A spectacular echo of Baroque Rome...
The very first church of St. Francis of Assisi was founded in 1252 near the Monastery of the Knights of the Cross with the Red Star, the only original male religious order in the Czech lands. And this history is still linked to the church to date – the ancient order still occupies the monastery, and the Gothic foundations of the church can still be seen in the crypt.
Built in the third quarter of the 17th century, today’s church holds a special place in the context of Prague Baroque architecture: on the one hand, it evokes Baroque Rome and, on the other, French Classicism, thus merging the two main architectural trends of 17th century Europe. The creator of the church, Jean-Baptiste Mathey, was indeed born in Burgundy, but spent his youth and his early years of practice in Rome. It was here that he was noticed by John Frederick of Wallenstein, the archbishop of Prague, who took him with him to Prague. He entrusted him with the construction of the most important buildings at the time – the archbishop’s palace, and the church of St. Francis of Assisi, near Charles Bridge.
In his design of the church, Mathey used motifs which are typical of Roman Baroque: a dynamic facade, which majestically dominates Křížovnické Square, and a large dome which evokes the St. Peter’s Basilica and other Roman landmarks. The French roots on the other hand, are in the ground plan and the sublime shape of the facade, with its walls in a single colour and made of large stone slabs, a rare sight in Prague.
The interior of the church is characterised by the unique way it merges architecture, painting and sculpture. The main altar and the statues in niches tie in with the Roman creations of Gian-Lorenzo Bernini in their dynamism and aestheticism. The walls are tiled with coloured marble in sophisticated colour schemes. The highlight of the space has to be the cupola, decorated with frescoes of the Last Judgment, by Prague’s greatest Baroque fresco painter, Václav Vavřinec Reiner.
This church only opens its doors during regular organ music concerts, which take place in the late afternoon. Tickets are readily available on our website. In 2017, the interior underwent major renovations: be ready for a spectacular musical and architectural experience!Camilla