St. Nicholas Church

Prague, Czech Republic

The Church of Saint Nicholas was built between 1704-1755 on the site where formerly a Gothic church from the 13th century stood. It has been described as the most impressive example of Prague Baroque.

In the second half of the 17th century the Jesuits decided to build a new church designed by Giovanni Domenico Orsi. 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 church was built in two stages during the 18th century. From 1703 till 1711 the west façade, the choir, the Chapels of St Barbara and St Anne were built.

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 Christoph Dientzenhofer. 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 Christoph's son, Kilian Ignaz Dientzenhofer.

In 1752, after the death Dientzehofer in 1751, the construction of the church tower was completed. During the years the church continued to expand its interior beauty. Following the abolition of the Jesuit Order by Pope Clement XIV, St Nicholas became the main parish church of the Lesser Town in 1775.

During the communist era the church tower was used as an observatory for State Security since from the tower it was possible to keep watch on the American and Yugoslav embassies respectively and the access route to the West German embassy.

The church excels not only in the architecture, but also in the decoration, mainly with the frescos by Jan Lukas Kracker and a fresco inside the 70 m high dome by František Xaver Palko. The interior is further decorated with sculptures by František Ignác Platzer. The Baroque organ has over 4,000 pipes up to six metres in length and was played by Mozart in 1787. Mozart's spectacular masterpiece, Mass in C, was first performed in the Church of Saint Nicholas shortly after his visit.

The 79 m tall belfry is directly connected with the church’s massive dome. The belfry with great panoramic view, was unlike the church completed in Rococo forms in 1751-1756 by Anselmo Lurago.

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Details

Founded: 1704-1755
Category: Religious sites in Czech Republic

Rating

4.5/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Justin Janecka (20 months ago)
Would love to see this place done right for the Mass instead of it being used as an art gallery but it's still very beautiful and pays tribute to the Great Liturgical Fathers.
Melanie Chow (20 months ago)
Beautiful church that's worth a visit. Probably one of the grandest ones to see in Prague.
ahmedabbas25 (20 months ago)
The huge church is part of the gigantic castle complex that has several palaces and other buildings still serving as an official presidential seat. It took around 600 years to complete the building however it retained it's original Gothic style of archetecture. The place is accessible on foot through an easy up hell passage or using the tram
wieger moll (20 months ago)
Really nice looking church filled with golden pieces of art and a small path around the upper walking area makes for a amazing experience.
Georg Baumann (2 years ago)
This is definitely my favorite church in Prague! You could literally spend the 100 years, it took building it, to admire it's total beauty. There are ceilings painted with matching colors, whole stories told by statues and a altar that is breathtaking. Also they, in contrast to other churches nowadays, did not limit the access to the benches or gallery. You should definitely plan a short (or better: longer) stop here at St Nicholas when visiting the Westside of Prague.
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