This is a four hour walking or driven tour.
Prague is the treasure of Baroque
art and artists from all over Europe decorated the Prague churches, libraries,
gardens and the Charles Bridge with the statues of saints.
Join our guide to discover it.
Those who love Baroque art will enjoy this tour of baroque churches, statues, palaces, art museums and gardens.
In these places you will see the work of the famous architects from Dietzenhoffer family, J.B. Santini Aichl and F.M. Kanka.
4 HOUR TOUR
GUIDE and VEHICLE
or GUIDE ONLY
Tickets to attractions are not included in the tour price.
Prague is full of Baroque architecture. Many Gothic buildings were during the 17th century converted according to the new fashion and rules. New and mighty fortifications were built because of the Swedish army sieged on Prague during the Thirty Years War. As a result of the War the city became depopulated; newcomers were buying lands and built houses in the new fashion. Prague was gradually changing into a big Baroque fortress.
To build and convert was however possible only for those with means, which is the aristocracy, rich townsfolk and mainly the church. Therefore there were lots of church buildings and only a few town houses as their development started many years later.
Design rules of religious architecture were firmly set. A fundamental principle is the use of space whose spaciousness had to astound and make a strong impression of people’s inner feelings. An important role was also played by light, shadows and rich colours accompanied by gold mosaic or paint. Vital were various types of vaults, onion shaped domes with a strong layer of brick or stone wall and rich stucco decoration on both inner and outer sides. Houses and churches had quite often a Gothic ground plan. One example is e.g. St Tomas Church at Lesser Town.
The famous Baroque master builder Kilian Ignac Dientzenhofer participated on its renovation, painting and sculpture decoration was done by Vaclav Vavrinec Reiner and Ferdinand Maxmilian Borkof.
The important building in the style Baroque is the St. Nicholas Church at Lesser Town Square that was built by de Orsiny and after his death finished by Francesco Lurago. And we shouldn’t also forget Strahov Monastery and Loreta.
Gardens also underwent a significant change. Many plots were bought and united and that gave a rise to several large baroquely designed gardens. The most famous in Prague is Wallenstein Garden with a palace that was founded between 1627 and 1630 and was named after its original owner Albrecht von Wallenstein. This building is currently the seat of CR Senate. An interesting design has a garden at Troja Chateau that served as a summer retreat for the family of Sternberks. These days the chateau and gardens are open to the public and various cultural events take place here. Some other Lesser Town gardens such as Vrtbov, Palffy and Ledebur were designed in the same style as well and fortunately they are currently open to public.
Prague Castle underwent some changes as well even though it happened in the time of late Baroque during the reign of Marie Theresa of Austria.
The original Jesuit school was changed to the National Library Klementinum in Old Town. It is one of the biggest complexes of Baroque buildings.
When walking through Brogue Prague we can’t miss a big quantity of palaces and town houses. Let’s name e.g. Czernin Palace at Hradcany and some other objects standing at Hradcany Square and in Baroque style the converted Martinic Palace, Morzin and Thun Palaces, houses in Neruda and Tomas streets.
Today when we observe the beauty of Prague´s Baroque buildings, homes, statues, gardens and churches, it can be difficult to imagine the role this regal architectural style played in the history of the city.
Prague was one of the few cities in Europe to be touched by every single architectural style, which Praguers embraced deeply.
"The 17th century Prague, under Rudolph II, saw the flowering of a new style - Baroque. The style became immensely fashionable, the young Czech gentry took wives from the cradle of Baroque art, Italy and Spain who introduced a new manner of dressing, behaviour and thought. The xternal spirit of the town began to slowly evolve an inner turmoil which would reach its peak only later.
Actually, Baroque arrived earlier in the Czech lands, long before it was an established style in Europe, in 1554 Hapsburg Emperor Ferdinand I brought the Jesuits who were considered a kind of "Fifth column" of Rome to Prague.
At the time the Czech Lands were strongly Protestant, and any attempts at changing this seemed practically impossible. Yet half a century was enough for the Jesuits, with their Baroque ideal of science and culture, to get a dominant hold in the Czech lands.
