Its soaring spires visible from all over Prague, the Gothic St. Vitus Cathedral (Katedrála sv Vita) is one of the most beautiful cathedrals in Europe. Construction on the present building began in 1344 and was not completed until the 20th century.
History of Prague Cathedral
Located inside Prague Castle, St. Vitus Cathedral has a long history that extends from its founding in the 10th century to its final completion in the 20th century. The original church, on a rotunda plan, was founded by "good king" St. Wenceslas (of Christmas carol fame) in 925. This was replaced with a Romanesque basilica in the late 11th century.
Work on the present building began in 1344. Most of it was designed by the 22-year-old German architect Peter Parler, who also designed the Charles Bridge and other Prague landmarks.
The Hussite Wars and the Thirty Years' War halted constructed on the cathedral for several centuries. It was not until the 20th century that the western side of the cathedral and its two towers were completed. Although modern, they were constructed according to Parler's original plans.
What to See at Prague Cathedral
Above the south entrance to the cathedral (through the Golden Portal) is the Last Judgment mosaic. A remarkable work of art in itself, it is also notable in that mosaics are quite rare in northern Europe. The work dates from the 1370s and is made of 1 million pieces of glass and stone. In the center it depicts Christ in glory, adored by Charles IV, his wife and several saints; on the left, the risen dead and angels; and on the right, Satan surrounded by hellfire.
Inside, the square Chapel of St. Wenceslas (Svatováclavská kaple) holds a 14th century tomb with the saint's holy relics. St. Wenceslas was prince of Bohemia and the "good king" of Christmas carol fame. He founded the original church of St. Vitus on this site in 925 and was killed by his brother four years later. The chapel was built by Peter Parler between 1344 and 1364.
In the south-western corner of the St. Wenceslas Chapel, a small door with seven locks leads to the Crown Chamber (Korunní komora) containing the Bohemian Crown Jewels. It is not open to the public and its seven keys are kept by seven different people (one of whom is the Czech president).
The Royal Crypt contains remains of various royals, but is primarily interesting for the visual history of the cathedral it provides. On the way down the stairs, parts of the old Romanesque basilica and the original rotunda church are visible. Buried in sarcophagi from the 1930s are several members of Bohemian royalty, including Charles IV (d.1378) and Rudolf II (patron of Renaissance Prague).
Upstairs again, the Royal Oratory is home to the silver Sarcophagus of St. John of Nepomuk. According to legend, when Nepomuk was exhumed in 1721, his tongue was found to be not only preserved but still pumping with blood. This tale likely served a political purpose: the Church and the Habsburgs needed a new folk hero to replace the reforming heretic Jan Hus. A few years later, Nepomuk was canonized and buried with great ceremony in the present 3,700-pound ornate silver tomb. His tongue was enshrined in its own reliquary.
The Wallenstein Chapel (Valdstejnská kaple) contains the tombstones of its two architects, Mathias d'Arras and Peter Parler, who died in the 14th century.
Quick Facts on Prague Cathedral
|Names:||Chrám svatého Víta · Katedrála sv Vita · Prague Cathedral|
|Visitor and Contact Information|
|Coordinates:||50.090844° N, 14.400705° E|
Prague, Czech Republic
|Hours:||Apr-Oct: daily 9-5|
Nov-Mar: daily 9-4
|Lodging:||View hotels near Prague Cathedral|
- Prague Castle - official website
- Chram Svateho Vita - Fodors.com
- Prazsky Hrad and Katedrála sv Vita (Prague Castle and St Vitus Cathedral) - World Travel Guide
Map of Prague Cathedral
Below is a location map and aerial view of Prague Cathedral. Using the buttons on the left (or the wheel on your mouse), you can zoom in for a closer look, or zoom out to get your bearings. To move around, click and drag the map with your mouse.