Church of St. Nicholas in the Lesser Town - Malostranské Square, Lesser Town
Malostranské Square, Lesser Town
The majestic church of St. Nicholas on the Lesser Town Square, built by the Jesuits in the illusionary Baroque style that symbolized the political and social changes after the battle at the White Mountain, took more than eight decades to be completed. It stands in a place of a Gothic parish church of St. Nicholas which was acquired by the Jesuits after 1620 thanks to Emperor’s decision, in line with the recatolization plans for Bohemia. The construction was started in 1673 by P. Bos, soon followed by G. D. Orsi de Orsini, the nave and the façade was built in 1704-11 by K. Dietzenhofer, the sacristy with a dome was completed in 1737-52 by K. I. Dietzenhofer, belfry tower was finished by A. M. Lurago in 1751-56. This church is one of the most significant Baroque monuments in Europe and it is often considered as the most beautiful building of the Czech Baroque style. The colossal building with a floor plan of 40x60 metres and the main nave of 30 metres stands on foundations which runs 15 metres deep. Both church towers – the belfry and the dome with a turret – are 79 metres high. The diameter of the copper-coated dome is 17 metres inside (and 20 metres on the outside), the dome is 50 metres high inside (Prague’s highest interior space) and 70 metres on the outside. The dome is optically connected to Parléř’s part of St.Vitus Cathedral and they form a skyline in a clever way. Western façade with statues of religious fathers is ideologically connected to the statues of the Charles Bridge and also of the Jesuit church of St. Saviour in Clementinum in the Old Town
The builders of the St. Nicholas church used all typical elements of the Baroque style to reinforce the majestic, dramatic, expressive and plastic nature of the building. This is further emphasized by the use of illusionary frescos and by playing with the light and shadow inside in a smart way. The interior is designed as a series of intertwined geometric objects and it is a perfect example of Baroque style’s ability to impress and amaze the visitor, to impact his senses and evoke religious feelings. The most valuable decorations are the statues by I. F. Platzer (more than 50 statues), sculptures by P. Prachner, R. J. Prachner and J. A. Quittainer, frescos by J. Kramolín, F. X. Balko a J. L. Kracker, paintings by K. Škréta, L. Kohl a I. Raab. W. A. Mozart played the church organ made in 1754-64 during his visit of Prague in 1787. Original benches from the first half of the 18th century were preserved too, there is a Renaissance bell from 1576 in the adjoining belfry, made in the workshop of bell-maker Brikcí of Cimperk. At the end of the 19th century the church was renovated by J. Mocker and K. Hilbert, the last major reconstruction took place in 1984-89. – On the northern side the church is adjoining the former Jesuit College, today occupied by the Mathematical and Physics Faculty of the Charles University in Prague. – From 1995 the church of St. Nicholas is national cultural monument.