Church of Our Lady of the Snows (Prague)

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Church of Our Lady of the Snows Kostel Panny Marie Snezne1 v Praze.JPG
Church of Our Lady of the Snows

The church of Our Lady of the Snows (Czech : Panny Marie Sněžné) is located near Jungmann Square in Prague, Czech Republic. This church has one of the highest vaults in Prague (34 metres (112 ft)). It was supposed to be the second biggest church in Prague (after St. Vitus Cathedral), but it was not completed. The current form consists only of the presbytery of the church.

Czech language West Slavic language spoken in the Czech Republic

Czech, historically also Bohemian, is a West Slavic language of the Czech–Slovak group. Spoken by over 10 million people, it serves as the official language of the Czech Republic. Czech is closely related to Slovak, to the point of mutual intelligibility to a very high degree. Like other Slavic languages, Czech is a fusional language with a rich system of morphology and relatively flexible word order. Its vocabulary has been extensively influenced by Latin and German.

Prague Capital city in Czech Republic

| mapsize = 230px | pushpin_map_caption = Location within the Czech Republic##Location within Europe | pushpin_map = Czech Republic#Europe | pushpin_relief = 1 | coordinates = 50°05′N14°25′E | subdivision_type = Country | subdivision_name = Czech Republic | established_title = Founded | established_date = 7th century | leader_party = Pirates | leader_title = Mayor | leader_name = Zdeněk Hřib | area_footnotes = | area_urban_km2 = 298 | elevation_footnotes = | elevation_min_m = 177 | population_blank2_title = Nationality | population_blank2 = 64.8% Czech
35.2% Other / undefined | population_total = 1301132 | population_as_of = 2018 | population_footnotes = | population_density_km2 = 4,600 | population_metro = 2,619,490 | population_demonym = Praguer | postal_code_type = Postal code | postal_code = 100 00 – 199 00 | area_code = | area_code_type = ISO 3166-2 | iso_code = CZ-10 | registration_plate = A | website = | elevation_max_m = 399 | timezone = CET | utc_offset = +1 | timezone_DST = CEST | utc_offset_DST = +2 | blank_name = GDP (nominal) | blank_info = 2017 | blank1_name = – Total | blank1_info = €49 billion
PPP: $93 billion | blank2_name = – Per capita | blank2_info = €37,900
PPP: $72,000 | blank3_name = HDI (2017) | blank3_info = 0.956 – very high }} Prague is the capital and largest city in the Czech Republic, the 14th largest city in the European Union and the historical capital of Bohemia. Situated in the north-west of the country on the Vltava river, the city is home to about 1.3 million people, while its metropolitan area is estimated to have a population of 2.6 million. The city has a temperate climate, with warm summers and chilly winters.

Vault (architecture) architectural term for an arched form used to provide a space with a ceiling or roof

In architecture, a vault is a self-supporting arched form, usually of stone or brick, serving to cover a space with a ceiling or roof. The simplest kind of vault is the barrel vault, which is generally semicircular in shape. The barrel vault is a continuous arch, the length being greater than its diameter. As in building an arch, a temporary support is needed while rings of voussoirs are constructed and the rings placed in position. Until the topmost voussoir, the keystone, is positioned, the vault is not self-supporting. Where timber is easily obtained, this temporary support is provided by centering consisting of a framed truss with a semicircular or segmental head, which supports the voussoirs until the ring of the whole arch is completed. With a barrel vault, the centering can then be shifted on to support the next rings.



The church along with a monastery of the Carmelite order was founded in 1347 on the occasion of the coronation of Charles IV and his wife Blanche of Valois. The Carmelites were a mendicant order since 1245, which meant that they were not allowed to own any land. They therefore had no sources for building the church. Charles IV donated them a large plot, which they could partly rent, and the wood which had been used to build his coronation hall. This, along with contributions from the citizens of Prague, was enough to construct the currently visible part of the building. The construction of the church was delayed because of the problems with funds.

Carmelites Catholic mendicant religious order

The Order of the Brothers of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel or Carmelites is a Roman Catholic mendicant religious order founded, probably in the 12th century, on Mount Carmel in the Crusader States, hence the name Carmelites. However, historical records about its origin remain very uncertain. Berthold of Calabria has traditionally been associated with the founding of the order, but few clear records of early Carmelite history have survived.

Charles IV, Holy Roman Emperor Holy Roman Emperor

Charles IV, born Wenceslaus, was a King of Bohemia and the first King of Bohemia to also become Holy Roman Emperor. He was a member of the House of Luxembourg from his father's side and the Czech House of Přemyslid from his mother's side; he emphasized the latter due to his lifelong affinity for the Czech side of his inheritance, and also because his direct ancestors in the Přemyslid line included two saints.

Blanche of Valois Queen consort of Germany and Bohemia by marriage to King and later Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV

Blanche of Valois was a Queen consort of Germany and Bohemia by her marriage to King and later Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV. She was the youngest daughter of Charles of Valois and his third wife Mahaut of Châtillon.

During the Hussite Wars the construction was interrupted, the church was heavily damaged, and the local monks left the monastery. The church fell into disrepair by the end of the 16th century. At the beginning of the 17th century the church was taken over by the Franciscans to whom the church was given by the King of Bohemia Rudolf II.

