It seems that August simply evaporated and now we are well into September. How did that happen? I have been putting off some things and now it's time to get them off the list! Number one is doing a final post or two about our Prague trip. Choir rehearsals began this week and one of my "Choir sisters" is heading to Prague later this month - I have promised her the use of my Guidebooks so it's time I got things wrapped up on this end! So if you'll indulge me, I'm taking you back to Prague, one more time.Warning: this post is photo heavy!
As I have mentioned before, Prague is known as "The City of 100 Golden Spires" and not surprisingly, many of those spires are on churches. It seems everywhere you look in Prague, there is a church. And the spires are so beautiful - there are Gothic steeples, Baroque "onion" domes and cupolas, Neo Gothic spires... each one beautiful in its own way. One day I found a book on the "Spires of Prague" in a bookstore window but they were all out of English copies. I was disappointed as it would have been such a lovely souvenir. By the way, the collages in this post feature several spires outside of Prague as well, just fyi...
To say I was really taken by the architecture of this incredible city would be an understatement. The spires, the gates and portals, the doorways, the facades.. everywhere you look there is something amazing to see. I could have taken ten times the photos... But I would have to say the churches were what really left a lasting impression. Like everything else in Prague, they have such interesting history. (I don't think you'll find a city in all of Europe with more interesting history than Prague!) Take, for example the Church of St. James (also known as St. James Basilica), which is just a short walk from Old Town Square. On the outside it is quite unimpressive, except for the three large bas-reliefs of St. Francis of Assisi, St. James the Greater, and St. Anthony of Padoua over the entrances. Two of the three are shown here.
|Interior of St. James Church, photo by Laura|
But the interior.. oh my!! It is a combination of immense Gothic size - a massive three aisle basilica (the second largest nave in Prague) and ornate Baroque "decor" which is almost beyond description. I feel inadequate to even attempt to describe it! (You really must journey to Prague yourself, dear reader, to see these amazing sights with your own eyes!!) The vault adorned with trompe-l'oeil paintings, the marble, the gold, more than 20 side altars, the bejewelled Madonna Pietatis on the altar, and above the altar the incredible painting of St. James.
But wait... you have to hear the two macabre stories of this church. The most beautiful Baroque tomb in Bohemia is found here- the tomb of Count Vratislav of Mitrovice. The Count was apparently accidentally buried alive - his corpse was later found sitting up in the tomb, outside the open coffin.
|Interior of St. James Church, photo by Laura|
The other story is equally as chilling. As you enter the church, if you look up to your right, you will see a mummified forearm hanging - (no photo, don't worry) it has been there for over 400 years, ever since a thief tried to steal the jewels from the Madonna on the high altar. Legend says she came to life and grabbed his arm, then turned back to stone. He could not get free and when he was found the next morning, his arm had to be amputated to free him. She came back to life a second time and slapped him with the arm before returning to stone once again. His arm still hangs at the back of the church as a warning to any future would-be thieves... Perhaps a plausible story when you realize this church was protected by the Guild of Butchers, whose meat market was nearby..... Sadly I did not know until later, this church has a magnificent organ (built in 1702) and because of the long nave has excellent acoustics and is the site of wonderful concerts. Guess that will have to go on the Next Time list...
Another church on Old Town Square is the Church of St. Nicholas. (Note: There is another Church of St. Nicholas in Prague, on the other side of the river in Mala Strana (Little Quarter), it is also very large, very Baroque, by the same architect, and also white exterior with green domes... just slightly confusing!)
There has been a church on this site since the 12th century. Originally Catholic and now Protestant, the present church was completed in 1735. Like so many churches in the city, it has had a "spotted history" - burnt and rebuilt, de-commissioned, re-commissioned, and stripped bare. In WWI the church was used by the troops of Prague's garrison. At the end of the war, it was given to the Czech Hussite Church. The interior is dazzling white and gold, and home to many chubby cherubs. One of the most striking features is the crown-shaped chandelier hanging in the center of the nave. This church, like so many, is now a popular venue for classical music concerts. My first visit here was with Ivan (the pro photographer), who told me his parents were married here.
|Looking down on dome and bell tower of St. Nicholas Church in Mala Strana|
|Laura climbed to the balcony, I didn't have the energy!|
I hope these photos have given you a taste of the amazing beauty of these churches, even though they are certainly "over the top" by our standards today.. I have been working on this post for a few days, having trouble with some of the photo-loading, so I'm going to cut it off here. I will likely do at least one more Prague post, with just some random photos that I still would like to share with you. I know this was long, thanks for hanging with me...
"We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open." ~ Jawaharial Nehru