Hellichova 553/18


Between the left bank of the river Vltava and Petřín Hill stand two churches dedicated to St Lawrence (Svatý Vavřinec). The more substantial of the two, on the hill itself, is a baroque structure built on the site of an earlier Romanesque church dating from 1135. Below the hill, on Hellichova street, is a smaller church, dating - along with its interior frescoes - from the mid-thirteenth century, when the building stood in the heart of the now extinct village of Nebovidy.

Emperor Joseph II's Edict of Tolerance, whose purpose was to reduce the power of the Catholic church, was introduced in 1782, and two years later part of the church was converted for use as a residential building. Today the church is hidden away, a little-known survivor in the centre of Prague's Malá Strana district. Its house sign depicts the third-century Roman martyr Saint Lawrence holding a representation of the the gridiron on which he was condemned to a fiery death.

Havlíčkovo náměstí


Karel Havlíček Borovský (1821 to 1856) was a free-thinking writer and journalist whose liberal views were strongly influential in the debate regarding Czech independence in the mid-nineteenth century. A critic equally of the Austrian regime and of Russian-advocated Pan-Slavism, he founded the newspaper Národni noviny ('National News') as a platform for his own views on constitutional reform and universal suffrage.

In the years following the failed revolution of 1848, Havlíček was tried several times for his dissenting opinion and ultimately exiled for four years to Austria. He died of tuberculosis aged only 34, but two decades later this natural critic of authority became the inspiration for the progressive Young Czech Party, who fought for independence based on the historical and natural rights of the people.

The statue of Karel Havlíček Borovský in the pose of a Roman orator is by the sculptor Josef Strachovský. A reworking of the original 1883 piece by the same sculptor in Kutná Hora, it was erected in May 1911 in the Žižkov square that still bears the writer's name. Two months later the Czech community in Chicago unveiled a copy in that city's Douglas Park. An evident symbol of nationalism, the Nazis wanted the Prague version to be melted down; fearing the worst, patriotic Czechs removed the statue and hid it until after the war, when it was re-cast and replaced as a reminder to all of this enlightened thinker.

Church of St Procopius, Žižkov


Josef Mocker and František Mikš were at the forefront of the Gothic revival in the Czech lands. The former was the architect of the Church of Saint Ludmila in Vinohrady (1888-92) while the latter designed the Church of Saint Anthony of Padua in Holešovice (1906-11). The church of Saint Procopius in Žižkov came in between: commissioned in 1898 on the jubilee of the accession of Franz Josef I, the church was completed by Mikš in 1903, four years after the death of his collaborator.

Although these neo-gothic masterpieces differ considerably in scale, their decorative west ends, triple-aisled floorplans and exquisitely-painted interiors illustrate a unified artistic and religious vision. Any visitor with the time to explore explore them all is warmly encouraged to do so.

Saint Procopius was a tenth-century hermit and abbot of the monastery of Sázava, who according to tradition was personally responsible for setting down the Cyrillic and Slavonic texts of the so-called 'Gospel of Reims'. Along with Wenceslas, Agnes and Adalbert, Procopius is venerated as one of the four principal saints of Bohemia.

Prokopova 216/4: Bethlehem Chapel in Žižkov


Six hundred years ago, in 1414, the practice of administering communion 'in both kinds' (i.e. with consecrated bread and wine for all participants, not just the clergy) was restored in Prague. The execution of the protestant leader Jan Hus the following year could do nothing to stop the fact that the reformation had finally reached Bohemia. The Hussites' symbol of a golden chalice remained a powerful reminder of this crucial change in ecclesiastical tradition in all churches built subsequently.

In 1914, in the suburb of Žižkov, a disused sand-pit was bought and filled in to form the basis of a new church to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the death of Hus. Designed by the cubist architect Emil Králíček, the chapel is built within a residential courtyard, and defined by its strong geometrical facade. The inscription reads "Betlémská kaple. K 500. leté památce mučednické smrti mistra Jana Husi" ("Bethlehem Chapel. In memory of the 500th anniversary of the martyrdom of Master Jan Hus").

The bust of Jan Hus appears to the left of the inscription; and to its right, that of John Calvin. For more information, please see the comment below this article.


In 1918, the year of the foundation of Czechoslovakia, the Lutheran and Reformed churches in Bohemia united to form the Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren (Českobratrská církev evangelická), who now have charge of the chapel. Above the street entrance appears the famous Hussite slogan (and the motto of today's Czech Republic) 'Pravda vítězí!' - 'The truth will prevail'.

Malé náměstí 456/14

The Black Pony stands in the heart of the Old Town, one of a row of attractive renaissance town-houses which in the early fifteenth century were home to the city's first pharmacies. Its neighbours include The Golden Lily, and the Golden Crown; and across the street is the house of Angelus of Florence, one of the most famous chemists of the late mediaeval period. The house sign was affixed to the outer wall towards the end of the sixteenth century.

In 1801, the father of Franz Schubert bought the Black Pony. A courtyard links it to the next building, and it is entertaining to imagine the future composer, then aged four, spending his formative years here before going on to storm the concert halls of Europe.

Church of the Name of the Virgin, Křtiny


Legend has it that the ninth-century saints Cyril and Methodius baptized their first Moravian disciples in this wooded valley a few miles northeast of Brno (about 150 miles southeast of Prague). The village of Křtiny ('Christenings') later became an important pilgrimage site, marked by the presence of a famous gothic statue of the Virgin. By the 17th century, up to 50,000 pilgrims a year were making their spiritual journey here.


In 1718, the noted Prague-born architect Jan Blazej Santini-Aichl was commissioned by the Premonstratensian order to design a great pilgrimage church replacing two earlier structures. Born ten years after the death of the revolutionary Roman architect Francesco Borromini, Santini was much influenced by this master of the Baroque, especially by his organic geometry and numerological ground-plans. The churches here at Křtiny and the nearby Zelená Hora are exquisite examples of the later architect's debt to his Swiss-Italian forebear.

The airy interior of the main church at Křtiny, completed in 1750, provides natural lighting for the impressive ceiling frescoes on the theme of Mary, Queen of all Saints, by the Brno-born Jan Jiří Etgens (1691-1757). Keep clicking the image below for full detail:



Na Poříčí 1046/24: Bank of the Legions


The Bank of the Legions (Legionářská banka, or Legiobanka) was founded in 1919 in the Siberian city of Irkutsk as a depository for the savings of Czechoslovak soldiers returning from the First World War. As a sign of the great regard in which these heroes were held - many thousands of them journeyed half way round the world to get back home - a new building was erected between 1921 and 1923 in Prague, designed by one of the leading architects of the day, Josef Gočár.


Already well known for his House of the Black Madonna (1911), Gočár chose to develop the five-bayed  structure in the prevalent rondo-cubist style, its weighty arcs and cylindrical pilasters contributing to a dynamic, monumental frontage. The strong verticals of the facade are supported by a vast horizontal frieze by Otto Guttfreund, depicting the heroes' return; and four massy reliefs by the sculptor Jan Štursa commemorating the various battles of the Legionnaires. A blend of red and white stone was selected to echo the national colours of the fledgling Czechoslovakia.


Battles of Piave (16 June 1918) and Doss Alto (21 September 1918) - relief by Jan Štursa


Battle of Zborov (1-2 July 1917) - relief by Jan Štursa


On the Trans-Siberian railway - relief by Jan Štursa


Battles of Vouziers and Terron (October 1918) - relief by Jan Štursa