The Cathedral of Saint Lawrence, standing at the top of Petřín hill in the Lesser Town, is a church, which serve as the cathedral of the Old Catholic Church in the Czech Republic. With its altitude of 327 metres above sea level this was the highest place in Prague for a long time.
The cathedral is located on a site, where pagan Slavs made their ceremonies and lighted sacred fires and where princess Libuše, according to a legend, made a prophecy about future splendour and fame of Prague. It is said that Duke Boleslav II (by request of Prague bishop Saint Adalbert) had a small church built there, consecrated to Saint Lawrence.
The oldest written source about the chapel of Saint Lawrence dates back to 1135. In that time it was a single-nave romanesque building with an apse on the east end and a tower on the west. The walls of this Romanesque building are partially preserved in the present church. It was built probably during the reign of Duke Soběslav I and was similar in style to the church of the Holy Cross in the Old Town, which is now also used by the Old Catholic Church.
In 1590 the chapel was restored by George Henry of Frankenstein. In the 18th century the church was reubilt due to P. Norbert Saazer and the Guild of Prague cooks. The construction lasted from 1730s to the year 1780. The project was made by architect K. I. Dientzenhofer. A new monumental Baroque north face of the building was created, with statues of Holy Trinity, St John of Nepomuk and St Mary Magdalene. There is also the coat of arms of prior František Strachovský ze Strachovic, who oversaw the building work. In the niche there is a statue of St Adalbert.
As for the furnishings, the most notable item is a painting of the martyrdom of St Lawrence by Burgundian painter Jean Claud Monnot on the right side altar. Today’s interior is a work of Architect Jiří Pelcl, including a modern crucifix, hanging from the ceiling.
Chapel of Calvary, standing next to the church, was built in 1735. Its face is decorated by a sgraffito of the Resurrection. The Way of the Cross on Petřín with 14 stations also belong to the church.References:
The Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood is one of the main sights of St. Petersburg. The church was built on the site where Tsar Alexander II was assassinated and was dedicated in his memory. Construction began in 1883 under Alexander III, as a memorial to his father, Alexander II. Work progressed slowly and was finally completed during the reign of Nicholas II in 1907. Funding was provided by the Imperial family with the support of many private donors.
Architecturally, the Cathedral differs from St. Petersburg's other structures. The city's architecture is predominantly Baroque and Neoclassical, but the Savior on Blood harks back to medieval Russian architecture in the spirit of romantic nationalism. It intentionally resembles the 17th-century Yaroslavl churches and the celebrated St. Basil's Cathedral in Moscow.
The Church contains over 7500 square metres of mosaics — according to its restorers, more than any other church in the world. The interior was designed by some of the most celebrated Russian artists of the day — including Viktor Vasnetsov, Mikhail Nesterov and Mikhail Vrubel — but the church's chief architect, Alfred Alexandrovich Parland, was relatively little-known (born in St. Petersburg in 1842 in a Baltic-German Lutheran family). Perhaps not surprisingly, the Church's construction ran well over budget, having been estimated at 3.6 million roubles but ending up costing over 4.6 million. The walls and ceilings inside the Church are completely covered in intricately detailed mosaics — the main pictures being biblical scenes or figures — but with very fine patterned borders setting off each picture.
In the aftermath of the Russian Revolution, the church was ransacked and looted, badly damaging its interior. The Soviet government closed the church in the early 1930s. During the Second World War when many people were starving due to the Siege of Leningrad by Nazi German military forces, the church was used as a temporary morgue for those who died in combat and from starvation and illness. The church suffered significant damage. After the war, it was used as a warehouse for vegetables, leading to the sardonic name of Saviour on Potatoes.
In July 1970, management of the Church passed to Saint Isaac's Cathedral (then used as a highly profitable museum) and proceeds from the Cathedral were funneled back into restoring the Church. It was reopened in August 1997, after 27 years of restoration, but has not been reconsecrated and does not function as a full-time place of worship; it is a Museum of Mosaics. Even before the Revolution it never functioned as a public place of worship; having been dedicated exclusively to the memory of the assassinated tsar, the only services were panikhidas (memorial services). The Church is now one of the main tourist attractions in St. Petersburg.