The Basilica of Our Lady of the Assumption and St. Nicholas has been since its foundation part of the Cistercian monastery in Žďár nad Sázavou. The Cistercian monastery existed after 1250 thanks to magnate of Křižanov whose name was Přibyslav. Early history of the monastery was described in Cronica domus Sarensis by monk Jindřich Řezbář. The chronicle was written in Latin and it is part of the top middle-age literature. The church was elevated to the honour of a Minor basilica on January 5, 2009.
Historical and political situation brought together three very important people of our middle-age history. Those three were husbands of Přibyslav’s daughters. The husband of their daughter Eufemia – Boček of Zbraslav, finished the foundation of the monastery. After his death his brother-in-law, the husband of Eliška, Smil of Lichtenburk took care of the monastery. Přibyslav’s eldest daughter Zdislava left with Havel of Lemberk and she died far away – in Podještědí. She is one of the Czech saints.
The Cistercians with the leading authority of Saint Bernard of Clairvaux pointing towards monastic discipline founded monasteries in the places which were difficult to access since they wanted to come closer to God with their hard work. They chose a border forest between Moravia and Bohemia. The wall painting in the baptismal chapel shows the year 1462 – Pope Pius II allowing abbots of Žďár to use pontifical regalia. The church itself was founded on the life-giving spring and afterwards it was called Fons Beatae Mariae Virginis – the spring of Virgin Mary. Studniční chapel (the Well Chapel) was part of a cloister and the debris of garden of Eden show the period of prosperity and decay of this place. The statue of the Well Virgin Mary is very important for the monastery. It is to be seen on the side altar in southern aisle. This early Gothic masterpiece was brought by monks of Pomuk. They were running away from the Hussite fury.
After the year 1705 when Václav Vejmluva became a head of the religious communities came the time when there was an architectonic and artistic flourish of the monastery. The masterpiece of this period is the altar of the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary whose concept was made by Jan Blažej Santini Aichel. The dominant of this is the dualistic picture of the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary. The author of this paiting is Michael Leopold Willmann. The decoration of the monastery was done by very talented Řehoř Theny. This sculptor is the author of the altar in the south chapel of Annuniation of the Virgin Mary (Zvěstování Panny Marie). This sculpture shows the moment when archangel Gabriel annunciated Virgin Mary that she would have a son. The light is falling onto Mary’s face and the repose urges the visitor to stay still for a while. A perfect example of Santini's creative inventiveness is a built-in music stand and Empire dominant organ in the transept of the church. This rare musical instrument comes from the workshop of Jan David Sieber.References:
The Externsteine (Extern stones) is a distinctive sandstone rock formation located in the Teutoburg Forest, near the town of Horn-Bad Meinberg. The formation is a tor consisting of several tall, narrow columns of rock which rise abruptly from the surrounding wooded hills. Archaeological excavations have yielded some Upper Paleolithic stone tools dating to about 10,700 BC from 9,600 BC.
In a popular tradition going back to an idea proposed to Hermann Hamelmann in 1564, the Externsteine are identified as a sacred site of the pagan Saxons, and the location of the Irminsul (sacral pillar-like object in German paganism) idol reportedly destroyed by Charlemagne; there is however no archaeological evidence that would confirm the site's use during the relevant period.
The stones were used as the site of a hermitage in the Middle Ages, and by at least the high medieval period were the site of a Christian chapel. The Externsteine relief is a medieval depiction of the Descent from the Cross. It remains controversial whether the site was already used for Christian worship in the 8th to early 10th centuries.
The Externsteine gained prominence when Völkisch and nationalistic scholars took an interest in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This interest peaked under the Nazi regime, when the Externsteine became a focus of nazi propaganda. Today, they remain a popular tourist destination and also continue to attract Neo-Pagans and Neo-Nazis.