Church on Sunday: St. Vitus Cathedral, Prague
It’s awfully hard to top last week’s church of bones, but I’ll have to make do with a church built in a castle. Prague Castle is a complex of churches and former royal residences that are now government offices or museums. Sort of like an office park on serious steroids…
Castle construction began in 870 (no missing digit here) and continued in almost every century until shortly after World War I. Today, Prague Castle is the largest ancient-medieval-contiguous castle in the world, depending on the source, and is almost 18 acres large. The castle is protected by a wall and impressive gate guarded by men in snazzy outfits.
The jewel of the castle complex is the Saint Vitus Roman Catholic Cathedral. Its twin spires peek out over the castle walls and dominate the western skyline of Prague. Cathedral design began in 1344, but wasn’t completed until 1929 due to changes in plans, architects and politics. Six hundred years of construction. Makes a bathroom renovation look like a piece of cake, doesn’t it?
The Cathedral entrance is includes sculptures, a huge rose window, and easy-to-miss images of the last two architects to work on the cathedral, Josef Mocker and Kamil Hiblert. Their images strike me as a bit egomaniacal–kind of like classy graffiti–but it’s a quirky touch on an otherwise imposing building.
The interior is meant to impress, and succeeds. The gothic nave seems to be a mile long and is flanked by art noveau stained glass windows. The side altars are practically the size of some stand-alone chapels. It’s the most famous cathedral in Prague for a reason, but that also means that it was desperately crowded in late July.
Entrance to the cathedral is free–to a point. To reach church highlights such as the Sarcophagus of St. John of Nepomuk, the Royal Crypt and Chapel of St. Wenceslas, visitors must purchase a ticket for entry. Package ticket prices range from $15-$20 USD with another $6 surcharge to climb one of the famed towers. It’s not exactly a bait-and-switch, but guidebooks that claim that entrance is free aren’t exactly correct.
Normally I’d be the first person to pay up but the price seemed a bit steep and I was “churched out.” Muz and I decided to see the other buildings in the castle complex and head back to Lesser Town for a drink. I think the guards liked that plan too: we saw them exiting the grounds just ahead of us…just in time for happy hour.