The Prague Loreto is a remarkable Baroque historic monument, a place of pilgrimage with captivating history. The expansive decorative frontal façade with a clock tower, from which the Loreto carillon tunes may be heard every hour, shall certainly not go unnoticed by any local or foreign visitor passing here on his or her way to the Prague Castle. It would, however, be a great pity to enjoy only this picturesque view opening before us from the terrace of the Czernin Palace. Those who descend as far as the Loreto Square and pass through the Loreto gate will be pleasantly surprised by the place of pilgrimage disposition. We are convinced they will appreciate everything of interest that is to be seen here.
Only when we walk through the frontal building, we shall find ourselves next to the “Loreto” itself – that is the Loreto Chapel proper, the so called Santa Casa. It is a copy of the ”Holy House” of Nazareth worshipped in the Italian Loreto as a place in which the Miracle of Incarnation had occurred (here, archangel Gabriel announced to the Virgin Mary she would conceive and become the mother of Jesus, the son of God, marking his Incarnation). Lavishly decorated with reliefs on the outside after the Italian prototypes, is a spiritual centre of the entire place of pilgrimage. Standing freely in the courtyard area, it is surrounded by a storeyed cloister with corner chapels.
On the axis of the courtyard, beyond the Loreto Chapel may be viewed the pilgrimage Church of the Nativity of Our Lord. It is one of the most impressive surviving Rococo interiors in Prague. Here, Baroque organs resound every Saturday afternoon during the regular concerts organised for visitors. The music indeed accompanies those who come to Loreto throughout their whole visit – every hour, the entire building comes alive with the tunes of a Czech Marian hymn “ Tisíckrát pozdravujeme tebe” /Hail Mary Thousand Times/ produced by the carillon mechanism, and during feasts, the local organists play, on the carillon keyboard, the spiritual music compositions (the programme is regularly published - sorry, available only in Czech version).
At the end of the tour, the visitors come to the treasury, where the considerable part of the famous Loreto treasure is exhibited. Beside the St. Vitus Cathedral treasure, it is the most valuable ecclesiastical treasure in the Czech Republic. It is dominated by the Diamond monstrance, also known as the Prague Sun created at the end of the seventeenth century in Vienna with the use of unbelievable 6 222 diamonds. Since the foundation of Loreta, the Capuchin Brothers (whose monastery with the Church of the Holy Angel Virgin is situated in the neighbourhood) have taken care of Loreta and of the pilgrims.
The Royal Canonry of Premonstratensians at Strahov is one of the oldest monasteries of the Premonstratensian Order in the world. It has been a working monastery practically ever since it was founded in 1143. Fire, the Hussite Wars, religious wars, and the Communists all failed to shut down this institution. Even when the members of the monastery were unable to live within its walls, they gathered wherever they could and nurtured the spirit of their House until they were able to return to the monastery complex.
The Premonstratensians are an order of canons regular founded in 1120 by St Norbert. They are an integral part of the Roman Catholic Church, not only as an organizational, legal, and independent unit, but also, and especially, they are an integral spiritual element of the Church.
Ever since their establishment, a move seen as an attempt to reform canonical and clerical life, the Premonstratensians have tried to live in the spirit of their order's five ends: the singing of the Divine Office, the spirit of habitual penance, a special devotion to the Holy Eucharist, a special devotion to the Blessed Virgin, and zeal for the salvation of souls.
Strahov Abbey and its members also pursue this way of life.
The solemn liturgy which takes place at the Basilica of the Assumption of Our Lady every day, a profound experience of devotion to the Holy Eucharist and to the Blessed Virgin connected with the formation of our own guilt, forms the basis for a life of saving souls, i.e. spreading the Gospel. The Strahov Premonstratensians carry out their work in the parishes entrusted to the abbey and in the parishes of various dioceses in Bohemia, Moravia, Slovakia, Austria, and Germany.
The Royal Canonry The source and centre of the life of the Strahov Premonstratensians is the convent at Strahov, where novices and clerics are brought up and trained, and where the abbot resides along with other representants of the canonry. The current abbot, the seventieth so far, is Michael Josef Pojezdný. He is assisted in the direction of the monastery by a prior, subprior, and provisor. The instruction and upbringing of the younger generation is in the competence of the master of novices and the master of clerics. Currently, Strahov Abbey numbers 80 members.
