CHURCH OF THE VIRGIN MARY

Prague 1, Town of Hradčany

Prague Castle - between the 2nd and 4rd courtyard

The Church of the Virgin Mary is the first sacral structure in Prague.

view of the finding site is possible from the passage between the 2nd and 4th courtyard; the ground plan of the younger building is visible, the older situations are covered by a sandy backfill

According to historical sources, the Church of the Virgin Mary is the first sacral structure in Prague. Bořivoj, the first historically recorded Bohemian prince, probably founded it in 885. Over time, it has attracted the attention of everybody interested in the origin of early Bohemia and its metropolis, the adoption of Christianity, the oldest sacral architecture, and the earliest history of Prague Castle. Dated from the 10th century, the Christian Legend is one of the sources of information about the Church of the Virgin Mary. According to the legend, the church was founded in ipsa civitate Pragensi, i.e. on the site which is included in the settlement area.

The location of the church remained unknown for many years. During his research of Prague Castle in the 20th century, Ivan Borkovský made efforts to locate it. In the early 1950s, he discovered a fragment of a sacral structure with a burial chamber referred to as a ‘tomb’ and an additionally inserted stone tomb with a man and woman buried with silver jewellery in the west wing passage between the 2nd and 4th courtyards; there was no doubt that the church that he searched for was finally found. Typologically, the set of jewellery from the woman’s grave consisting of sumptuous silver grape-bunch earrings and a simple temple ring with a loop may be dated no later than in the early 10th century. The discovered remains were ascribed to Prince Spytihněv († 915) and his wife. The researcher reconstructed the church into a nave church with a polygonal apse.

The identification of the discovered fragments of the structure with Bořivoj’s Church of the Virgin Mary is today generally recognised. The main argument is the time period supported by the jewellery found in the woman’s grave. Nonetheless, many questions remain unanswered: the appearance of the earliest structure is unknown, leaving behind only a small fragment of masonry which was damaged by the newer sanctuary; moreover, the function of the site that the prince chose for the first Christian sanctuary in Prague is also unknown. The building was located on one of the prime areas of the promontory, closer to the edge of its northern slope. At the turn of the 9th and 10th centuries, this area was part of a rather continuously settled Hradčany barbican which appears to have already been fortified at that time or a little later.

The monument received its current appearance as recently as 1995–1996. The public can view it through a glass panel which forms the northern wall of the west wing passage. However, the remaining masonry comes from the newer building stage of the church, and the tomb is hidden under a sand backfill.

Datum vložení: 21.1.2019 | Datum aktualizace: 1.9.2020
Autor: Ivana Boháčová

Použité prameny:
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