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Prague

St. Clement's Cathedral, Karlová 1

Introduction

St. Clement's Cathedral is a chiefly Romanesque basilica, which formed a part of a Dominican monastery from 1432 till 1556. The interior has a single aisle lit by eight large windows. In 1556 the Church was taken over by the Society of Jesus. The Jesuits rebuilt it in the Baroque style in 1712-1715. The Cathedral changed little since. Its exterior remained simple, its interior, richly decorative.

In the twentieth century the Cathedral served as as a seminary church. In 1931 Prague's archbishop František Kordač transferred St. Clement's Cathedral to the Byzantine Catholic Church.

The Vault

The vault is divided into four fields decorated by frescoes paint by Jan Hiebel, a senior in the painter's guild, who passed away in 1755.

  1. A scene from St. Clement's life in exile in Crimea
  2. St. Clement's Martyrdom
  3. Veneration of St. Clement's relics
  4. The Holy Trinity with St. Clement and St. Alois praying. Angels are holding a picture of the Klementinum dormitory in the lower part of the fresco.

The Altar

Behind the main altar is the wall with a beautiful fresco painting of a marble altar with white pictures of the Four Evangelists. In the middle of the fresco is an oil painting of the assumption of St. Clement.

Besides the main altar, there are six other altars in the Cathedral.

Left Side

Beside the main altar is an altar dedicated to St. Heracles' (Heraklij), bishop of Alexandria, flanked with a large statue of the saint. A sculpture depicting the grave of St. Jan Nepomucký is under the mensa.

Beside the pulpit is the altar of the Presentation of the Lord with a beatiful painting by an unknown master. Under the mensa is the sculpture of Francis Xavier (František Xaverský) on his death bed.

The last altar (the former St. Anna's Altar) is the one with the beautiful picture of the Lord's family by Ignaác Raab. Under the mensa is the sculpture of St. Mary Magdalen.

Right Side

Beside the main altar is St. Joseph's Altar with the statue of the saint holding Baby Jesus in his arms. The altar extension has a statue of the guardian angel. A sculpture of Jesus in the tomb is below the mensa.

The Francis Xavier Altar was built to commemorate the plague of 1713. The painting depicts the horrors of the plague. Sculptures of St. Sebastian and St. Roch flank the altar. The altar extension has a rich engraving representing the scenes of the plague. Under the mensa is St. Alois' grave with a kneeling angel.

St. Leonard's (Linhardt) Altar with a precious painting by Petr Brandl showing St. Leonard and up above him, St. Lawrence (Vavřinec) uplifted to heaven. Under the mensa is a statue of St. Stephan (Štěpán).

The Pulpit

On the roof is a statue of St. Francis Xavier spreading the Gospel among the Pagans, whose representatives are sitting below him. On the tribune are the statues of Moses and Aaron. There are three engravings: St. Francis resurrecting a dead man, kissing the leg of an sick man and pulling a crayfish out of the sea with a cross. In the recesses of the pilasters, there are eight white statues of the Four Evangelists, St. Augustine, St. Ambrose (Ambrož), St. Jerome (Jeroným) and St. Gregory (Řehoř) ― all by Matyáš Bernard Braun, who also made the engravings on the pulpit and on the altars.

There are 16 smaller pictures hanging above and below the pilaster recesses: Jesus, St. Joseph, St. Augustine, Vitus (Vít), Procopius (Prokop), Ludmila, Jan Nepomucký, Wenceslas (Václav), Siegmund (Zikmund), Ignác, Alois, Stanislas (Stanislav) and other saints, painted by the Jesuit Ignác Raab.

Below the Curch gallery we find five confession booths with excellent engravings by Matyáš Bernard Braun. The prodigal son grazing pigs, Apostle Peter and the cock, the good shepherd with a found sheep, a repentant David with a lyre, St. John the Baptist (Jan Křtitel), and Mary Magdalen.

The Cathedral has two galleries, one above the other. The organ is on the lower one. Church galleries are renowned for their acoustics.