Besides its spiritual services and abbey life, Strahov Abbey also plays a role in the cultural life of society. The famous Strahov Library and the reopened Strahov Picture Gallery are cultural institutions proving to the world that the Strahov Premonstratensians have always cared for the development of culture and education.
INFANT JESUS OF PRAGUE
"The wax effigy of the Holy Infant of Prague was taken to Bohemia from Spain, at the end of the 16th century. Since 1628 it has formed an inseparable part of the Church of Our Lady Victorious.
Polyxena Lobkowicz made history when she donated the statue of Bambini di Pragua to teh Carmelite Church of Our Lady Victorious. It is said that she was a woman of beauty, wise and talented, famous for her Catholic faith. Polyxena was also brave, which she proved on 25 May, 1618, when she hid the two Hapsburg governors Slavata of Chlum and Borita of Martinice in her palace. The two had been defenestrated at the Prague Castle by estate oposition, and survived the fall. Fifteen years earlier Polyxena had married Zdenek Vojtech Popel of Lobkowicz, a famous Catholic, who would be named high chancellor of the Czech kingdom in 1599, by Emperor Rudolph II.When he was dying in 1628, his wife donated the statue of Infant Jesus to the Carmelite church.
Over the centuries it has become tradition to donate clothing to the Infant jesus of Prague, a tradition which probably began during the reign of Maria Theresa. Her father Charles IV had a statue of her made at age four, as the baby Jesus of Prague. A miniaturised copy of baby clothes were send to Prague amidst much fanfare.. Particularly ironic is the fact that this tadition was upheld even during the communist period, when Asian delegations visited the city, donated clothes to the statue,and caused many a faux-pas for local communist dignitaries."
text - Jiri Kuchar - "Praha esotericka"
CHURCH OF ST. NICHOLAS
The Church of St Nicholas, the most famous Baroque church in Prague, stands along with the former Jesuit college in the centre of the Lesser Town Square. A Gothic parish church consecrated by Prague Bishop Tobiáš in 1283 stood at the site until 1743; nearby was the Romanesque Rotunda of St Wenceslas, which had been built in memory of the miracle that occurred during the transfer of Wenceslas’ body from Stará Boleslav to Prague Castle, as mentioned in medieval legends. The Jesuit college, designed by Francesco Caratti, Giovanni Domenico Orsi and Francesco Lurago and built in 1672-1687, created an ideal optical base for the two towers of the future church. Twelve houses, including the important Rotunda of St Wenceslas and an old school were demolished; the adjacent cemeteries were likewise closed. The former Jesuit college currently houses the Faculty of Mathematics and Physics of Charles University in Prague.
Today’s Church of St Nicholas is one of the most valuable Baroque buildings north of the Alps. Construction lasted approximately one hundred years, and three generations of great Baroque architects – father, son and son-in-law – worked on the church: Kryštof Dientzenhofer, Kilián Ignác Dientzenhofer and Anselmo Lurago. Although the church underwent certain developmental transformations, the resulting building is an architectural gem. A partial impression of the original planned appearance of the church at the time the Jesuits chose the initial plans by Giovanni Domenico Orsi in 1673 and laid the foundation stone is provided by the Chapel of St Barbara, which was built first so that mass could be celebrated. The chapel is a relatively enclosed space with an oval plan and featuring late Renaissance elements. Nevertheless, a key construction phase began after 1702, when the overall design was altered. The new plans involved an intricate geometrical system of interconnected cylinders with a central dome above the transept. The massive nave with side chapels and an undulating vault based on a system of intersecting ellipsoids was apparently built by Kryštof Dientzenhofer in 1704-1711. The pillars between the wide spans of the arcade supporting the triforium were meant to maximize the dynamic effect of the church. The chancel and its characteristic copper cupola were built in 1737-1752, this time using plans by Kryštof’s son, Kilián Ignác Dientzenhofer. Although the church was then consecrated, work on ornamentation continued for another twenty years. Following the abolition of the Jesuit Order by Pope Clement XIV, St Nicholas became the main parish church of the Lesser Town in 1775.
The diameter of the dome is an impressive 20 m; the height inside the church to the top of the lantern is almost 57 m, making it the tallest interior in Prague. Highlighting the unique aesthetic impact of the building is the direct connection of the adjacent slender belfry and the church’s massive dome. Both are 79 m tall. The belfry, which, unlike the church, belongs to the city, was completed in diminutive Rococo forms in 1751-56 by Anselmo Lurago following Dientzenhofer’s death. A vast crypt with barrel vaults that ingeniously utilised the sloping terrain was built beneath the entire ground plan of the church.
