Church of St. James the Greater
Kostel sv. Jakuba Většího
This church date back to the 13th-century and was an original component of the Minorite Monastery built here. One of the earliest recorded uses for the building was as a location for a feast to celebrate the coronation of King John of Luxembourg, therefore showing that this building has been steeped in history for a huge number of years. It has been the victim of three separate fires in its lifetime, all of which entailed a great rebuilding effort in the aftermath. Today’s building is the result of the work of those in the 17th century, which was when the last fire occurred.
The church’s exterior is breathtaking, but it is the interior that takes the breath away. The layout of the tribune gallery over the side aisles – all divided by marble pilasters – is simply stunning to see. The sculptures found here are also amazing, with perhaps the most impressive of them being the sculpture named “Pietr”, which dates back to around 1500 and is found at the main altar. There are also many paintings – such as “Martyrdom and Glorification of St.James”. The building also contains a large number of paintings by the artist Peter Brandl.
One grisly aspect of this church can be found hanging to the left of the church’s entrance – a severed arm. This is reputed to be the arm of a man who was caught trying to steal a valuable artefact from the church and who, when caught, had his arm cut off by the Prague Guild of Butchers, who protected the church.
One of the biggest attractions of this church is the tomb of former Czech chancellor Vratislav of Mitrovice. The elaborate design was created by Jan Bernard Fischer of Erlach and is a lasting testament to his skill. A rumour abounds that when the tomb was opened, the body was found sitting up, apparently trying to force its way out of the tomb in vain. Another main attraction is the 15th-century statue of the Virgin Mary, found on the main altar.
The acoustics in the church are world-renowned, and as such, several concerts are held there every year. The acoustics actually mean that the baroque organ dating back to 1702 is in the perfect place to demonstrate its sound. The decoration in the church is also something to behold, and most of it was created by the Italian Ottavio Mosto. It contains 21 different altars, and the main point of focus is on the magnificent statue of St. James.
The church currently belongs to the Roman Catholic Church, and, in 1974, it was raised to the level of the minor basilica (Basilica of St. James) by the then Pope, Pope Paul VI.
Address: Malá Štupartská 635/6, Old Town; Open: 9:30am-12pm, 2pm-4pm daily. No entry during Mass or organ concerts; Website: www.minorite.cz
The church was built during the reign of King Wenceslas I. The original church (Bazilika sv. Jakuba) was destroyed though but was rebuilt by King John of Bohemia in 1319 in a Gothic style. However, the project was not completed until 1374 by Emperor Charles IV. It became one of the most important royal churches in the city and was often used for royal funerals, including King Charles IV and Emperor Maximilian II in 1577.
In 1689 the church was once again ravaged by fire and was rebuilt, however this time in a Baroque style. The architect for this was Jan Simon Panek. Even though work began in 1689, the church’s interior was not finished until 1739, and the exterior was complete in 1702. The original floorplan remained, the Gothic elements of the church were removed. However, some of the 14th-century walls were also retained.