Olšany Cemeteries is the largest graveyard in Prague, once having as many as two million burials. The graveyard is particularly noted for its many remarkable art nouveau monuments.
The cemeteries were created in 1680 to accommodate plague victims who died en masse in Prague and needed to be buried quickly. In 1787, when the plague again struck the city, Emperor Joseph II banned the burial of bodies within Prague city limits and Olšany Cemeteries were declared the central graveyard for hygiene purposes.
The Olšany necropolis consists of twelve cemeteries, including, i.a., an Orthodox and a tiny Muslim section, the largest Jewish cemetery in the Czech Republic and military burial grounds. Among the thousands of military personnel buried at Olšany, there are Russian soldiers and officers from the Napoleonic Wars, members of the Czechoslovak Legion, Czechoslovak soldiers, officers and pilots who fought at the Eastern and Western Front and in North Africa during the Second World War as well as male and female members of the Soviet and Commonwealth (including British, Canadian, South African, Greek and Turkish Cypriot and Polish) armed forces who died for the freedom of Czechoslovakia in 1944-1945, including POWs.
Till this day there is evidence of 230,000 people buried, 65,000 grave sites, 200 chapel graves and six columbariums in Olšany Cemeteries.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.