in 1770. The south side of the cathedral can be appreciated from a wide enclosed square A smaller square to the east affords a view of the chevet. Outside of the castle and across a bridge is the Royal Park from where tourists gather to take a view of the north side of the cathedral.

Our Lady under Chain (Kostel Panny Marie pod řetězem), Mala Strana, Prague

Monday in Prague saw me heading back to the castle area, for the morning. en route I detoured to see one of the churches I had missed on the first day. This church is a shadow of its former self, as witness the bases of the twin west towers and ornate porch which now opens into a courtyard on the site of the nave. This is all medieval and belongs to the Knights of St John; it was gutted by fire in 1420 and again in 1503. On the south side of the courtyard are remains of Romanesque arcading. The present church is C17, a baroque rebuilding on the site of the former east end. The west doors were open to allow a view of the interior but it was not possible to walk around.

St Joseph, New Town, Prague

Just outside the Old Town with the Powder Tower gateway almost opposite, this church was probably the dullest I saw on the entire holiday. I suppose I was getting used to the ornate, the profusion of decoration, and soaring interiors. It dates from 1636-53 and was originally part of a Capuchin Friary. It has a small walled courtyard to the west front and is dwarfed by the Palladium Shopping Centre next door, housed in a former barracks. Inside a few of the expected altarpieces but the overwhelming impression I was left with was one of disappointment.

St Kliment, New Town, Prague

Just outside of the old town, this church dates back to the C11 but nothing much remains from that time as the church was rebuilt in the C14. It fell into disuse by the end of the C18 and was used for storage. In 1850 it was purchased by the Czech Evangelical Church and was severely restored 1893-4 along puritanical lines. Another restoration followed 1975-81. This is the church used by the Anglican church in Prague but I found it locked. Close by we had a late lunch and a beer, paying some 60% of the prices commonly paid in the central area.

St Castulus (sv Hastel), Old Town, Prague

Sadly this church was locked when I called. It is largely of the C14 but reconstructed in a Baroque style after a fire in 1689. The church is remarkable for its double north aisles of the same height an early example of the hall church design so typical in central Europe. It sits in a square which was formerly the church's graveyard. And yes, this dedication was a new one to me.

Monday, October 31, 2011

A selection of exhibits at the National Museum of Medieval and Early Renaissance Art, St Agnes Convent, Old Town, Prague

I have been asked about photography here and they were happy as long as you did not use flash (I was surprised). - or touch the exhibits. On the latter my friend felt the urge to touch something which fascinated him, for a split second apparently. Suddenly alarms went off, there was chatter in Czech over radios, people appeared from several directions and a stern woman appeared shouting at us both "No touch, no touch". I was lagging behind so had not realised what had happened. Needless to say we were not left alone for the rest of the visit upstairs in the gallery although the staff pretended to do other things . He cannot explain why he did it, but this briefest compulsion was directly opposite a security camera apparently and not set off by any sensors. "No touch" became a recurring comment for the rest of the holiday, reducing us to hapless chuckles at times.