Prague: Day 2

My first full day in Prague began with a visit to what I call "The Beach". It's right around the corner from my apartment on U leuzichkeho seminare. An army of hungry Swans guards access to the river. They really like Trdlo, a very Czech pastry, which I sacrificed to the swans because they would have ripped out of my hands anyway. This is also where, every day I've been here, I've seen a bride and groom getting photographed. One couple even went and stood in the river. You can see the Old Town and Charles Bridge very well from here.

Vltava with swans. Charles Bridge and the Old Town Gate in the background.

Trdlo being made.

The Pissing Fountain. Also located near my apartment. By David Cerny.

I headed to The Church of St. Nicholas (in Mala Strana, not the one across the river in the Old Town). It is an amazing example of high Baroque design and was built between 1704 and 1755. The baroque organ, with its 4,000 pipes, was played by Mozart in 1787. In fact, Mozart's Mass in C debuted here. Concerts happen here almost every night. You can climb the tower. I did. It gives very good views of everything but St. Vitus' Cathedral, which the church's dome blocks very nicely.

The Church of St. Nicholas (in the back). I climbed the tower.

Interior, Church of St. Nicholas.

The Organ in The Church of St. Nicholas. Mozart played here.

View to the west. Strahov Monastery is on the hill on the left.

View from The Church of St. Nicholas with part of Prague Castle on the hill in the background.

Church of St. Nicholas and the famous 22 Tram (great for tourist routes).

I then wandered a bit and ended up taking Tram 22 up to Strahov Monastery and Library. This is one of the oldest Premonstratensian monasteries in existence. It was founded in 1143 by King Vladislav II. About 70 monks still live here. They have been brewing beer here since the 13th or 14th century. But I didn't come here for the beer. I came here for the books! The library houses over 200,000 volumes. 3000 of these are original manuscripts. Before you get to see the two amazingly beautiful library rooms you pass through the Cabinet of Curiosities collected by Karel Jan Erben in the 1700's. This was a fascinating collection holding everything from a dried hammerhead shark to a series of books about various kinds of trees, each book made out of materials from a particular tree and holding bark, leaves, seeds, flowers, and even insects from that tree.

Strahov Monastery

Dried Hammerhead shark among other curiosities.

Books about trees, made from trees, containing trees.

A collection of birds' nests

The Philosophical Library

The Theological Library

Detail of an illuminated manuscript.

The baroque interior at Strahov.

There are various legends about the the Strahov monestary. One, that dates back to the middle ages, is that it once held The Devil's Bible, a very real book, called the Codex Gigas, created in Bohemia in the early 1200s. It is the worlds largest extant medieval manuscript. This manuscript was supposedly created by a monk who broke his monastic vows and was sentenced to death. He negotiated his way out of the death sentence by offering to create a book that would contain all human knowledge and would bring glory to the monastery overnight. He allegedly made a bargain with Lucifer in able to do this. The material used for the book's cover is also subject to speculation. Some say it is made of human skin. The book was taken from Prague during the 30 Years War by the Swedish Army. It can now been seen in Stockholm.

I also visited the statue of Tycho Brahe and Johannes Kepler. Brahe, a Danish nobleman, was an astronomer, astrologer, and alchemist, who came to Prague at the request of Holy Roman Emperor Rudolph II, who was very fond of alchemists as you will learn in later posts. Brahe, who lost part of his nose in a duel and wore one made of brass for the rest of his life, is known for his extremely accurate astronomical and planetary observations, as well as recording a supernova. He contributed greatly to our understanding of astronomy. Interestly, he died of a burst bladder or bladder infection after a banquet where he refused to leave the table as it would have been seen as a breach of etiquette.

Johannes Kepler, was Brahe's assistant, and was a key figure in scientific revolution of the 1600's. He was born in Germany. He was a distinguished mathematician, as well as an astronomer and astrologer. He served as imperial mathematician to Rudolph II. He is known for many scientific accomplishments, and most especially for his Laws of Planetary Motion.

Our Lady of Loreto with the alleged gate to hell in front of it (round circle of cobblestones). Drahomira, St. Wenceslas' mother, who killed her mother-in-law, was swallowed up by this gate before she could do in her son. She is known to drive through the area in burning carriage.

I wandered down the hill toward Our Lady of Loreto. It is the main Marian pilgrimage site in Bohemia. It is famous for its faithful copy of the Santa Casa in Loreto, Italy, allegedly the house of the Virgin Mary that was brought from Nazareth to Italy in the 13th century. The Loreto also houses amazing sacred art treasures that have been given to the Capuchin monks who now oversee the operation of the Loreto. The church is also famous for it 30 bell carillon.

Inner courtyard arcade.

Copy of the original Santa Casa in Italy.

Inside Our Lade of Loreto. Very baroque.


Diamond encrusted Monstrance. 6222 diamonds!

Detail on Monstrance.

This artwork was found in a chamber below Loreto. It is unusual in that it is all done in black and white chiaroscuro. Allegedly influenced by the style of Rembrandt.

After this I was kind of churched out and went and had tea and cake at Bellavista, near Strahov. Bellavista offers amazing views of the city, the castle, and the vineyards and gardens leading to Petrin Hill.

Looking east.

I then wandered down Nerudova Street to look at its famous house insignia. I will get to that in my next post.

Fun at night on Kampa Island.


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