St. Bartholomew Cathedral

Plzeň, Czech Republic

The cathedral of St. Bartholomew is a Gothic church located on the Main Square in Plzeň. It was probably established together with the city around the year 1295. The church became a cathedral in 1993, when the Pilsner diocese was created.

The exact date of the start of its construction is not known, but the oldest extant allusion comes from the year 1307, when the townsman Wolfram Zwinillinger bequeathed the malt and drying factory to St. Bartholomew with the condition of serving a church mass on behalf of his soul. However, it is not known where it stood. The placement of the church on a public market place was a very unusual solution. The construction of the church started with the presbytery after 1342. The main nave and side aisles were being constructed since approximately 1375. The plan was to build two towers, the northern and the southern, out of which the southern was never finished. The sacristy was constructed on the northern side of the presbytery together with the tower. The walls of the nave and side aisles were fully built until the beginning of the Hussite Wars (around the 1420s).

The Era after Hussite Wars

The construction of the church continued after the Hussite Wars. The side portals were built up at the beginning of the 15th century. After 1476, the nave and side aisles were roofed with net vaultson circular supports. The architect, who was probably Mister Erhard Bauer from Eichstätt changed the original plan because the pillars were designed to be cornered. Subsequently, the nave and side aisles were roofed with a tented roof, culminating into a small tower, which was just a little smaller than the future northern tower (it was still under construction at the time). The Sternberg Chapel, an important part of the church, was added to the southern part of the presbytery in the 1470s and 1480s. It was supposed to serve as a funerary chapel of the Sternberg family. In 1472 Jaroslav of Sternberg (1220 - 1287) was buried in the church, probably in the just finished chapel. In the same year, the ante-room was added to the southern portal with the details of the decoration consistent with the decoration of the chapel. A vast fire destroyed Plzen in 1525 and the roof frame of the church burned down. Subsequently, in 1528, the tent roof was replaced with a saddle roof, which remained until today. The northern ante-room was added in first third of the 16th century, in a little less decorative manner than the Sternberg Chapel and southern ante-room. The Renaissance dormers were built in 1580.

From 18th century today

In the second half of the 18th century, the organ-loft was extended. On February 6, 1835, a thunderbolt caused a fire on the northern tower. Two years later, the tower was newly roofed. In 1870, as a result of a windstorm, the eastern gable fell down onto the presbytery and the Sternberg Chapel - it threw off the dome together with the keystone. The reconstruction lead the architect Josef Mocker in 1879-1883 – he was a specialist for the purist reconstructions and influenced Czech gothic purism with his work in the 2nd half of the 19th century. Beside the repair of the presbytery vault, he replaced the main old baroque altar with a new one, designed by himself, which was typical for the era. He removed old renaissance dormers from the roofs and more than 24 mostly baroque altars from the interior.

In 1914 – 1920 a vast restoration of the church and the Sternberg Chapel took place under supervision of the architect Kamil Hilbert (1869-1933), who was also responsible for finishing the St. Vitus Cathedral in Prague. The last reconstruction of the church up till now happened in 1987. The project for static securing of the church and the tower and also the repair of the roof cloak was made by the architect Šantavý.

The interior

The most valuable decoration of the church is the argillite sculpture of the Pilsner Madonna (from around 1390) in the middle of the main pseudo-gothic altar designed by the architect Josef Mocker. An extraordinary work of gothic woodcraft is also a monumental group of statues 'The Calvary' from the 1460s. There is an entrance from the main nave to the late gothic Sternberg Chapel in the right part of the church, where also the Czech Altar is located – an Art Nouveau work of the carver Jan Kastner. In the church, we can also find colourful stained glass windows, such as the window with Calvary motive by pilsner painter Josef Mandl, or works by other influential artists.

The Sternberg Chapel

At the beginning of the 16th century the Sternberg Chapel was added to the already existing Cathedral of St. Bartholomew in Pilsner. Its construction took place mainly due to certain power-influenced events. The noble Sternberg family chose this place as the family’s eternal rest place.

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Founded: 1295
Category: Religious sites in Czech Republic

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4.7/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Naina Gupta (12 months ago)
Great place to visit in Pilsen, it’s in the centre of the city and during Christmas it looks so beautiful along with the small Christmas market, few people etc. Great experience.
Dennis van Bommel (15 months ago)
Amazing cathedral in the center of Pilsen, CZE. Beautiful to take a look inside and feel the ambiance. Beautiful to see all the glass in led windows in their full glory! Definitely worth the visit!
David S. K. Muessle (16 months ago)
Beautiful round view above Plzen and the main square from up there. And in addition it's not too high and very well stairs (wide enough, not too steep) inside. The platform on top is completely closed with a net cage for safety reasons. If you enjoy a view (or to get an overview) over a city you're visiting, I'd recommend going up there.
Wanderdreads - Mona Leo (16 months ago)
Look for the little hands? Instagram: @wanderdreads
Anna Kaleta (17 months ago)
A great place to admire Pilsen from the top. Worth visiting!
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