Completed in 1710, the facade of the church is composed of waves of alternating concave and convex forms, the dynamic effect of which is intensified by a trio of large gables towering over the elevated central part with a larger than life-sized statue of St Nicholas from the workshop of sculptor Jan Bedřich Kohl, the inscription IHS and a crucifix. The actual facade, decorated with the crest of the church’s greatest patron, Franz von Kolowrat-Liebsteinsky and stone sculptures of the Western Fathers of the Church, is the purest example of the Roman Baroque in Prague. Semi-circular staircases lead to a trio of grand entrances. Despite the differences in the designs and styles of the father and son architects, the Dientzenhofers combined a strong sensitivity for the plasticity of forms. Despite their formal differences, all columns, capitals, consoles, portals and window chambranles are skilfully subordinated to a uniform harmony.
In the interior architect Kilián Ignác Dientzenhofer demonstrated his mastery of perhaps all of the expressional resources offered by the Baroque style in order to emphasize the overall aesthetic effect. The elemental lack of restraint in the individual elements is typical for the architect. The interior is crowned by a play of light that imbues the nave with airiness; the contrast between the dark dome and the bright light from the lantern is striking. The church ranks second only to St Vitus Cathedral in terms of the finest sacred architecture in Prague.
The artificial marble on the columns, pilasters and cornices was made by stucco master Johann Hennevogel von Ebenberg; polished marble sculptures of saints by Ignáce František Platzer from 1752-55 stand in front of the pillars. Four larger-than-life-sized statues of the Eastern Church Fathers from 1769 by the same sculptor stand below the cupola; a copper and gold-plated statue of St Nicholas from 1765 is installed above the main altar with other sculptures. A fresco by František Xaver Palko adorns the dome; a fresco of St Cecilia by the same artist is on the ceiling above the organ loft. The surface of the dome is covered by the artist’s painting of the open heavens in which Christ and the Holy Father are glorified by a choir of saints (1753-54). Josef Hager’s painting Angels’ Homage to the Holy Trinity can be seen below the organ loft. The grand ceiling painting Apotheosis of St Nicholas is the work of Viennese painter Johann Lukas Kracker from 1761, as are the paintings in the Chapel of St John of Nepomuk and the altar painting of the Visitation of the Virgin Mary (1760) on the side altar in the end chapel beneath the dome. Paintings in the oldest Chapel of St Barbara were executed by Josef Kramolín (the ceiling painting Adoration of St Barbara from the second half of the 18th century), Ludvík Kohl (the altar canvas from 1769) and the famous Karel Škréta with his work Crucifixion and Souls in Purgatory (from before 1646). This masterful work had been painted for the earlier Gothic Church of St Nicholas. Jesuit Order painter Ignác Raab executed a painting of St John of Nepomuk and several others with the theme of Jesuit saints in the side chapels. The altar painting of St Michael the Archangel is by Francesco Solimena, a noted 18th century Neapolitan artist.
The pulpit crafted from artificial marble is decorated with the sculptures Allegory of Faith, Hope and Love and The Decapitation of St John the Baptist by Richard and Petr Prachner from around 1765. The pulpit’s elegant construction and fine ornamentation are unrivalled in Bohemia. Jan Bedřich Kohl produced the High Baroque polychrome sculpture Crucifixion around the year 1720.
The church’s matroneum features an outstanding series of ten paintings on the subject of The Passion of Christ by Karel Škréta; dated to 1673-74 the paintings are key works from the end of the artist’s career. This set of paintings was likely installed earlier in the Jesuit college.
A copy of the Gothic wooden sculpture Our Lady of Foy is displayed in a glass case in the left side altar beneath the dome. The graceful sculpture Mater gratiarum (Mother of Mercy) was brought to Prague by the Jesuits in 1629. Also transferred from the old church to the new building were a painting of St Anne by an unknown artist from the 1670s (today in the Chapel of St Anne) and a Late Gothic pewter baptismal font from the 1460s.
The Jesuit Thomas Schwarz built the small and main organs as well as many others in Bohemia. Built in 1745-47, the main organ has over 4,000 pipes up to six metres in length. W. A. Mozart played this organ during his stay in Prague as a guest of the Dušeks.
