Read, Write, Run, Roam

Church on Sunday: Been Caught Stealin’ Edition at St. James, Prague


It’s been a gory couple of days in RHOB land: I’ve seen a Czech church decorated with bones, explored the open crypts of St. Stephen’s in Vienna, and snapped a pic of a mummified hand hanging in a church–all after writing about the Tower of Skulls in Nis, Serbia. The bad news is that family members probably think I’m a serial killer. The good news is that if I ever meet Tim Burton, we’d have a lot to talk about.

Our “skeletal sojourn” began with a whirlwind trip through Prague and a visit to St. James Church. Prague is chock full of churches, which makes it hard to decide which ones to see. However, St. James had something that others did not: a 400-year old severed hand dangling from its ceiling.

It's 400 years old..what did you *think* it would look like?

The hand is real. It’s reportedly the appendage of a would-be thief who tried to steal a necklace from a Madonna (Virgin Mary) statue by the altar. The statue grabbed his hand and would not let go. The people who found the thief the next day had no choice but to sever the arm. After this happened, the statue let the hand go, and it was hung in the church as a warning to others.

Note Bene: no one messes with Madonna.

Not exactly what I meant, but you get the idea.

 There’s more to this church than grisly morality tales. It’s the second largest church in Prague, and one of the most beautiful. The vivid frescos, marble columns and artwork were among the best we saw in Prague. The acoustics also make St. James a popular concert venue. Best of all, it was practically empty–a true “miracle” in summertime Prague.

The church was constructed in 1373, but after a fire in the late 1600s, a new church was commissioned on the same site. The church holds 20 altars and the tomb of Count Vratislav of Mitrovice. The Count is known for his gorgeous if not grisly tribute: he was accidentally buried alive.

The Count's Tomb

Prague may be the home of a 100 spires, but only St. James can boast of moving statues, horrific burials, and 21 beautifully painted altars. I’ll post our (less grisly) adventures in Prague and Vienna this week.

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