A basilica, crypt, museum & concert hall in one

Behind the majestic gothic cathedral of St. Vitus in the Prague Castle complex is another holy place worth checking out. The edifice may not be as grand but it is as important in stature and design.

Founded in 920 by Premyslid Duke Vratislav I. who dedicated it to St. George, the basilica is one of the most important Romanesque structure in the republic, not to mention that it’s the oldest surviving church building in the Prague Castle complex and the second oldest in Prague.

The striking western facade that we see today is in Early Baroque, added in the 17th century.

Just like the neighboring St. Vitus Cathedral, St. George’s Basilica underwent changes in its design through space enlargement and design additions brought about by necessity, change of ruler or devastation. 

In 973, the Romanesque basilica was enlarged with the addition of the Benedictine convent. It was rebuilt after a fire in 1142 and incorporated with new components— two white towers referred to as Adam (bigger southern tower) & Eve (the narrower northern tower), was added to its design.

The eastern side of the basilica. Rebuilt after the 1142 fire, the towers referred to as Adam & Eve, was incorporated into the Romanesque building’s design.
The southern entrance’s Renaissance treatment—the tympanum bears a depiction of St.George’s battle with a dragon.

A 14th century Gothic chapel consecrated to St. Ludmila, which holds the relics of the saint (Ludmila is the first Czech Christian martyr and the widow of the 9th century ruler Prince Borivoj), was adjoined to the southern side of the chancel in the first half of the 13th century when is was built in Late Romanesque design.

The Gothic Chapel of St. Ludmila  (right) holds the relics of the saint (below)

The striking western façade that we see today is in Early Baroque, a feature added in the 17th century—red bricks with the statues of its founder, Vratislav I, and Mlada, the first abbess of the near convent (trivia: The abbess of this community had the right to crown the Bohemian queen consort). The southern entrance, however, bears a Renaissance treatment—the tympanum bears a depiction of St.George’s battle with a dragon.

The 17th century entrance in Early Baroque in the red bricks.

Another chapel was added to the church in the early 18th century –the Baroque Chapel of St. John Nepomuk, which holds an altar adorned with a painting of the saint by the artist V. V. Reiner.

The Baroque Chapel of St. John Nepomuk

The basilica’s interior is emits the old world vibe, pretty much what we see in medieval-themed movies —stone walls, long halls, its narrow width accentuates the lofty ceiling made of dark wood, light streaming in through the decorative windows on the higher part of the walls, which makes it necessary for additional lighting to illuminate the lower area of the room.

The Romanesque interior of St. George’s Basilica
View of interior from the nave

The end of the hall holds another important feature of historical importance to the basilica. St. George´s Basilica was a burial place of rulers from Premyslid dynasty and at the domed nave adorned with paintings and frescoes of Bohemian Baroque painter V.V. Reiner, is where the tombs are situated including that of the basilica’s founder, Vratislav 1, a 14th century wooden tomb decorated with 15th century paintings.

St. George´s Basilica was a burial place of rulers from Premyslid dynasty. 
The nave holds the wooden tomb of the basilica’s founder, Vratislav 1, decorated with 15th century paintings.
The nave is decorated with paintings and frescos of V.V. Reiner.
The dome with fresco of a Bohemian Baroque artist
The 12th century crypt can be found underneath the nave choir.
The 12th century crypt underneath the nave choir.
The 16th century sculpture Brigita- the stone allegory of Vanity. The name of the statue is based on a legend.

The modern times made St. George’s Basilica a place for the arts. The 20th century reconstruction of the convent brought the addition of the Bohemian Art Collection of the National Gallery in Prague within the convent halls while the basilica’s Romanesque interior hall makes a fine setting for early evening classical concerts.

The admission ticket to the Prague Castle complex allows entry to St. George’s Basilica.

*****

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 19, 2015.

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