The Church of St Nicholas is a superb example of High Baroque architecture, a building that astonishes visitors with its size and monumental interior. As the most prominent and distinctive landmark in the Lesser Town, no panoramic view of the city would be complete without its silhouette below Prague Castle.
"Charles IV of Luxembourg (May 14,1316 - November 29, 1378), originally baptised Wenceslas, was the last descendant of the first old Czech dynasty of the Premyslids on his mother Elizabeth´s side. His father, Czech king John of Luxembourg, separated him from his mother and, after many years of separation, sent him to France to be raised at the royal court. There he received an excellent education. One of his educators was Pierre Roger, who foretold the young prince an imperial future. The sharp-witted young man responded to this flattery by saying that his educator would first have to become a pope. Both of these prophecies came true. Pierre Roger became Pope Climent VI, and Moravian Margrave and Roman King Charles was elected Roman Emperor by imperial elecetors on July 11, 1346. One month after the death of his father, Charles became the Czech King. During his reign, Bohemia (Czech Rep.) became an oasis of serenity and peace, Prague thrived, and Charles founded Charles University in his royal seat. This is why he is called the Father of the Homeland.His Latin autobiography Vita Caroli became famous.
Peter Parler was the architect and the builder of St. Vitus´s Cathedral,
the Charles Bridge, the New Town, the castle Karlstejn, Prague of the 14th century.
Peter Parler´s exact date and place of birth has not yet been documented. It is generally believed that he was probably born in Cologne, Germany, sometime in 1333.
Peter Parler came from a family of master builder Henry Parler. Members of this large family worked in construction works around all of Europe - in Nurnberg, Vienna, Basil, Ulm, Zegreb and other cities.
Peter (Pierre) means stone, Parler (parler) means to speak in French.
His father Henry Parler was in charge of the construction of the Holy Cross Church in Schwabish Gmund town, and from the year 1336, of the construction of the Minster in Augsburg as well. According to tradition, young Peter received his master builder´s education at his father´s works. A twenty-year-old Peter worked on the construction of Virgin mary´s Church in Nurnberg, the Western part of which was founded by Charles IV. Peter also worked on the construction of the cathedral in Cologne, Germany, where he met his first wife, the daughter of stone-mason Hamm. His stay in Strasbourg is more than interesting for us in respect to the circumstainces of the origin of the Prague Horologe.
Another source of information is a memorial stone plate embedded by the canonry in the Southern pillar of the Golden gate of St. Vitus´s Cathedral. Its inscription specifies the consecration of the chancel to Virgin Mary and St. Vitus in the year of 1385, the foundation of the triple-aisle nave in the year of 1392 when rector Vaclav Radec was in charge of the construction and Peter Parler directed the construction works, and the transfer of the remains of St. Adalbert and the Five Saint Brothers from an old church to a new church in the year of 1396. Peter Parler is mentioned twice in weekly construction bills dated from the year of 1373. Peter´s sandstone tomb slab, discovered together with that of Matthias in the year of 1928, says that Peter Parelr died on 13July 1399 at the age of sixty-seven.
Peter Parler was commissioned in Prague to continue with the construction of St. Vitus´s Cathedral. The cathedral church at the Prague Castle was founded on 21 Nov. 1344. Its first master builder was Matthias of Arras whom Charles IV had met during one of his frequent visits to Avignon, France. The Prague bishopric was just about to be promoted to archbishopric, and it became necessary to build a representational cathedral for the new ecclesiastical province. Matthias was commissioned to build the cathedral and was in charge of its construction for eight years. He completed the construction of the chancel, eight side chapels, and pillars.
A twenty-three-year-old Peter Parler took on teh construction which, after the death of Matthias in the year of 1352, had been abandoned.
The emperor had no time to immediately look after a new master builder. When travelling through Schwabisch Gmund on the verge of the beautiful summer of 1353, the emperor noticed a new construction of the Holy Cross Church that was beautiful. Therefore, Charles IV stopped there.
When Henry Parler was showing the church to the emperor, the latter became intrigued by the stone-mason´s work of Henry´s son Peter. After having seen the church, Charles IV asked the young man if he would be interested in directing the construction of the in-progress cathedral in Prague, which the emperor probably considered the most important ecclesiastical building in all his empire. The young architect became the head of the construction works, quickly hiring new people."
text - Jakub Malina - "Prazsky orloj"
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