New Town (Prague of the 14th century)
The plan of the New Town was inspired by the plan of Jerusalem.
The middle of the 13th century paved the way for spiritual growth and understanding of the world in Christian Europe. Up until then, the Biblical Jerusalem, the importance of which easily surpassed any other place in the world, including Rome - the residence of Christ´s terrestrial deputy, the pope - was considered the center of the world. For almost half of a century, crusade armies controlled the Holy Land and the Euroepan Christian civilization profited very much from the physical and spiritual bond with its birthplace.
In the year of 1244, Christians definitely lost the Holy City. Egyptians conquered Jerusalem and the Holy Grave was destroyed. The spiritual bond was broken off. Christianity had to face this painful loss and find a replacement.
There have been attemps to bring the genia loci of Jerusalem over to Europe for a long time ago. For example, in the 12th and 13th centuries the city of Provins in Champange, France, changed its layout accordingly. At that time, the city was considered the most authentic image of Jerusalem based on the oldest available plan of the Holy City from the middle of the 12th century.
One hundred years after the fall of Jerusalem to Muslims, there weere already one hundred and forty layouts of Jerusalem, the city IN CENTRO MUNDI, in Europe.
And Roman Emperor and Czech King Charles IV of Luxembourg, the most powerful ruler of the Christian world and an educated Catholic convinced of the mission bestowed on him by God, owned at least of
His gift - the manuscript DESCRIPTIO TERRAE SANCTAE - to St. Vitus´s canonry in the year of 1349 is proof. And it is this layout of the Holy City that Charles IV decided to materialize in building the Prague New Town, the grandiose plan of which was beyond any comparison throughout the entire world at that time. We can still see a symbolic impression of the pan of Jerusalem in the Southern section of the Prague New Town to this day.
Old Town Horologe (Astrological Clock)
We can also find the Jerusalem inspiration on the Old Town Horologe, where the Holy City takes on its celestial semblance rather than the terrestrial one. Here, its symbol is the medieval emblem of the city of Prague.
The emblem that Josef Manes chose has borne the archetypal essence of the Celestial Jerusalem since long ago. The gate of the municipal walls is open and the golden bar is pulled up to indicate that anybody can enter.
Three towers symbolize the Holy Trinity.
The position of the emblem in the center of the allegories of the terrestrial months and celestial signs of the zodiac only underlines the symbology of the Celestial Jerusalem. The golden gate stands in the center of all human pursuits, the center of the cosmic world.
The twelve petals of the golden rosette surrounding the emblem are not necessarily just some geometrical decoration. It reminds us of the twelve gates of Jeruslaem and twelve angels guarding it. The twelve precious stones decorate the wall of the promised city that was built on twelve foundations with the twelve names of the twelve Apostoles of the Lamb.
text - Jakub Malina - "Prazsky orloj"
The church and monastery of Our Lady of the Snows are among the most important foundations made in the New Town district of Prague when it was established. Prague is sometimes called "the Rome of the North", although this title belongs more properly to Salzburg. But it is possible that, when the church and monastery of Our Lady ofthe Snows were founded by the Emperor Charles IV in the mid-14th century, they were thought of as being in a certain way a reminder of the city of Rome. This is reflected in the dedication of the church, which refers to thefamous Roman shrine of Santa Maria Maggiore.
During the course of time it was decided that it would have an even more imposing shape and size, so that the present church is simply the presbytery of the church that was at one time planned, but it still makes a tremendous impression on visitors today. Bohuslav Balbín (f 1688), who ranked the church among the most famous ones in Bohemia, was justified in writing: "How magnificent, how kingly, how glorious the church of Our Lady of the Snows in Prague once was... can be seen well enough from the choir that still remains."
In addition, from its beginnings it enjoyed a fairly unique location: it was the only one of the newly founded monasteries to be situated roughly in the middle of the New Town, between two marketplaces that were very busy, ; close to the border with the Old Town at the Gallus Gate. The church and monastery of Our Lady of the Snows were simply too close to the centre of events to avoid becoming the witness of or setting for a number of turbulent and indeed key incidents. Historical changes and disturbances more than once led to the violent interruption of the building work, or of the artistic or spiritual development of the complex, but it has always risen again from the ruins and isolation, in both the recent and the more distant past.
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