The basilica of St. Peter and St. Paul, the dominant feature of Vyšehrad, stands out a mile in the city panorama. Its beauty will astonish you both from the outside and the inside where a lot of valuable relics are kept. Take a break and get the feel of the thousand-year-old history of this sacred place. You won’t regret the time spent here.
The sumptuous title ‘basilica minor’
The basilica was founded between 1070 and 1080 and many times rebuilt, always in the spirit of the time. It gained its current neo-Gothic appearance at the turn of the 19th and the 20th century. The majestic façade with two new towers, today a typical sight in Vyšehrad, was complemented with beautiful Art Nouveau elements inside the basilica. The spiritual and historical significance of the church was sealed by the pope John Paul II who elevated it to basilica minor in 2003.
The seat of the Vyšehrad chapter
The basilica was founded by prince Vratislaus II. A feud with his younger brother Jaromír, then the bishop of Prague, made him built a refuge in Vyšehrad. The church of St. Peter and St. Paul became the base of the Vyšehrad chapter, which was independent and subordinated only to the pope.
The gems inside the basilica
Inside the basilica, you’ll notice the board painting of the Virgin Mary of Vyšehrad, called the Vyšehrad Madonna of the Rains. It can be found in the left part of the temple, in the fourth aisle chapel. In the south part of the chancel, you can see the chapel of the Virgin Mary in the Wall. There is a statue that – according to a legend – miraculously cured ill people. At the top of every hour, between 11 a.m. and 9 p.m., you can also listen to the local electrically-powered carillon, operated by a computer programme with 50 famous melodies.
A unique cemetery for the chosen
The cemetery near the basilica of St. Peter and St. Paul is the oldest in Vyšehrad. Thanks to its distance from the city centre, it escaped abolition during the Josephine reforms in the 18th century and has survived as a historical rarity until today. Church dignitaries, nuns and hospital attendants used to be buried there. At the end of the 19th century, the cemetery became a national burial ground and the Slavín tomb – where many admired Czechs found their eternal rest – was built there.
Life-sized Nativity scene
At Christmas (from 25th December to 2nd February), there is usually a large Nativity scene on display in the basilica of St. Peter and St. Paul. It is comprised of thirteen life-sized figures of people and animals carved out of wood. The Nativity scene was created in the 19th century, and its figures were renovated and placed in a wooden sheep shelter with a shingle roof at the end of the last century.
Opening hours and admission
The basilica of St. Peter and St. Paul is closed during the church ceremonies – for the programme, please visit the website of the Vyšehrad chapter. Apart from these exceptions, the basilica is open to public from April to October, usually from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; in winter time, it is open until 5 p.m. The full admission to the basilica and the treasury is CZK 50; the reduced tickets for children, students and the elderly cost CZK 30.