Praglia Abbey is a Benedictine monastery founded in 1080. The first abbot of Praglia, Iselberto dei Tadi, who had become a monk in the monastery of San Benedetto Polirone in Mantua, is mentioned in a Papal Bull of Calixtus II in 1123. Until 1304 Praglia was under the direction of more powerful abbeys such as that of Polirone, the Abbey of Santa Giustina in Padua, and Cluny.
By the 14th century the abbey had gained more autonomy, funded by donations of various rulers and families. Most of the cloisters and church were rebuilt in the 16th century. Only the belltower retains medieval construction. The basilica church, dedicated to the Assumption of Mary (Santa Maria dell'Assunta), was designed in 1490 by Tullio Lombardo. Construction of the nave was completed in 1548, and of the principal door and the cupola in 1550.
The abbey has works by many prominent late-Renaissance painters of the Veneto. The cupola and large canvases in the library and refectory were painted by Giovanni Battista Zelotti. He also painted the Assumption of Mary in the church and the cupola. The apse was frescoed by Domenico Campagnola. Chapels have altarpieces by Alessandro Varotari, Antonio Badile, and Paolo Veronese.
The 16th-century library has been converted into a repository for the National Monument Library, and currently houses approximately 120,000 volumes. The monumental refectory is decorated with medallions carved by the Lombardo family, depicting the Baptism and Martyrdom of St Giustina, and Christ Pantocrator. Inside, the large fresco of the Crucifixion on the rear wall was painted by Bartolomeo Montagna.
In 1810 the monastery was closed for nearly two decades. The buildings fell into a dilapidated state and were used as barracks and a storage depot. It is remarkable that the artworks and library survived.
Benedictine monks did not return to the abbey until the early 20th century, and still use parts of the buildings. Many structures have been restored, and the monks provide tours. The monastery also accommodates visitors, including those on spiritual retreats. Work continues on book restoration in the library.References:
Kroměříž stands on the site of an earlier ford across the River Morava. The gardens and castle of Kroměříž are an exceptionally complete and well-preserved example of a European Baroque princely residence and its gardens and described as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The first residence on the site was founded by bishop Stanislas Thurzo in 1497. The building was in a Late Gothic style, with a modicum of Renaissance detail. During the Thirty Years' War, the castle was sacked by the Swedish army (1643).
It was not until 1664 that a bishop from the powerful Liechtenstein family charged architect Filiberto Lucchese with renovating the palace in a Baroque style. The chief monument of Lucchese's work in Kroměříž is the Pleasure Garden in front of the castle. Upon Lucchese's death in 1666, Giovanni Pietro Tencalla completed his work on the formal garden and had the palace rebuilt in a style reminiscent of the Turinese school to which he belonged.
After the castle was gutted by a major fire in March 1752, Bishop Hamilton commissioned two leading imperial artists, Franz Anton Maulbertsch and Josef Stern, arrived at the residence in order to decorate the halls of the palace with their works. In addition to their paintings, the palace still houses an art collection, generally considered the second finest in the country, which includes Titian's last mythological painting, The Flaying of Marsyas. The largest part of the collection was acquired by Bishop Karel in Cologne in 1673. The palace also contains an outstanding musical archive and a library of 33,000 volumes.
UNESCO lists the palace and garden among the World Heritage Sites. As the nomination dossier explains, 'the castle is a good but not outstanding example of a type of aristocratic or princely residence that has survived widely in Europe. The Pleasure Garden, by contrast, is a very rare and largely intact example of a Baroque garden'. Apart from the formal parterres there is also a less formal nineteenth-century English garden, which sustained damage during floods in 1997.
Interiors of the palace were extensively used by Miloš Forman as a stand-in for Vienna's Hofburg Imperial Palace during filming of Amadeus (1984), based on the life of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, who actually never visited Kroměříž. The main audience chamber was also used in the film Immortal Beloved (1994), in the piano concerto scene.