Friday, November 25, 2011
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.