Parish

The Cenotaphs in the Cloister Walk

There are some twentythree cenotaphs in various stages of legibility in and around the cloister walk. Perhaps one of the best known is that Elizabeth Joan Weston, a famous Latin poetess in her day. Born in Elizabethan England to a noble Catholic family who had to flee to Bohemia to escape persecution, she married, bore seven children, buried four and died herself at the age of 30 years on November 23, 1612.

The Chapel of Saint Barbara

Formerly dedicated to Saint Philip and Saint James, the Apostles, in 1338, this chapel was magnificently endowed by Stephen of Tetin, a great benefactor of the Order. Originally the chapter or meeting area of the Augustinian community it was transformed into a lovely gothic devotional chapel of ease as described above before the Hussite wars. Because of the unsettled political and religious atmosphere after the Hussite wars had ended in 1437 the Augustinians could only gradually return to St. Thomas.

The Sacristy

In the corridor between the north wall of the presbytery and the Sacristy are preserved the best- though mutilated remains of the original fourteenth century gothic Church, the presbytery of which had been consecrated on 2 May 1315 and the entire edifice on 17 April 1379. The corridor adjoining the sacristy, the initial gathering place of the friars before processing into the monastic choir, was an important meditative area before the celebration of the Church offices.

The Chapel of Saint Dorothy

The Chapel originally a small oratory aside the larger St. Thomas dates from the first half of the thirteenth century making it one of the oldest existing ecclesiastical structures in Mala Strana. The lancet-like windows on the south wall however, are all that remain of the earlier structure reworked over the centuries. This Chapel, originally the parochial church for Micro-praga to 1790, had been built in 1228 by King Premysl Ottakar I for the Benedictines of Breznov who at the request of King Vaclav II in 1285 ceded the foundation to the Augustinians.

The Nave or Main Body of the Church

It would be good to situate all this art within its historical time frame. The Protestant reform injected profound changes in society at the beginning of the sixteenth century. At first dismayed and thrown into disarray by frontal assaults on such commonly accepted Catholic teachings as the Mass, the intercession of Mary, the saints and the teaching authority of the Church, Catholics in Bohemia particularly after the Battle of Bela Hora on November 08, 1620 responded with confident vitality.

The Sanctuary and the Choir

The Main Altar is dominated by the two huge copies of Peter Paul Ruben works The Conversation of Saint Augustine and the Martyrdom of Thomas the Apostle. Unfortunately, the originals commissioned in Antwerp by prior Jan Svitovsky, OSA, in 1637, installed in 1639 were taken from the Church in 1921 and never returned. The altar built between 1730–1731 on grand scale by Christian Kovar, a local artist, possesses in toto nine freestanding statues bracketed by two supporting angels. On the left is the large image of St.

The Ceiling Frescoes

Looking from the cupola to the main altar, the cupola, spaning the lower end of the sanctuary, first captures our attention. A masterpiece of painted artistry with its fanciful allegory of the four continents, is quintessential 18th century imagery at its best. Executed by Vaclav Reiner between 1728–1730 these ceiling frescoes depicting scenes from the Legend of Saint Thomas the Apostle fill four panels spanning the barrel-vaulted sanctuary:

The Hussite Wars and the Aftermath

Following the death of Emperor Charles IV in 1378, the golden autumn of the Catholic Church and the Augustinian Order began to fade before the growing storm of Hussitism that was ever to haunt subsequent Czech history. As a movement Hussitism was born within the melange of late fourteenth century religious and political questions which at a distance do not lend themselves to easy analysis.

The Treasury of the Church of Saint Thomas Before 1420

The inventory of vestments is carefully described in the Codex Tomaeus. From this detailed list we learn not only of the magnificent gifts of liturgical vesture and appointments but something of the structure of the church and the liturgical feasts celebrated by the Augustinians in the fourteenth century. Liturgical vesture enhancing the sacred atmosphere as befitting the dignity of God apparently was paramount for the Augustinians and their celebrations.

The Church of Saint Thomas to the Year 1420

When the Augustinians arrived in 1285, Mala Strana (the “Lesser Town”) than comprised a closely parceled area nestled below the royal castle promontory or Hradcany (“sub arce” or “sub castro”) and separated from the Staromesto or “Old Town” of Prague by the sinuous and unpredictable Vlatava river. So delimited by nature, Mala Strana once settled could never really expand and has maintained even to the present something of its picturesque yet changeless panorama.

Syndicate content