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Saint Vitus Cathedral
Saint Vitus Cathedral
Saint Vitus Cathedral
Katedrála sv. Víta
Location:
Courtyard III, Prague Castle complex.
How to get there:
Opening times:
April – October: Mon – Sun: 09:00 – 17:00, November – March: Mon – Sun: 09:00 – 16:00
Content areas
The Growth of the Cathedral

St. Vitus CathedralIn 925 Prince Vratislav ordered the creation of a Romanesque rotunda on the present cathedral site. During 1060 this was converted into a basilica, expanded with three naves and two steeples. In 1344 Charles IV instigated the construction of the cathedral's most visually striking features: its Gothic exterior and twin steeples, which rise almost 100 metres.

 

It took centuries to build St. Vitus Cathedral. The work proceeded according to the plans of Matthias of Arras until 1352. He was succeeded by Petr Parléř, who worked on the project until 1399, and a long chain of master builders followed him. Finally, the cathedral was completed in 1929!

 

Yet, as we can see simply from the breadth of these dates, construction of the cathedral was sporadic. Usually this was due to lack of funding: regular warfare meant that the existing city's development was long neglected.

 

Truly Monumental Interior
St. Vitus CathedralSimply, the sheer size of the cathedral is humbling. If not dazzled by the wealth of gold, silver and marble in the cathedral's many chapels, it is the many stained glass windows that will impress the eye. Even if the sun is not shining, their breadth of colour and intricacy of detail, unlike many of the cathedral windows of Western Europe, make for some fantastic photographs. The most famous of these is by the Czech Art Nouveau artist Alfons Mucha.
St. Wenceslas Chapel

This chapel, the cult centre of the cathedral, features the altar and tomb of St. Wenceslas, the grandson of St. Ludmila.St. Wenceslas Chapel In the chapel you can see paintings of scenes from the life of Wenceslas. He was canonised after being murdered by his younger brother, Boleslav I. Interestingly, St. Ludmila was killed upon the orders of her pagan daughter-in-law, who was jealous of Ludmila's influence over her grandsons. There is a statue of St. Ludmila near the exit of the cathedral, featuring the moment after her death – the scarf used to strangle her still around her neck.

 

After St. Wenceslas Chapel lies the Coronation Chamber, which is home to the crown jewels. However, this chamber is only opened during special occasions – its seven locks opened by seven key-bearers – and next lies the Royal Crypt itself, which you descend into from the very centre of the cathedral. The crypt contains the graves of Charles IV, Rudolf II, King of Bohemia and Holy Roman Emperor, and other kings and members of their families.

The Gothic Triforum

Here there are in total twenty-one life-sized busts in memory to those responsible for the gradual building of the cathedral. Charles IV and his family naturally feature here, as do the cathedral's first master builders, Matthias of Arras and Petr Parléř, and their predecessors. The centre of the cathedral features a marble mausoleum, containing the remains of and decorated by the effigies of the Habsburg Emperor Maxmillian II and his parents, which was completed in 1589: over twenty years after Maxmillian had commissioned it.

 

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