Keeper of the Crown Jewels

This is what they have to say, “The Crown Jewels chamber in St. Vitus Cathedral, where the Crown Jewels of Czech kings are, is under lock and key, and without exaggerating it is the place least accessible in Prague Castle.”

The façade of St. Vitus Cathedral.
Scenes from the history of the cathedral & from the legends about St. Wenceslas & St. Adalbert adorn the the cathedral’s main door in bronze

It’s only during very special occasions that these jewels are on display for public viewing, and if by chance you’re in the Bohemian capital, you’re in luck. Otherwise the “chest,” a huge one called St. Vitus Cathedral, is a jewel worth exploring in itself.

Dedicated to St. Vitus, the cathedral is the seat of the Archbishop of Prague, the biggest & most important church in the country, a crypt of Bohemian Kings & Holy ROman Emperors.

From the lower plains of the city, the St. Vitus Cathedral, the biggest and most important cathedral in the country and the excellent example of Gothic architecture, juts out off the Prague Castle’s landscape on the hilltop above Lesser Town. Its magnificence is beautiful by day as it is at night. On a closer look, the cathedral is breathtaking.

St. Vitus Cathedral stands as an perfect example of Gothic architecture
Gargoyles
Dwarfed by the church’s magnificence

The east end of the cathedral

A narrow walkway opens up to the third courtyard of the castle where the imposing cathedral stands. It was founded in 1344 and completed six centuries after, in 1929, in time for St. Wenceslas jubilee. Master craftsmen from different generations oversaw its construction, fusing in their personal design touches (Frenchman Matthias of Arras designed the overall French Gothic layout and Peter Parler added his bold net-vaults into the original plan), and redesigning along the way to completion.

Interior of St. Vitus Cathedral viewed from the eastern choir

Look above. The net-vaults displays Parler’s bold design & technical skill
View from the western choir with the vaults, rose window & the main door.

The end product is a majestic place of worship that can accommodate a great number of the faithful married with its original intentions—coronation church, a family and royal crypt, the kingdom’s treasury for the most precious relics, and the last resting place and pilgrimage site of patron saint Wenceslaus.

At the south gallery

Everything in the church is very impressive, from the design to contents, from floor to ceiling. A guided tour would be much helpful to be able to truly appreciate the details—the design and history—of the components of the church. Or perhaps, do a little research on your own (which I should have done) before stepping into this grand architecture.

A few of the cathedral’s impressive treasures…

Here are some of the points of interest not to be missed (as if anyone would miss it with its grandeur) of St. Vitus Cathedral.

The Golden Portal aka the Porta Aurea was the original entrance on the south side of the cathedral. From the interior, the door is sealed with a towering gate of iron meshwork, and from the exterior, the outer wall displays an artistic treasure in the Castle District—the gold-colored mosaic of the Last Judgment. Kings entered the cathedral through this portal for the coronation ceremonies.

The gold colored mosaic of the Last Judgment on the wall of the Porta Aurea. It is through this Golden Gate that the kings entered the cathedral for coronation ceremonies.
The Golden Gate form inside the cathedral
The Golden Gate & the bell tower where the Zikmund bell, the biggest Czech bell, is.

The St. Wenceslas Chapel is one of the oldest parts of the building, considered as the central point of the cathedral and where the body of the patron saint was entombed. The chapel walls are beautifully embellished with semi-precious stones, and frescoes depicting the passion of Christ and the life of St. Wenceslas.

Perhaps the most outstanding space in the cathedral, the Chapel of St. Wenceslas, where the relics of the saint are kept.
The chapel walls bear frescoes depicting the passion of Christ and the life of St. Wenceslas.

The tomb of Saint John of Nepomuk in the choir is extraordinary. Erected in 1736, the final resting place of the religious martyr and priest is made of silver. The sculptural work of precious metal includes a cherub pointing to the saint’s tongue, which was said never to have decayed.

The tomb of Saint John of Nepomuk made of silver.

One cherub points to the saint’s tongue, which was said never to have decayed. 

Alfons Mucha’s glass windows “painting”. This stained glass artwork is the 20th century addition to the interior design in the historical St. Vitus Cathedral. The renowned Czech Art Nouveau artist created a vibrantly colored artwork on the north wing of the edifice which includes the life-sized figures of saints Cyril and Methodius.

The most popular of the stained glass windows was designed by Alfons Mucha
The cathedral bears a collection of equisitely designed stained glass windows 

The Royal Oratory, rising above the cathedral’s ground level, was used by Kings and his family during services and to address their subjects. The balcony’s parapet is a sculptural artwork with intricate designs of woven branches and decorated with coat of arms. On its supporting pillar is a sculpture of a miner. Referred to be the centerpiece, the design style is of late Gothic architecture.

The Royal Oratory, used by kings to address their subjects.
A closer look at the oratory.
A sculpture of a miner on the supporting pillar of the Royal Oratory

*****


For more travel & lifestyle stories, visit http://jeepneyjinggoy.blogspot.com/ and http://apples-and-lemons.blogspot.com/

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on February 12, 2015.

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