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St. Nicholas Church in Prague Lesser Town

St. Nicholas Church at the Lesser Town Square is the most important High Baroque building in Prague. The impressive cupola is more than 70 metres high and the nave of the church has a ceiling with one of the largest frescoes in Europe, painted on an area of 1500 square metres.

There used to stand a Gothic Church of St. Nicolas in the area originally. It was handed over to the Jesuit Order after the victory of Catholicism in the 17 th century. The Jesuits planned to build a new large church there, so they bought the surrounding lots – gardens, schools and 12 houses. The old St. Nicholas Church was demolished and the foundation-stone for the new one was laid down festively in 1673.

Building of the monumental church

The building was delayed for several decades. Finally, the first part of the church started to be built according to a plan by Krystof Dienzenhofer in 1703. It was the frontage and the nave with the chapels. K. Dienzenhofer died in 1722 and the building was finished by his son Kilian Ignaz Dienzenhofer. St. Nicholas Church was consecrated in 1752.

The size of the church is monumental: it is 40 metres wide and 60 metres long. The church is an important part of the Prague panorama on the left side of the river Vltava.

Impressive fresco painting

The decoration of the St. Nicholas Church is purely Baroque. The frescoes were painted by Viennese artist Jan Lukas Kracker. He reportedly didn´t want anyone to see the paintings till it was finished and nobody could even disturb him when he was working. One Jesuit crept into the church and hid behind a pillar, but the artist saw him and painted him on the fresco to punish him. You can still see the curious Jesuit portrayed there hiding behind the pillar.

Other frescoes were made by F. X. Palko, one of the most acclaimed artist of the era. However, the most significant part of the St. Nicolas Church decoration are pictures by Karel Skreta. Series of his 10 paintings on the church gallery are from the 17 th century.

Statues in the church were made by Ignac Frantisek Platzer, there are more than 50 of them. You can see for example statues of Jesuit saints there.

You can visit the high bell tower

The bell tower of the St. Nicolas Church was built by K. I. Dienzehofer. It was finished in 1755 by A. Lurago. It has the same height as the church cupola and its gallery is 65 metres high and accessible to public. There are 299 stairs leading to the gallery. The bell tower was the last “warning tower” in Prague. When there was a fire in Prague, a person in the tower had to ring to warn people and he had to indicate, where the fire is burning, with a red flag during the day and a lamp in the night.

This warning system was abolished in 1891. During the Communist era, the bell tower was used as an observation point by the State Secret Service. The embassies of western countries were monitored from there.

Prague Choirs Music exhibition

In 1990s, the bell tower of St. Nicolas Church was restored and an exhibition was placed there in cooperation with the National Museum. The exhibition is called “Prague Choirs Music”. Also the clock with a 6 metres large dial and the old wrought railing were restored.

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