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At the (Huge) Whale - Lázeňská Street, Lesser Town

At the (Huge) Whale

Lázeňská Street, Lesser Town

The church of Our Lady Below the Chain is well hidden in Lázeňská street, just a few metres away from the Royal Route, close to the place where the Charles Bridge meets the Mostecká street. It is one of Prague’s top Romanesque monuments. A Romanesque basilica, the first church of the Lesser Town, was founded in 1169 by king Vladislav I as part of a monastery and a hospital of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem (Johannites, later known as the Maltese Knights), first centre of this Order in Bohemia. This fortified complex stood right next to the bridgehead of the Judith’s bridge which was still under construction at that time and also the Judith’s tower; hence the somewhat unusual name of the church. This small church building (remainders can be seen on the right wall of the current courtyard) was supposed to be replaced by a majestci early Gothic, triple-naved basilica, however, only a choir, a sacristy and parts of prismatic towers were built in the end. This church had a major significance in the pre-Hussite era as the bodily remains of Charles IV and his son Wenceslas IV were kept there before the burial. In 1420 the monastery and church were burnt down. The presbytery (current church) got a Renaissance vault afterwards and then rebuilt in Baroque style in 1640-50 by C. Lurago; in 1728-31 T. Haffenecker has also adapted the convent building in Baroque style. The church has precious Baroque decorations, most notably the rich stucco decorations, statues by J. J. Bendl, paintings by K. Škréta and numerous decorative lattices from the 17th and 18th century. Fragments of Gothic paintings were preserved too.

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