The victorius brotherhood of Jesuits, triumphant in Prague and the rest of country, desired to build a powerful centre beneath Prague Castle, on March 28th, 1703, they began construction of the sublime Church of St. Nicholas, in the Little Quarter. The work of architects Krystof and Kilian Dienzenhofer, the church of St. Nicholas, is covering a former square and separating it into two independent spaces, forever..."
Until 1770 buildings and homes in Prague bore either the names of their owners, or else a special house sign.
During the peak of the Baroque period, Prague´s houses gained numbers for the first time, and it was discovered that the town had some fifty thousand permanent residents.
While its inhabitants were relatively few, Prague contained more churches, chapels and monasteries than any other city in Europe. There were one hundred and eight churches, thirty-two monasteries, and eight convents, there were alos thirty-eight religious brotherhoods.
Thanks to the numerous statues and towrs from the period, Prague acquired the title of City of a Hundred Spires.
"In 1628, Ferdinand II granted the Jesuits a residency which few other religious bodies could dream of. The spreading Baroque architecture in Prague enabled the Jesuits to wedge their residency beside the church of St. Ignatius of Loyola, in a Gothic setting. The portal of the church contains a statue of teh founder of the order and his golden halo, across the way, the Chapel of the Holy Body used to stand. This engarving from 1685 reveals how the Jesuits´bulding essentially changed the flavour of the New Town, something which the Jesuits themselves may not have wished, hidden power joined with impressive wealth. In Prague Jesuits made history as the first order to ever baptize followers of Mohammed, Arabs and Turks.
The Jesuits obtained a noteworthy copy of the cave at Lourdes and a statue of Bernadette Soubirous, which they placed in the entrance of the church. Bernadette was a girl who witnessed the appearance of the Virgin Mary in 1858..."
text - Jiri Kuchar - "Praha esotericka"
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 over 49 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.
"The Church of St. Nicholas, the most prominent Baroque edifice and one of the landmarks of Prague was at risk several times throughout the centuries. While the architect Kilian Ignac Dientzenhofer was on his deathbed, a special commission consisting of master builders of all Prague Towns inspected the stability of the church and its tower and considered tearing down the bold vault. Although the inspection went well, the church was struck by lightning, which compromised its resistence against weather. In 1925, tinsmiths forgot a small stove on the church roof, but luckily firemen put out the fire within three hours.
In the middle of the last century, two.thirds of the frescos in the interior were almost destroyed by leaking water, humidity and agressive moss. After four years of unbelievably difficult work, the restorers managed to save 900 square meters of the frescos.
The adornment of the Church of St. Nicholas - more than 50 statues and sculptures - is mostly the work of Ignac Frantisek Platzer. The monumental, mostly white wooden statues have always awed the Christians and strengthened their faith. Next to the guilded statue of St. Nicholas on the altar, there are saints of different orders, Czech patrons and Doctors of the Church as well as other notables from the history of Christianity, such as King Cyrus of Persia who liberated the Hebrew exiles, Emperor Constantine who conquered pagans and Emperor Theodosius who banned the Oracle of Delphi."
text - Jan Bonek - "Baroque Prague"
STRAHOV LIBRARY - Theological Hall
The Theological Hall was built under Abbot Jeroným Hirnhaim (1671-1679). The architect was a Prague burgher of Italian origin, Giovanni Domennico Orsi, whose Italian school is evident in the stucco cartouches. The Baroque concept of the library is demonstrated by the shelves; unlike the Romanesque treasury system or the Gothic desk system, the books were stored upright. Above the shelves, there are gilded wooded carved decorations with wooden cartouches. This was a rudimentary library aid, because the pictures in the wooden cartouches and their titles specified the type of literature stored on the shelves. At this time (1672) Library Rules were compiled by Abbot Hirnhaim.
