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St. Vitus Cathedral at the Prague Castle

St. Vitus Cathedral is the most important and the largest church in Prague. It is situated at the Prague Castle and it is a burial place of former Czech Kings. The Czech Crown Jewels and a large treasure are kept there. St. Vitus Cathedral has two parts: the Gothic eastern tract with the main tower, built in the 14 th and 15 th century, and the western neo-Gothic part with two spires, built in the 19 th century and at the turn of the 20 th century.

History of the St. Vitus Cathedral

The first builders of the cathedral were Matthias of Arras from France and Swabian Petr Parler in the 14 th century. Parler´s sons continued with the building till the Hussite Wars started in 1419. The St. Vitus Cathedral was finished in the 19 th century by Josef Kranner, Josef Mocker and by Kamil Hilbert later.

The neo-Gothic frontage with two spires on the west is adorned with 14 statues od Czech saints, Emperor Charles IV. and archbishop Arnost of Pardubice. There are three portals leading to the nave, they have tympanums decorated with reliefs. The bronze gate is also embellished with reliefs. The rosette above the portal has 10 meters in diameter.

Golden Gate from the Gothic era

As for the Gothic part, there is the Golden Gate with three arches in the southern frontage at the 3 rd Prague Castle Courtyard. It used to be the main entrance to the cathedral originally. Built in 1370 by Petr Parler, it is decorated with a unique mosaic, very unusual outside Italy. It is made of about one million glass grits with more than 30 colour shades. It depicts Christ in the centre, surrounded by angels. There are Czech saints kneeling underneath them. The theme of the whole mosaic is the Last Judgement as the end of life on earth. You can see the dead rising from graves on the left and archangel Gabriel with devils, driving the sinners away to hell on the right. Charles IV. is depicted kneeling by the middle arch and his wife Elisabeth of Pomerania is on the other side.

Lookout Big Bell Tower

The southern lookout tower, 97 metres high, has a Renaissance gallery 56 metres above the ground. It was built in the 14 th century, but not finished. Bonifac Wohlmut and Hans Tirol finished it between 1560 and 1562. It was given a Baroque cupola in 1770 by Pacassi. The tower is also called “the Big Bell Tower“ because of the biggest Prague bell Sigismund hanging here. It weights 18 tons, it was made in 1549 by Tomas Jaros and it is placed in the tower since the 16 th century to the present time without any break.

The St. Vitus Cathedral has three aisles. The main nave is spanned with a tracery vault by Petr Parler. This cathedral is the first place in Europe, where this architectural feature appeared. The side aisles are connected with 19 chapels.

Triforium – a Gothic portrait gallery

The whole church is enfolded by an arcade peristyle, called triforium, about 14 metres high. It is a portrait gallery with 21 busts of Charles IV. and his family, archbishops and architects of the cathedral. These rare portraits were made between 1371 and 1385. There is a Renaissance choir loft and a royal oratory from the 15 th century.

You can see the white marble Royal Mausoleum from 1589 in front of the high altar. There is a crypt of Czech kings underneath. It can be entered from the Chapel of the Holy Cross. A tomb of St. Adalbert is situated there as well.

St. Wenceslas Chapel

The most valuable part of the St. Vitus Cathedral is the St. Wenceslas Chapel. It was made above the grave of St. Wenceslas by Matthias of Arras and later by Petr Parler. The chapel was consecrated in 1372. The interior of the chapel is a peerless place, decorated with gemstones and precious wall paintings. A door in the corner leads to the Crown Chamber, where the Czech Crown Jewels are kept.

St. Vitus Cathedral treasure

St. Vitus treasure, kept in the cathedral, is a collection of valuable antiquities from the era of St. Wenceslas, and most of all of Charles IV.

There is also a silver tomb of St. John of Nepomuk, 6 tombs of Premyslid rulers, a tomb of Prague archbishop Jan Ocko of Vlasim and others.

The colorful church windows were made in the 20 th century by artists such as Max Svabinsky or Alfons Mucha.

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