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

Rating

4.6/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Y. Li (14 months ago)
Magnificent church with so much gold decoration in the small town of Prague. Do walk up to the second floor and observe more of the ceiling and downwards. At night people walk around the square to and from the Charles Bridge.
Kirsten Alana Photography (2 years ago)
I visited for the purposes of climbing the Lesser Town Belfry Tower which is connected to the church. The view from the top is great, making you feel close to the castle and also to Charles Bridge at the same time. There are tram lines right below the tower that are fun to watch people come and go from. And there’s a surprise element that no other tower - that I climbed - in Prague, has. It’s very challenging to climb at times [though it starts out so easy and makes you think it’s going to be the whole time!] even though it’s not the tallest tower in Prague, and yet it’s worth it when you do get to the top. Along the way there are decorated quarters for the people that used to call the tower home, with period-appropriate furniture and historical explanations. And when you get to the top, there are preserved World War-era elements because of the tower’s strategic importance that add a really interesting aspect to the visit and the views.
Etka Güngör (2 years ago)
It is so far the most impressive church i have visited in europe. There is some different atmosphere there that make you stay there couple of hours, following the lights coming from the windows, taking amazing pictures. Must see in Prague for me! Lighting inside the church is highly satisfying and amazing to take great photos!
Nicholas H (2 years ago)
Well, it’s certainly ornate and very spectacular. Much of what you would expect of an Eastern European cathedral… My name is Nicholas and I was born on the date of Saint Nicholas coincidentally! So it was a fun experience definitely; although fairly brief, you can only stare up for so long, maybe sit for quiet time and reflection. Like most churches of this nature there is a small fee to enter. Very beautiful, unique…
David Dancey (2 years ago)
A spectacular Baroque church in Prague This is possibly the most ornate church in a city of ornate churches. If you have any interest in Baroque architecture, this should be on your list for visiting Prague. However, the sheer opulence of the church can become overwhelming at times. The upper stories of the church may be visited, and the tower can also be accessed from a separate entrance.
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