Fifty years later, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the translation of St Norbert's relics (1727), the hall was extended by several metres. It was then decorated with frescoes by the Strahov Premonstratensian and painter Siard Nosecký. Symbolically, and based on quotations from the Bible (mainly Proverbs) and in part from the philosophical tracts of the hall's founder, Abbot Hirnhaim, he presented the true wisdom we acquire through piety, fear of God. In his tracts, Hirnhaim opposed scholasticism and its racionalistic understanding of the world and truth, which he believed to be false or proud wisdom. He wanted to gain an understanding of the world through true humble piety. A person enlightened by faith, however, must build on knowledge and education. The library hosts several frescoes as a symbol of this principle. Above the forged iron gates on the other side of the library there is a small legend: INITIUM SAPIENTIAE TIMOR DOMINI - the beginning of wisdom is fear of God. It remains a paradox that the philosophical works of the library's founder were put on the index of forbidden books and were therefore placed in special locked cabinets above both the hall doors; Hirnhaim himself had these cabinets installed. As time passed, publication of his works was permitted, and they became the inspiration for Siard Nosecký. A portrait of Jeroným Hirnhaim hangs by the first window, Nosecký's self-portrait by the second.
The left-hand side of the hall is dominated by a Late-Gothic wooden statue of St John the Evangelist. The link between this statue and the library is his small pouch, held by St John in his left hand. This pouch called girdle-book, although frequently depicted in manuscripts, has only been preserved in several cases, mainly because of the purpose it served - as a travel bag. It was either destroyed during journeys or cut off on inclusion in the book collection. On the right-hand side, there is a 'compilation wheel', commissioned by the library in 1678 and used to compile texts. The scribe had the various sources he was using distributed over the shelves of the wheel. The planet mechanism means that when turned, its shelves were kept at the same angle so the books are not liable to fall.
A number of globes (both astronomical and terrestrial) line both sides of the Theological Hall. Some of them come from the workshop of the Rotterdam-based family Blaeu, which specialized in manufacturing maps, atlases, and globes over several generations in the 16th and 17th centuries.
Over 18,000 volumes are stored in the Theological Hall. The name of the hall comes from the content of these works. The northern wall contains nothing but different editions of the Bible or parts of the Bible in many languages.
In 1993 and 1994, the interior was restored; the shelves were completely dismantled and the wood was treated. At the end of the 1980s, the original red paint was discovered under the later blue-grey paint, and this red was used in the restoration as the oldest layer. The parquets from the 20th century were replaced with a historically and aesthetically more accurate copy of the original Baroque flooring. The original visitors' route went through all the main areas of the library. After long-term readings were analyzed, the tour was adjusted to the current version, as the humidity in the halls fluctuated so much during the day that the good condition of the frescoes and book bindings was in jeopardy.
STRAHOV LIBRARY - Philosophical Hall
In the final quarter of the 18th century, Abbot Václav Mayer decided to build new library space for the numerous additions to the library. To this end, he had the current Philosophical Hall built on the site of a granary by Jan Ignác Palliardi, an Italian architect naturalized in Bohemia. The façade was built in 1783, but after the advantageous purchase of a walnut interior for the library, relocated from the abolished Premonstratensian monastery in Louka by Znojmo, he adapted the dimensions of the future hall to the size of the shelves. The interior was installed in 1794-1797 by its original designer, Jan Lahofer of Tasovice, and modified to an Early Classicist Style. The amazing size of the hall (length: 32 m, width: 22 m, height: 14 m) is compounded by the monumental ceiling fresco by Viennese painter Anton Maulbertsch, painted over six months in 1794 with the help of just one assistant. The highest rows of books are only accessible from the gallery; hidden spiral staircases, masked with false book spines, lead up to the corners of the gallery.
