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Church of the Holy Spirit, Prague
Prague is filled with religious sites—from small chapels to elaborate Romanesque and Baroque style churches—that it has earned the moniker “the City of a Hundred Spires.” Spared from the bombings raids of the Second World War, these structures of medieval architecture stand proudly amid TV and water towers and modern buildings.
One lesser-known place of worship with a rough past is the 14th century Church of the Holy Spirit, Prague—formerly referred to as the Church of God’s Mercy—found beside the Spanish Synagogue in the Jewish Quarter. The single-aisle church with an oval presbytery features two towers added in the 19th century. The northern steeple, which contains a belfry, was added in 1807 while the smaller steeple was built in 1833.
When the Gothic structure of the Church of the Holy Spirit in Prague was built, it served as a marker between the Jewish and non-Jewish communities in the capital as it was built along the boundary of the Josefov and the Old Town.
Brief history of the Church of the Holy Spirit, Prague
The Church of the Holy Spirit, Prague was designed to serve the purposes of the Benedictine nuns, who ran a convent on the west side of the current structure at that time. The building was severely plundered during the Hussite Wars of the 15th century, when followers of reformer Jan Hus launched protests after he was burned at the stake in 1415 for speaking against the corruption of the Catholic church and giving mass in the local language.
Emperor Ferdinand I’s Reign
When Emperor Ferdinand I of Habsburg was crowned Holy Roman emperor in the 1550s, he ordered Jews to attend Catholic mass. To comply with the decree, Jews went to the Church of the Holy Spirit in Prague as it was the Catholic church nearest the Jewish Quarter.
Late 16th Century and Beyond
In 1589, the Church of the Holy Spirit, Prague came under St. George’s Basilica, the oldest preserved Catholic church in Prague. Built in 920 AD, this Romanesque building is currently part of the Prague Castle Complex.
The Church of the Holy Spirit in Prague underwent rehabilitation a century later after being hit by another fire in 1689. Its Gothic buttresses and high windows were preserved, but restoration workers gave the vault of its nave a Baroque look.
In 2015, the Czech Catholic Church turned over the care of the Church of the Holy Spirit to the Armenian Apostolic parish community.
In front of the Church of the Holy Spirit, Prague is the statue of Saint John of Nepomuk (formerly the Bohemian town of Pomuk) by Ferdinand Maxmilian Brokoff, one of the Czech Republic’s most celebrated Baroque sculptors. Vicar-General John’s death came at the orders of King Wenceslas IV in 1393 for siding with the archbishop of Prague, who was at odds with the monarch, and ruining the king’s plans to control certain church appointments.
Inside the Church of the Holy Spirit, Prague are several sculptures, the most prominent of which is the 14th century Pieta by German-Bohemian sculptor Peter Parler, who also took part in building the St. Vitus Cathedral. The Church of the Holy Spirit in Prague also has a statue of Saint Anne and busts of Saints Wenceslas and Adalbert. You’ll also find a painting of Saint Joseph by Bohemian artist Jan Jiří Heinsch.
How to get to the Church of the Holy Spirit, Prague
The Church of the Holy Spirit, Prague is a three- to five-minute walk from the Old Town Square. You can view it from the outside when you visit the Jewish Quarter or any Old Town tourist spot.The church only opens for mass and doesn’t allow the public to enter inside for sightseeing. You can check with the Armenian Church in Prague for more details.