The Iconostasis

On the former iconostasis there used to be two icons: one of the Redeemer and one of the Mother of God, by an unknown author, one of the emigrants of the time, which were brought here from the Church of the Holy Cross. Icons of St. Nicolas and St. Clement, the patron of the church, were brough from the parish church of St. Clement. Above the icons there used to be the inscription with the words from John 10:16:

There shall be one fold, one shepherd.

A restoration was begun in 1984 by Ivan Ljavinec, a priest in Prague, in cooperation with sculptors Karel Stádník and Pavel Vanc, and with the ironsmith Tomáš Hlaváček. The iconostasis was redesigned to better fit the interior of the Cathedral. Karel Stádník donated several plastic works: the Last Supper, prophets Moses and John the Baptist, the Twelve Apostles as well as St. Cyril, St. Methodius (Metoděj) and St. Vladimir, equal-to-the-Apostles. Resin was utilized for the modeling of these plastic works; the gilding was carried out by Pavel Vanc. Painter Viktor Pivovarov painted two smaller icons on the so-called royal doors.

While solving the difficult task of making a new iconstasis, the artists kept in mind the need for preserving the symbolism of the traditional iconostases with icons marking the milestones in Christ's salvific mission and the events of the Old and New Testaments.

The new iconostasis consists of twelve pillars symbolizing the Disciples of Christ. This is the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecy, represented on the iconostasis by the prophet Moses and the last prophet John the Baptist, standing on elevated pillars beside the royal doors. Vine, growing above and around the pillars, symbolizes the Holy Sacrament. The gilded royal doors are shaped in the form of the burning bush, the symbol of God's epiphany to Moses and a reminder that the truths of the Christian faith are not to be attained to by rational thinking but were given in God's revelation to his prophets. To further press this point, he royal doors hold the icon of the Annunciation (archangel Gabriel). The royal doors are crowned by the icon of the Last Supper of the Lord, commemorating this capstone of the divine redemption.

The shape of the pillars in its lower parts looks like an onion, symbolizing the earthly beginnings of human life, awakened by the Sun, which grows and ripens out of the material world into spiritual life in Christ. In the upper parts the pillar grow larger, almost touching with veneration the dynamic figures of the Apostles, who accompany the faithful on their earthly journey.

The individual pillars, right-to-left:

  1. The missionaries to the Slavs: St. Cyril with a cape on his head, St. Methodius vested in the bishop's attire.
  2. St. Matthias with a halberd, the instrument of his death, in his right hand (he was stoned and beheaded) and St. Simon the Zealot (or the Cananaean, Kananajský) holding a saw (he was crucified and sawed in two).
  3. St. Philip of Bethsaida with a big cross (he was crucified and stoned to death). St. Bartholomew, called Nathaniel, holding a knife in his left hand (he was flayed and crucified upside down).
  4. St. James suffering martyrdom by the sword and his brother John the Evangelist holding a cup, with an eagle at his feet, symbolizing that the first words of his Gospel are rising up to the heavens.
  5. Prophet Moses.
  6. St. John the Baptist.
  7. St. Peter carrying two keys as a reminder of Jesus's words. St. Andrew holding the nails and the rope with which he was tied to the cross.
  8. St. James the Less with the bludgeon with which he was clubbed to death. St. Jude Thaddeus with an oval replica of Christ's head in the likeness of the martyred bishop Pavel Gojdič.
  9. St. Thomas with a heart. St. Matthew holding a book, an angel down at his feet.
  10. St. Paul with a sword, the instrument of his death. St. Vladimir with the symbols of the conversion of the Kiev Rus (the present-day Ukraine).

 

Published by Apoštolský exarchát řeckokatolické církve v ČR, Haštalské nám. 4, Praha 1.


Copyright © 2000-2004 St. Michael’s Chapel Association, Inc.
Last modified on Sunday August 21, 2005 at 1:55 AM EDT