Sunday, July 17, 2011

Žďár nad Sázavou, Czech Republic

Žďár nad Sázavou is a small city, with about 24,000 residents, about 64 km (~40 miles) from Brno. It's 124 km (77 miles) from Prague which puts it near the border between Moravia and Bohemia. It's just another small Czech town with one exception. The Pilgrimage Church of St. John of Nepomuk, on top of Zelená hora (Green Hill), is about 3 km from the city center.

At the start of the 18th century a new architectural style called Baroque Gothic developed in Bohemia where Gothic elements were transposed into baroque form. Built from 1719 to 1722, the church is the final work of famous architect Jan Santini. In 1994, the church was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Jan Nepomucký was a priest who regularly heard the queen's confessions. The story goes that the king ordered him to reveal if the queen had confessed to having a lover. The priest never said anything and ended up on the rack. He was killed and his body was thrown from Prague's Charles Bridge into the Vltava River.

Supposedly, when his tomb was opened 300 years later a piece of reddish tissue fell out of his skull. The tongue that would not reveal confessions. A nice story. In 1973, scientists showed that the reddish tissue was part of the brain with congealed blood; not a tongue. Though I'm sure that the tongue story went a long way in St. John's beatification.

On the night of his execution there were five stars that hovered over the Vltava. So the church is based on fives. There are five entrances, five altar niches, five stars and five angels on the main alter all arranged in a "V" which is the Roman numeral "five". Inside the church, on the ceiling, is a tongue.

The church is surrounded by graves. This is surrounded by cloisters in the shape of a ten-point star. I understand that the church was build on the highest hill around. If only there was another hill or a viewing tower nearby where you could look down and view the church in its entirety. All in all, it made for a nice Saturday morning day trip. There's a large monastery at the base of the hill, also designed by Santini. Perhaps that will be a future day trip destination too.

1 comment:

  1. Very cool.

    Your lead has fallen to 33%!
    Alert, alert, alert. :-)