St Vitus Cathedral
With a skyline pierced by thousands of church steeples, Prague is often called the city of spires.
Star among those many houses worship is the Cathedral of St. Vitus, St. Wenceslas, St Adalbert Cathedral, commonly known as St Vitus Cathedral, which stands alongside Prague Castle.
The first church on the site was the Romanesque Rotunda, dedicated to St Vitus, commissioned by Wenceslas in 929.
In 1344, when Prague became an archbishopric, King John the Blind commissioned a new church to mark the occasion. The project was continued by his successor King Charles IV.
The first of the many craftsmen to work on St Vitus was French master mason Mathieu d’Arras. Next was German sculptor and woodcarver, Peter Parler who added his own unique Gothic style. Parler’s sons took over when he died, completing the clock tower and transept in 1399. The Cathedral remained untouched until 1770, when the Italian-Austrian architect, Nicolaus Pacassi, added a Baroque dome.
Still the cathedral remained unfinished until 1873 when, thanks to the efforts of a group of concerned of Prague citizens, Josef Mocker began construction of the west façade. St Vitus was finally seen to completion in 1929 by Kamil Hilbert. Both Mocker and Hilbert followed the plans of Peter Parler.
If the Cathedral’s exterior is magnificent, with its baroque dome, its great gothic windows, its turrets and its towers, the interior is breathtakingly beautiful, with its many chapels, its monumental tombs, its frescoes and its stained glass windows.
Among the many masterpieces of St Vitus are the Cyril and Methodius stained glass window, created in Art Nouveau style by Alfons Mucha, the St Wenceslas chapel which is decorated with more than 1,300 semi-precious stones and the huge silver sepulchral monument of John of Nepomuk, by the Austrian architect Joseph Emanuel von Erlach.
Chram sv Mikulase, St Nicholas Cathedral
Known affectionately as the pearl of Prague, the Cathedral of St. Nicholas in Malo Strana, is one of the city’s most impressive Baroque buildings. Its dome and bell tower are Malo Strana landmarks, symbols of the city of Prague.
The Cathedral’s story dates back to 1223, when it began life as the modest parish Church of St Nicholas in the village below Prague Castle.
In 1702 Kristof Dienzenhofer designed a magnificent new Cathedral to replace the humble parish church of St Nicholas. Construction continued after his death under Kilian Ignac Dietzenhofer who also designed the vault and the landmark green dome. Two new wings were added. The left houses the Chapel of St Barbara and the right, the chapel of St Anne. In 1752 an 80 metre bell tower, by Anselmo Lurago completed the Cathedral.
During his years living and composing in Prague, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart frequented St Nicholas and played on its organ.
During the Communist era St Nicholas ceased to be used as a house of worship. Although today Masses have resumed, St Nicholas has gained fame as a music venue and concerts are held here all year round and every day during the high tourist season.