Saturday, April 20, 2013

Churches and a castle

Though a light drizzle was falling, I decided today was not going to be the lazy day.  Maybe tomorrow, depending on the weather and how I feel.  I'll figure it out then.

Today instead turned into reconnoiter-Prague-Castle day.  The castle is fairly close to the hotel as the crow flies, but the crow doesn't have to walk up the hill.  Cabs can take you there, but that wouldn't be in the walking spirit of this trip, so with a pause for a quick lunch, in the early afternoon I walked the streets and switchback to the castle.

Along the way, I finally found myself at the front door of the church in some of my first Prague photos.  It proved to be the St. Nicholas Church, a baroque wonder.  The first version of the church came online in the late thirteenth century.  In the middle of the eighteenth century, a rebuilding project incorporated a Roman rotunda from the nearby church of St. Wenceslas.

The combination of the baroque architecture and the rotunda is quite stunning. 

Click on any image to see a larger version.

Every aspect of this place was highly decorated, frequently with images of saints and bishops and other clergy or people of significance; I could not identify them all.  The ceiling was simpler than Italian church ceilings but still cool.

The side chapels were consistently lovely as well, as you can see in this shot that includes two

and in this image of one of them.

I particularly liked the tombs under a few of the side chapel altars, such as this one.

The rear of the church wasn't too shabby. 

Nor was this pulpit.

Maybe Bill and I need a pair of these for PT company meetings.

Nah, probably not. 

The main altar was heavy on St. Nick and lighter on Jesus than I had expected.

As I walked around and examined the paintings and statues, once again the new-old nature of Prague became very clear.  Most of items were more recent than a quick glance might suggest, no doubt due to rebuilding after damage from time and/or wars. 

Prague is a city always reinventing itself, in dialog with itself, melding the fading and sometimes destroyed past with the present to create a new, always changing version of itself.

In this church, if you climbed a winding staircase to the gallery, you could see the ten original old paintings that it still contains.  Signs dated all of them from 1672 to 1674, but nothing said who painted them.  I found them generally good but no more.  Most moving, to me, was this Pieta

On the way up to the castle, I got a good, close look at some roofs for the first time.  It was interesting to see that whether the tiles were flat or curved varied, at least in this area, from house to house, not neighborhood to neighborhood, as I'd thought I'd previously observed in other areas.

The views from beside the castle were spectacular.  As a young American woman leading some friends up the street said, "And here's where it gets breathtaking."

People were everywhere, enjoying the day despite the occasional drizzle and the cold, staring at the castle, walking, talking, playing, laughing, thinking, in groups and alone, all united by the desire to see this set of national treasures.  A cellist (far away in this photo) filled the square with lovely music.

As if they were alone in the world, a man petted and stroked a dog who had eyes only for him, and then stopped, straightened, and stared into the distance as if a ghost had called his name, the dog waiting patiently beside him.  

Inside the castle grounds, the gothic St. Vitus' Cathedral towered over everything.

Up close, it was more impressive and more lovely. 

Today was reconnoitering day, so I did not buy any castle tickets.  That meant I could enter St. Vitus but had to stay in a small area.  I'll go back, probably on Monday, but even this glimpse inside made clear that this was a serious gothic church.

I assume I'll have more for you then on this lovely old building.

Outside, I wandered over a bridge across a deer moat.

I have a freakish inability to remember plant names, but I still sometimes enjoy strolling through gardens, so I wandered the castle gardens today.

They were not ornate, but they were well tended and lovely--and they had signs identifying quite a few of the trees, which I very much appreciated.  I was particularly interested in this dawn redwood, a tree, the sign explained, that was once thought to be extinct until discovered in Sichuan in 1941.  An American expedition in 1949 gathered seeds there and distributed them to many leading botanical gardens.  This tree is from one of those seeds.

The walk uphill brought me in on one side of the grounds, so I naturally descended via the stairs on the other side.  Here's the view uphill at about a third of the way down.

The view in the other direction.

Taking a different path back to the hotel, I couldn't resist stopping by the John Lennon Wall, which is on a wall of the Anglo-American University.

As you can tell, many of the contributions have nothing to do with Lennon, and from the way some of my fellow visitors were talking, not all of them knew or cared much about him.

Some, though, did, and I did, and that was more than enough for me.

The Lennon contribution in the middle of the above photo is clear.  To the left of it, midway down the picture, are these lines:
I don't know who wrote that, or even if someone wrote it for this wall, but I like it. 

This image with lyrics from "Because" also was lovely, particularly from a bit of a distance. 

On an entirely mundane note, Prague stores offer Lays chips with grilled bacon!

They were, predictably, yummy.


David Drake said...

Dear Mark,

First, I was wrong about the clock. During the Prague Uprising on May 8, 1945, the tower was being used by Czech patriots to broadcast, and the Germans shot it up. This is before the Soviets arrived.

The castle is the first section of Ma Vlast by Smetana. The only section of the seven you hear normally is The Moldau (that is, Vltova) The graveyard has a number of famous people including Dvorac and Karel Capek. I've never made it through RUR, but perhaps with this spur I'll get it out again.

And finally, our dawn redwood is smaller by very shapely, and you've walked past it a number of times.

Continue to see neat things!

Mark said...

You're right that I've never noticed your dawn redwood. I just thought it was neat that this one came from a seed from that initial distribution.

I have no clue if I'll make it to the graveyard, but I'll definitely be back at the castle tomorrow (Monday).

Bill Catchings said...

Now I have to redo the MPR plans to accommodate that fancy lectern...


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