The fresco 'Intellectual Progress of Mankind' is a concise depiction of developments in science and religion, their mutual impact on each other, and quests for knowledge from the oldest times until the time the hall was built. The basis and locality of true wisdom can be found in Christianity. Divine Providence, surrounded with virtues and vices, is set in the centre of the fresco as a guarantee of this search for wisdom. The development of mankind starts with its dawn, which is understandably linked with Old Testament motifs. In the centre of these events are panels with the Decalogue, and Moses, behind which is the Ark of the Covenant. Others depicted here are Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Noah, Solomon, and David. On the left-hand side we can track the development of Greek civilization, from mythical times, to the time of Alexander the Great (portrayed in the presence of his teacher Aristotle), right through to the philosophers Socrates, Diogenes, and Democritos. The evolution of science is illustrated on the right-hand side (e.g. Aesculapos, Pythagoras, Socrates in prison). By the legend 'Wenceslaus secundus, hic primus', which tells us that the founder of the hall, Václav Mayer, was the second abbot to be named Václav, but the first Václav in the library, there is a group of defeated misbelievers as an allusion to the French encyclopaedists. Their Encyclopaedia is, however, stored in the hall among the first volumes, which indicates the liberalness of the then atmosphere in Strahov. The opposite side is dominated especially New Testament scene of St Paul's speech at the monument of unknown god on Areopagus in Athens.
Wenceslas, Patron Saint of Bohemia, stands in the right-hand corner, a banner with the Eagle of St Wenceslas swaying in his left hand. The old woman on his right is his grandmother, St Ludmila. Underneath him, among the four Fathers of the Church (Jerome, Ambrose, Augustine, and Gregory) stand St Methodius, who christianized Great Moravia Empire, and the second Bishop of Prague, St Adalbert. The last in the line, with an enlightened face and holding his abbot's croizer, the founder of the hall, Abbot Václav Mayer, peers into the hall. To his right, other Bohemian patron saints, St John of Nepomuk and St Norbert (the founder of the Premonstratensian Order) are kneeling.
At the end of the 18th century and beginning of the 19th century, the library became famous throughout European cultural circles. Numerous visits by important people are recorded in the oldest visitors book first used in 1792. Women were initially only allowed to enter the library sporadically because of the imposition of monastic seclusion. One of the first was, surprisingly, Lady Emma Hamilton, who visited the library in 1800 with her husband, the British archaeologist and statesman Sir William Hamilton, and her lover, the victor of the Battle of Trafalgar, Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson. Another significant woman to enter the library, on 17 June 1812, was the Austrian Princess and wife of Napoleon Bonaparte Marie Louise. In the autumn of the same year, she sent Strahov Library more books, a Viennese set of porcelain, and, most significantly, a four-volume work on the first Louvre museum. When this exclusive publication had been completed, Napoleon is said to have ordered the whole print run to be destroyed, and kept just three or four complete series. He was afraid that his reputation would be ruined by the fact that the work listed the origin of a whole number of exhibits, looted in the main in Italy. This gift was stored in a special high cabinet overlooking the other furniture in the hall. Opposite the entrance doors, on the other side of the hall, there is a bust of the Strahov librarian and archivist Prior Cyril Straka, who made a substantial contribution to the cataloguing work and to the process of making the library and archival materials available to the public, primarily in the first quarter of the 20th century. He was also one of the foremost experts on Czech bookbinding. It was Straka who named the two halls after traditional separate philosophical and theological study subjects. In addition to philosophy, which originally included all the sciences, we can also find works from other disciplines which were taught at universities in the scope of courses on philosophy: astronomy, mathematics, history, philology, etc. There are more than 42,000 volumes in this hall.
STRAHOV LIBRARY - Cabinet of Curiosities and connecting Passage
The Strahov Cabinet of Curiosities was bought for Strahov out of the estate of Karel Jan Erben in 1798. Cabinets of curiosities (Wunderkammer) are the direct predecessors of modern museums. Their collections reflect the Rudolphine Renaissance and its interest in the mysterious and remarkable, and the beginnings of the systematic concept of natural sciences.
Right at the entrance to the historical part are natural science collections, mainly with sea fauna, complemented with collections of insects, minerals, and wax replicas of fruit. Here a true object of
curiosity is the prepared remains of the bird Dodo (Dodo ineptus), now extinct. A wire shirt from the 12th century and a breastplate from the 17th century hang between the display units. The display units contain 'archaeological' collections: ceramics, handcuffs, Hussite peasant weapons. In front of the entrance to the connecting passage there is a pedigree chart of Premonstratensian monasteries for the period from 1120 to 1727.
