The Basilica of St. James was built in the 13th century for the Franciscans presbytery. It was built in the Gothic architecture style. The foundation of this church is related to the acquisition of the relics of Ottokar I of Bohemia. The exact location of this original church and it appearance are not known. The church was destroyed in a fire in 1689. The fire is believed to have been started by people working for Louis XIV of France.
The basilica was rebuilt in Baroque architecture style. The rebuilding included the addition of over 20 altars. Artists such as Jan Jiří Heinsch, Václav Vavřinec Reiner, and Petr Brandl created paintings for the altars. In 1702, an organ was installed. In 1974 the church was granted the honorary title of Minor basilica by Pope Paul VI.
The church is the final resting place for Count Vratislav of Mitrovice. He was accidentally buried alive in the tomb. The tomb was created by Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach. There is also a mummified forearm to the right of the tomb entrance, dating back over 400 years. The arm is the arm of a jewel thief who tried to steal from the high altar, which has a statue of the Virgin Mary. It is believed that when the thief tried to steal the jewels, Mary grabbed his arm and would not let go, therefore his arm was cut off by monks.
The original organ, dating from 1705, is the work of famous Czech organist Abraham Starka of Loket. Over the centuries the organ underwent changes. In 1754 the first reconstruction took place by František Katzer. Again this took place in 1906 by Josef Černý and Josef Rejna. Another intervention took place in 1941. The organ then was adapted for modern composition. The last major reconstruction was carried between 1981-82 where Starka's original sounds were restored, for the most part with the original pipes, and preserved many interesting romantic colours.References:
The Church of Our Lady before Týn is a dominant feature of the Old Town of Prague and has been the main church of this part of the city since the 14th century. The church's towers are 80 m high and topped by four small spires.
In the 11th century, this area was occupied by a Romanesque church, which was built there for foreign merchants coming to the nearby Týn Courtyard. Later it was replaced by an early Gothic Church of Our Lady before Týn in 1256. Construction of the present church began in the 14th century in the late Gothic style under the influence of Matthias of Arras and later Peter Parler. By the beginning of the 15th century, construction was almost complete; only the towers, the gable and roof were missing. The church was controlled by Hussites for two centuries, including John of Rokycan, future archbishop of Prague, who became the church's vicar in 1427. The roof was completed in the 1450s, while the gable and northern tower were completed shortly thereafter during the reign of George of Poděbrady (1453–1471). His sculpture was placed on the gable, below a huge golden chalice, the symbol of the Hussites. The southern tower was not completed until 1511, under architect Matěj Rejsek.
After the lost Battle of White Mountain (1620) began the era of harsh recatholicisation (part of the Counter-Reformation). Consequently, the sculptures of 'heretic king' George of Poděbrady and the chalice were removed in 1626 and replaced by a sculpture of the Virgin Mary, with a giant halo made from by melting down the chalice. In 1679 the church was struck by lightning, and the subsequent fire heavily damaged the old vault, which was later replaced by a lower baroque vault.
Renovation works carried out in 1876–1895 were later reversed during extensive exterior renovation works in the years 1973–1995. Interior renovation is still in progress.
The northern portal is a wonderful example of Gothic sculpture from the Parler workshop, with a relief depicting the Crucifixion. The main entrance is located on the church's western face, through a narrow passage between the houses in front of the church.
The early baroque altarpiece has paintings by Karel Škréta from around 1649. The oldest pipe organ in Prague stands inside this church. The organ was built in 1673 by Heinrich Mundt and is one of the most representative 17th-century organs in Europe.