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Týn Church - Old Town Square, Old Town

Týn Church

Old Town Square, Old Town

Týn church, also known as the church of Madonna before Týn or sometimes also called by a wrong name church of Our Lady before Týn, is the main church of the Old Town and one of the most important churches in Prague; at present time it is used by the Catholic church. Its name ‚ Týn‘ refers to the closed courtyard Týn or Ungelt found in between the streets Týnská, Štupartská and Malá Štupartská where from the 12th century the latest foreign merchants came with their precious goods; after paying a fee (called ungeld) they were under the protection of the king himself. There used to stock rooms, stables, comfortable accommodation facilities and also a hospital with a Romanesque church of Our Lady. On the site of this small Týn church the construction of a spectacular peak Gothic triple-naved basilica was started in the third quarter of the 14th century. The influence of the royal stonemason works of Matthias of Arras and Petr Parléř is apparent there. At the beginning of the 15th century the church was only missing its steeples, gable and roof frame, in 1457 it was roofed, the gable of the main nave and the north steeple were completed during the reign of Jiří of Poděbrady and in 1511 the slightly leaner south steeple was built too. Both steeples, directing the west side of the church, are finished off by late Gothic hexagonal casques with an ambulatory and a decorative turret. After a fire in 1679 the main nave and presbytery were lowered a little bit and vaulted with a Baroque brick vault. The dimensions of the Týn church are impressive: it occupies a space of 52x28m, the height of the middle nave is 44m and 24m of the side naves, the steeples reach up to 80m.

The church can be accessed through three Gothic portals: the main (west) one goes through the building of the Týn school to the Old Town Square, south one leads to the Týn Presbytery in Celetná Street and the northern one to the Týnská Street.

The north portal has rich sculptural decorations including a relief of the Suffering of Christ, it is currently permanently closed and is one of the most precious Gothic monuments in the whole Bohemia (the original of the tympanum is stored in the collections of the National Gallery). The façade window with Gothic decorations is also exceptional as well as the traceries of windows in the main nave.

The church interior is mostly Baroque. There are some remainders from the Gothic equipment such as the tin font from 1414 (the oldest in Prague), a stone pulpit, two sedilia with consoles in the shape of crowned heads and most importantly, the late Gothic baldachine by Matěj Rejsek from 1493, originally located above the tomb of bishop of Augustine Lucian of Mirandola. Gothic sculptures of Madonna with baby Jesus from around 1420 and the Calvary from the beginning of the 15th century (probably by the same author) are also outstanding masterpieces. In the church there are 19 altars who whose authors include F. M. Kaňka, K. Škréta, J. J. Bendl, J. Hellich, F. M. Brokof and J. J. Heinsch among others. Church organ from 1673 is the oldest one in Prague. The author of the paintings of the Calvary from 1854 is F. Čermák. Inside the church there is a valuable set of Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque tombs with the most famous one belonging to Danish astronomer Tycho de Brahe. Many tombs have been significantly damaged from being walked over – walking over tombs was not considered as inappropriate in the old times, it was even meant to prevent a toothache!

Predecessors of John Hus such as Conrad Waldhauser or Jan Milíč of Kroměříž used to deliver sermons in this church, during the Hussite Wars the church was taken over by followers of Hus and the church became the main Old Town church and also the parish church. From 1427 the elected Hussite archbishop Jan Rokycana used to preach there, he was also buried inside. The Hussites used the church until 1623 when it was taken over by the Jesuits. The statue of Jiří of Poděbrady portrayed as the Hussite king and a large gold chalice which used to adorn the gable of the church were taken down and replaced in 1626 by a statue of Madonna by K. Bechteler; her halo was made from the gold chalice. – From 1973 a gradual reconstruction of the Týn church has been taking place. In 1992 the belfry of the north steeple was given a bronze bell weighing 960 kg, replacing a historical bell that was taken away during the German occupation in the 2nd World War. In 2000 an exceptionally well preserved fresco of St. Hieronymus with a lion from the end of the 14th century was found in the north side nave. - Týn church has been named a national cultural monument since 1962.

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