The Church of St. Cyril and Methodius – a Neo-Romanesque Gem of Karlín

  • Physical difficulty: Easy
  • Length: up to 20 min
  • Wheelchair accessibility: No

The Church of St. Cyril and Methodius in Prague 8 – Karlín located on the Karlín Square is one of the largest church buildings in Bohemia. It was built in the middle of the 19th century and is one of the most significant architectural monuments of the Neo-Romanesque style.

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Physical activity: light

Required time: up to 20 minutes

Suitable for wheelchairs: no

 

The Church of St. Cyril and Methodius in Prague 8 – Karlín located on the Karlín Square is one of the biggest 19th century church buildings in Bohemia. It was built in the middle of the 19th century and is one of the most significant architectural monuments of the Neo-Romanesque style.

The church is built in the shape of late Romanesque basilica with a high elevated nave and two towers.  The ground plan is divided into an anteroom, three naves, and a presbytery which ends in a semi-circular apse between two chapels located under the church towers, also closed with semi-circular apses. The church is not traditionally oriented. It follows the rectangular street network, so the presbytery faces southeast.

History of the Church

The initiator of the project was the Catholic Unity in Prague, which had been organising a public collection to build a new church in Karlín since 1850. Among other contributors were the Emperor Franz Ferdinand I the Good and his wife Caroline. (Her name served as inspiration for naming the whole newly growing city district – Karolinenthal – Karlín).  The land for the construction was purchased by the Karlín municipality. The foundation stone of the church was laid on the Karlín Square on 10 June 1854 in the presence of Emperor Franz Joseph I and his wife Elizabeth. The construction took nine years and many Czech, Austrian and German artists and companies participated in the decoration works. The church was consecrated by the Archbishop of Prague and Cardinal Bedřich of Schwarzenberg on 18 October 1863, which was the millennial anniversary of the arrival of Slavic christian missionaries Cyril and Methodius.

In 2002 the church and the whole district were hit by a devastating flood. The water reached a height of one and a half meters inside the church. The church was completely restored in 2003-2006 by technical companies and restorers led by academic painter Tomáš Záhoř. The restoration works were organised by Father Miroslav Cuth and sponsored by thousands of donors.

Architecture

The building is 75 meters long and 31 meters wide. Architects Karl Rösner and Vojtěch Ignác Ullmann participated in designing the project; construction work was conducted by Jan Bělský; stone work, by Karel Svoboda.

Exterior: The facade is decorated with three portals with Christological reliefs by Václav Levý. The bronze entrance door is decorated with reliefs depicting scenes from the lives of St. Cyril and Methodius and Czech patrons St. Wenceslas, Ludmila and Vojtěch designed by Josef Mánes. Above the portals there is an arcade frieze with the statues of the kings of Judah by Čeněk Vosmík from 1903. The fittings and locks were supplied by industrial entrepreneur Josef Rudle. Other sponsors were entrepreneur Čeněk Daněk and the mayor of Karlín, Josef Götzl – both are depicted on the gate kneeling.

Decorations

The selection of artists was directed by Art Association for Bohemia (Krasoumná jednota, Kunstverein für Böhmen), which established special Association for Decoration of St. Cyril and Methodius Church (Jednota pro okrášlení chrámu sv. Cyrila a Metoděje v Karlíně). This association worked during the years of 1863-1937 and commissionally evaluated decoration proposals and their implementation. In addition to the Krasoumná jednota´s committee, the main critical word belonged to Ferdinand Josef Lehner, Karlín´s chaplain at the time. He resided in Karlín Square and led the editorial of magazine called Method for Ecclestical Art. Lehner conducted construction and ideological supervision and reported on the progress of the construction works in annual reports in the Method. The Commission recorded all activities in the Book of Protocols, which was retained by one Karlín citizen after the construction works were finished. The book was later donated to the Karlín parish before the 2003 restoration.

 

The three glass doors to the nave were decorated by Josef Mocker (ornamental motifs). František Ženíšek and František Sequens created cardboard templates for figural motives in the stained glass windows produced mostly in the 1880s by a Tyrolean glasswork company that marked its products as Golderer 1888. Names of the sponsors are recorded on the window panes. On the sides of the anteroom are two large wooden statues of two missionaries and patrons of the church made by Břetislav Kafka, most probably in 1937.

Ceiling paintings were designed by Josef Matyáš Trenkwald in 1860s and were painted during the years of 1867-1873 by Gustav Vacek, Petr Maixner (who only started the work), and later by František Rudl and brothers Karl and Franz Jobst, who were called to this task in 1886 from Vienna. The christening chapel in Art Nouveau style was painted by František Urban in 1905. Eight images of scenes from the lives of apostles were painted by Zikmund Gustav Rudl. Presbyterium lunette paintings depicting images from the lives of St. Cyril and Methodius were designed in 1887-1888 by František Ženíšek and Maxmilian Pirner, who also started painting them. However, Ženíšek withdrew from the contract because of low salary, and Pirner left due to disagreement about the composition of the death of the standing saint [1]; the work was completed by František Sequens´ students, such as Gustav Miksch and Antonín Krisan. Several design sketches were also drawn by Felix Jenewein. The tabernacle and other elements on the main altar were designed by Bedřich Wachsmann in 1863-1868.

Literature:

Karlín. Chrám sv. Cyrila a Metoděje v Praze-Karlíně. Kostelní Vydří: Karmelitánské nakladatelství, 2007. 216 s. ISBN 978-80-7195-172-8.

KULHÁNEK, Ludvík. Chrám sv. Cyrila a Methoděje v Karlíně. Praha: Storch, 1906. Available online.

Annual reports of Krasoumná jednota, magazine Method 1875-1910


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