Pilgrimage Church of Saint John of Nepomuk

Zdár nad Sázavou, Czech Republic

The Pilgrimage Church of St John of Nepomuk is the final work of Jan Santini Aichel, a Bohemian architect who combined the Borrominiesque Baroque with references to Gothic elements in both construction and decoration.

In 1719, when the Roman Catholic Church declared the tongue of John of Nepomuk to be incorruptible, work started to build a church at Zelená hora, where the future saint had received his early education. It was consecrated immediately after John's beatification in 1720, although construction works lumbered on until 1727. Half a century later, after a serious fire, the shape of the roof was altered.

The church, with many furnishings designed by Santini himself, is remarkable for its gothicizing features and complex symbolism, quite unusual for the time. In 1993, it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The nomination dossier pointed out Santini's mathematical ratios in its architecture which aimed at 'the creation of an independent spatial reality', with 'the number 5 being dominant in the layout and proportions' of the church.

The central church along with its adjacent cloister is uniformly projected and built structure. Architecture of this building is very minimalistic and enormously effective. It combines Baroque and Gothic elements which in fact points to the age when John of Nepomuk lived, worked and was martyred. The construction of church is based on geometry of circle while constantly repeating number five as a reference to Nepomuk's five stars. Those stars, according to a legend, appeared above his body when he had died.

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