In the connecting passage, we can see a number of volumes, mainly related to medicine, law, alchemy, and metallurgy. At the end of the corridor, above the door, there is a portrait of Abbot Kryšpín Fuck, who made the upper flow of the Vltava navigable all the way to Prague just before the mid-17th century.
Right of this picture a dendrology library or a xylotheca is situated. Of the 68 volumes prepared by Karel of Hinterlagen around 1825, each documents one type of wood. The panels are made of the wood of the relevant tree, the spine with the title in Latin and German is made of bark with lichen, inside there are roots, branches, leaves, flowers, fruits, sections of branches, and pests. Beyond the dendrology library, on the back wall of the passage, there is an illusive perspective painting by Achbauer, from 1825, which extends the corridor by means of optical illusion.
A facsimile of the Strahov Evangeliary is presented on a special stand. This codex, which is older than the Czech state, is dated 860-865 and comes from Trier; in around 1100 it was still the property of the local monastery of St Martin. Between 980 and 985 four full-page illustrations of the evangelists were bound into the codex. These illustrations, the peak of the Ottonian art of illumination, were produced by one of the most distinguished masters of book illustration in the Early Middle Ages, Master of St Gregory. On the new binding from the Gothic period, covered with red velvet, there are, in the corners, four large enamel targets with Romanesque ornaments (circa 1180), four bronze Romanesque figures, and six cut crystals. At the time the new binding was made, sculptures of Christ on the Cross, Our Lady, and St John, and four silver Renaissance medallions with four Evangelists. The groups of curiosities between the windows are predominated by military ship from the turn of the 17th and 18th centuries. Next to these are military exhibits: the barrel of a cannon from 1686, five cannonballs, and riding boots which are perhaps from the time of the French siege of Prague in 1742, three Polish spears, a Tatar bow, a hunting crossbow, helmets from the turn of the 17th and 18th centuries, and a Slovak axe (valaska). Two elephant trunks and a tooth from a narwhal (previously passed off as a unicorn horn) lie on the landing.
The Prague Loreto is an artistic and historical monument, as well as a Baroque pilgrimage site the renown of which in the city can perhaps be compared only with that of the wonder-working statue of the Infant of Prague. Construction of the Prague Loreto Santa Casa (illus. 9) began on 3 June 1626, at the instigation of Baroness Benigna Katharina von Lobkowitz. The Loreto arose gradually over the course of the 17th and 18th centuries; the interiors were partly renovated in the 19th century; and in the 1950s and 1960s, a new treasury was built, accessible to the public.
The pilgrimage site is conceived as a self-contained complex of buildings around a central Santa Casa, with an oblong, two-storey arcade courtyard (unlike the Italian Loreto, where the Casa is inside the pilgrimage church). The present-day Church of the Nativity of Our Lord (on the longitudinal axis - no. 8) and two of the chapels (in the middle of the northern and southern wings - nos 4, 10) were only shallow alcoves with altars in the original design from the 1660s. As the renown of the Loreto grew, the number of visitors increased and it was necessary to enlarge the liturgical spaces of the pilgrimage site. Thus, gradually (by the end of the 17th century) the larger oblong chapels were built in the corners of the courtyard (nos 3, 5, 9, 11); subsequently, both chapels on the transversal axis were enlarged and the Chapel of the Nativity of Our Lord reconstructed in several phases into a more spacious church.
Loreto Treasure is besides the St Vitus Cathedral treasure one of the largest and most valuable Church treasure in the Bohemia. In contrast to the the Cathedral Treasury, the Loreto Treasure collects almost exclusively works by 16th to 19th century. Particularly outstanding is the collection of great Baroque monstrances, which quality is excellent and presents the top of central Europe goldsmith art of the 17th and 18th centuries. 00016 3
These significant artworks, headed by the Diamond monstrance, so called the « Prague Sun », are the real masterpieces. Interesting are also other valuable artworks - home altars, reliquaries, crowns of a miraculous statue of Our Lady of Loreto, carved ivory, small sculptures, paintings and jewelry. 00016Loreto treasure is a remarkable collection, a mosaic of items of different materials and techniques - all these works were devoted by benefactor to this place pilgrimage, as gifts to Our Lady of Loreto, mostly in thanksgiving for the acceptance of their prayers. Welcome and enjoy the view of works which for centuries breathtaking pilgrimage site visitors!
