The Bethlehem Chapel (Betlémská kaple) is situated on the area of a classic 3-level building erected from 1836 to 1837 whose walls and foundations are filled with tiny remnants of a structure from medieval times. At the start of the twelfth century, this was where the Romanesque James and St Philip cemetery and chapel was located. Part of this, on a plot of land called ‘Skalsko’, rich member of Wenceslaus the fourth’s court and burgher Hanuš of Mühlheim and the tradesman Václav Kříž founded, in 1391, the original Chapel of Bethlehem.
Founding a chapel was a vital act, as is demonstrated by the fact that Prague’s Archbishop, Jan of Jenštejn, took part and King Wenceslaus the fourth was also interested in this event. This area became well known from 1402 to 1412, due to the preachings of Master Jan Hus. Common people and Nobility came, occasionally even the Queen Sophia. This chapel developed into the focus of the movement for reform that later led to the Hussite conflicts. Other church pastors were Jacob of Mies and, during the sixteenth century, Thomas Müntzer.
Following the White Mountain Battle, the Jesuits got hold of the chapel and transformed it into a church for Catholics. Once the order was shut during 1773, at the order of Emperor Joseph the second, the chapel got de-consecrated, shut down and raised to the ground in 1786.
In 1950, inspired by an initiative by historian Zdeněk Nejedlý, a decision was taken to reconstruct this chapel. Based on the original, mediaeval structures seen in the old pictures, architect Jaroslav Fragner concocted a blueprint of this building whilst utilizing the remains of the mediaeval parts in the newer building. This chapel was accessible to the general public on the 5th July 1954. Adjacent buildings were renovated afterwards and a hall for exhibitions, called the Preacher’s House, was built. This building is presently owned by the Č.V.U.T. (i.e. the Prague based Czech Technical University).
The Bethlehem Chapel is located at Betlémské náměstí 255 /4 in the Old Town. Its’ opening hours from April to October are from 10:00 to 18:30 everyday, and from November to March from 10:00 to 17:30 everyday. It is closed on the 24th December and the 31st December.