Hussite Wars 15th-century wars fought between Christian Hussites and Catholic forces

The Hussite Wars, also called the Bohemian Wars or the Hussite Revolution, were fought between the Christian Hussites and the combined Christian Catholic forces of Sigismund, Holy Roman Emperor, the Papacy and various European monarchs loyal to the Catholic Church, as well as among various Hussite factions themselves. After initial clashes, the Utraquists changed sides in 1423 to fight alongside Roman Catholics and opposed the Taborites and other Hussite spinoffs. These wars lasted from 1419 to approximately 1434.

Rudolf II, Holy Roman Emperor Austrian king

Rudolf II was Holy Roman Emperor (1576–1612), King of Hungary and Croatia, King of Bohemia (1575–1608/1611) and Archduke of Austria (1576–1608). He was a member of the House of Habsburg.

In 1611, during the Passau army incursion, fourteen monks were killed, when a rabble from the city of Prague attacked and looted the monastery. These monks are known as Fourteen Prague Martyrs. They were after almost 400 years beatified in 2012.

The church itself was modified during the Renaissance and Baroque (mostly in the second half of the 17th century).

Renaissance cultural movement that spanned the period roughly from the 14th to the 17th century

The Renaissance is a period in European history, covering the span between the 14th and 17th centuries and marking the transition from the Middle Ages to modernity. The traditional view focuses more on the early modern aspects of the Renaissance and argues that it was a break from the past, but many historians today focus more on its medieval aspects and argue that it was an extension of the middle ages.

Baroque cultural movement, starting around 1600

The Baroque is a highly ornate and often extravagant style of architecture, music, painting, sculpture and other arts that flourished in Europe from the early 17th until the mid-18th century. It followed the Renaissance style and preceded the Rococo and Neoclassical styles. It was encouraged by the Catholic Church as a means to counter the simplicity and austerity of Protestant architecture, art and music, though Lutheran Baroque art developed in parts of Europe as well. The Baroque style used contrast, movement, exuberant detail, deep colour, grandeur and surprise to achieve a sense of awe. The style began at the start of the 17th century in Rome, then spread rapidly to France, northern Italy, Spain and Portugal, then to Austria and southern Germany. By the 1730s, it had evolved into an even more flamboyant style, called rocaille or Rococo, which appeared in France and central Europe until the mid to late 18th century.

Today, the Gothic presbytery serves as a church of Franciscans. The northern aisle is accessible from the eastern corner of the Jungmann square through the gate which originally led to the cemetery behind the church.

Gothic architecture style of architecture

Gothic architecture is a style that flourished in Europe during the High and Late Middle Ages. It evolved from Romanesque architecture and was succeeded by Renaissance architecture. Originating in 12th-century France, it was widely used, especially for cathedrals and churches, until the 16th century.


The interior of the church at night Prague Church of Our Lady of the Snows Night.JPG
The interior of the church at night

According to the last archaeological research from the 1980s and preserved contemporary documentation, the church was meant to be about 110 meters long. (In comparison, the biggest Gothic cathedral in Prague St. Vitus Cathedral - is 124 meters long.) Which means that nowadays it would be occupying the whole area of the Jungmann Square, almost reaching the building of the Adria Palace on the opposite side of the square. The only part that was built according to the plans was the presbytery with two small aisles and a great bell-tower by the western side of the northern aisle.

The construction of the tower began at the beginning of the 15th century. It was heavily damaged during the Hussite Wars. Also a great bell was shot down from it. In 1683 it definitely collapsed. The existence of this tower can be proved by its remains which can be found in the church. In the most western corner of the northern aisle, there are around 2 meters wide and 1 meter high remains of the thick tower walls and spiral staircase.

The northern aisle is partially preserved. The roof and vaults crumbled long time ago, but the outer walls with the remains of the vaults and windows are still visible. The aisle was apparently built on a different principle from the main chancel. The most obvious difference is the difference between the system and rhythm of the windows and the buttress system. The chancel walls are designed as a skeletal system with the windows reaching almost from one pillar to the next one, providing a huge amount of light inside of the chancel, whereas the windows of the aisle are relatively smaller and do not fill the whole space between the pillars. The pillars of the main chancel also do not interact logically with the inner space of the aisle. This was caused by the changes in plans between the two phases of building the aisle and the chancel around 1379. The builders decided to make the chancel taller, which resulted in enlarging of the buttress system.

Over the entrance to the aisle is a tympanum with the relief picturing God the Father, Jesus Christ and Holy Spirit. It is known as thee Throne of Divine Wisdom. This tympanum was supposed to be placed on the original church portal, which was never built.

Church of Our Lady of the Snows - vault Kostel Panny Marie Snezne Praha 2011-12.jpg
Church of Our Lady of the Snows - vault

Also the vault in the main chancel is not original. The original Gothic vault, which was even higher than the current one, was already by the end of the 16th century completely destroyed. In the 17th century was the church vaulted by the Franciscans. Along with the building of the new Renaissance vault were lowered the vaultings of the windows, which can be still seen from the outside.

During the Renaissance there was also built a new portal. Above the portal, between two Gothic windows is a mosaic of Our Lady of the Snow. Above the mosaic is a Gothic rose window.

The interior was changed a lot during the Baroque. The most important is a 29 meters high early Baroque columned altar. On its top there are statues of Virgin Mary and crucified John the Evangelist. It was made between 1649 and 1651 by an unknown artist. The painting on the bottom part of the Altar was painted by Antonín Stevens.


Coordinates: 50°04′59″N14°25′25″E / 50.0830°N 14.4236°E / 50.0830; 14.4236

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