DIAMOND MONSTRANCE - OSTENSORIUM
This impressive monstrance (ie valuable vessel designed for exposure consecrated communion wafers - the Body of Christ) is aptly called "Prague Sun". This gem of a liturgical vessels is decorated with incredible 6.222 diamonds. Their shine it fascinating, but equally remarkable is the overall artistic concept of this unique goldsmith work.
The author of the concept is a Viennese architect Johann Bernard Fischer von Erlach, the monstrance was made in court goldsmith's workshop of Johann Baptiste Känischbauer (the goldsmith) and Matthias Stegner (jeweler) in Vien between 1696-99.
The middle box of the Blessed Sacrament seems to levitate in the gloriole of rays of shining diamonds, supported by a dynamic figure of the Virgin Mary Immaculate. Diamonds, of which is the monstrance made, were donated in 1695 by Ludmila Eva Francis Countess of Kolowrat, née. Hýzrle of Chodau. Completed artwork had to be accompanied by an armed escort of soldiers during it's transportation from Vienna to Prague.
Practical use of this magnificent monstrance in the liturgy is rare for obvious reasons - the last time when pilgrims were invited to honor the Body of Christ exhibited in the "Prague sun" was in 1999 during a ceremony of anniversary of 400 years of the arrival of the first Capuchins in Bohemia.
Troja Chateau is considered of the most important architectural works of the beginning of Late Baroque in Central Europe. In areas where vineyards were once located, Count Václav Vojtěch from Šternberk had the chateau built in 1678 to successfully obtain a title of nobility. The chateau's form resembles a type of an Italian suburban villa, it is therefore a summer residence rather than a chateau. The villa was also to serve as a residence and resting place of the emperor and his retinue while hunting in Stromovka, the nearby game enclosure. Outstanding European artists were invited to the construction and decoration of the chateau. The project under the Italian influence was designed by Jean Baptiste Mathey, a French origin architect, who changed the original concept to regular disposition with grand hall in the center.
Giovanni Domenico Orsi de Orsini, renowned Prague architect, started the construction and his disciple Slivestro Carloni lead it for a few initial years. Despite his extensive experience the architect Mathey was not allowed to lead the construction himself, for he had not been trained in the mason's guild, which was against the then valid regulations.
The chateau's decorations are devoted to the celebration of the imperial line, to which the chateau was to be "dedicated". The view of the ruler's seat, The Prague Castle, is directly in the main axis of the chateau.
If you enter the chateau's premises via its original ceremonial entrance, the southern gate by the Vltava river, you may sense the original atmosphere. Following the axis of the garden, guests may reach the very apex of the chateau's composition - the monumental two-arm grand sairway, which leads directly to the grand hall.
The stairway is decorated with dramatic scenes from the Gigantomachy, depicting the triumph of the Olympian gods over the Titans characters as it is portrayed in the ancient Greek Iliad. It is very likely that this was also the inspiration for the name "Troja", which then spread out to the whole locality. The sculptures are works of the sculptors Paul and George Heermann who were invited from Dresden to decorate the stairway in 1685 and around 1705 they were joined by Jan Brokof.
The Grand "Emperor's" Hall is the dominant and central feature of the chateau, from which corridors with door enfilade of adjacent lounges lead down both sides. Both corridors are connected by two opposite spiral stairways in tower-like two-storey belvederes. These belvederes give the construction a unique character and at the same time they represent an obvious "signature" of the work of the architect Jean Baptiste Mathey.
The premises of the ground floor served as a background for the servants and in the basement there was a spacious wine cellar. A single-wing stables and a coach house with two-storied pavilions had been built by the wall in the northern courtyard of the complex.
The construction was completed in 1689 and the villa was honored by the Emperor's visit when in 1702 Count Šternberk received the Emperor Leopold I.