The height and beauty of St. Vitus Cathedral is beyond your imagination, whether you see it for the first or millionth time. The moment of silent amazement will overcome you whenever you walk through the building from the second courtyard of Prague Castle. Suddenly it rises to heaven a few meters in front of you. Cathedral of Sts. Vitus, Wenceslas and Adalbert, which is its full name, is the most important building and spiritual monument in Prague.
Being a part of the majestic panorama of Prague Castle, it attracts visitors from many places of the metropolis.
Historical treasures and the mausoleum
The cathedral interior with a unique vault and 24 chapels contains countless works of art and cultural artifacts, including the Czech coronation jewels. In the crypts below the cathedral, there are tombs of Czech kings and their families, as well as Czech patrons, noblemen and archbishops. One of the most important monuments is the royal mausoleum made of marble; the silver tomb of John of Nepomuk located in the southern gallery, for example, weighs 20t.
The third church
When Prince Wenceslas founded the small rotunda of St. Vitus in 930, he couldn’t have known it was going to be the most sacred place in the Bohemia after his death. It was not long until the Romanesque chapel was replaced with a basilica. The impressive three-nave St. Vitus Cathedral in the Gothic style was built on the same site in 1344, when the Prague bishopric became archbishopric. The grave of St. Wenceslas can be still found in the crypt under the cathedral.
Brilliant work of Peter Parler
According to the assignment of King Charles IV., St. Vitus Cathedral was designed by the French architect Matthias of Arras. Shortly after his death in 1352, the work was taken over by the German architect Peter Parler, whose skills were ahead of the time. The design of the vaulted ceilings is breathtaking. The perfect system of external supports and columns reduced the load of the cathedral walls and enabled to use majestic stained glass windows.
Until his death in 1399, Parler managed to make St. Vitus Cathedral a great building in the High Gothic style. Thanks to his art, the cathedral became a desired dominant of the Prague Castle complex and a spiritual center of the Czech lands, admired by thousands of people even today.
Completion after 600 (!) years
After Peter Parler, who managed to close the chorus with an interim wall, no architect was able to continue in his magnificent work for hundreds of years. The construction was resumed at the end of the 19th century and officially finished in 1929. Nearly 600 years after the foundation stone was laid down, St. Vitus Cathedral had finally its final form.
Incredible dimensions of the cathedral
The cathedral floor plan is in the shape of cross, with the longest base of 124m and maximum width of 60m. The vault is 33m high; the main tower reaches the magnificent height of 96.5m, and the front tower 82m. The Sigismund bell with the diameter of 2.65m and estimated weight of about 15t is one of the greatest pieces of art in Europe.
How to get there
The question is how not to get there because once you get to Prague Castle, St. Vitus Cathedral cannot be missed. To visit the Castle, you can climb the Old Castle Stairs (Staré zámecké schody) from the river, go by tram and get off at the Prague Castle stop, or get off a bit further and enjoy the stroll from Pohořelec to Hradčanské Square.
Photo – source: Pixabay.com