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St. Vitus Cathedral

Architecture in Prague: St. Vitus Cathedral

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Perched at the top of Castle Hill, St. Vitus Cathedral is one of the most famous landmarks of Prague.
St. Vitus Cathedral in Prague

St. Vitus Cathedral in Prague

Photo (cc) Flickr Member "DanielHP"
The high spires of St. Vitus Cathedral are an important symbol of Prague. The Cathedral is considered a masterpiece of Gothic design, but the western portion of St. Vitus Cathedral was built long after the Gothic period. Taking nearly 600 to build, St. Vitus Cathedral combines architectural ideas from many eras and blends them into a harmonious whole.

History of St. Vitus Cathedral:

The original St. Vitus Church was a much smaller Romanesque building. Construction on the Gothic St. Vitus Cathedral began in the mid-1300s. A French master builder, Matthias of Arras, designed the essential shape of the building. His plans called for the characteristically Gothic flying buttresses and the high, slender profile of the Cathedral.

When Matthias died in 1352, the 23-year-old Peter Parler continued construction. Parler followed Matthias's plans and also added his own ideas. Peter Parler is noted for designing choir vaults with especially strong criss-crossed rib vaulting.

Peter Parler died in 1399 and construction continued under his sons, Wenzel Parler and Johannes Parler, and then under another master builder, Petrilk. A great tower was built on the south side of the cathedral. A gable, known as the Golden Gate connected the tower to the south transept.

Construction stopped in the early 1400s due to the Hussite War, when interior furnishings were heavily damaged. A fire in 1541 brought still more destruction.

For centuries, St. Vitus Cathedral stood unfinished. Finally, in 1844, architect Josef Kranner was commissioned to renovate and complete the cathedral in the Neo-Gothic fashion. Josef Kranner removed Baroque decorations and oversaw the construction of foundations for the new nave. After Kramer died, architect Josef Mocker continued the renovations. Mocker designed the two Gothic style towers on the west facade. This project was completed in the late 1800s by architect Kamil Hilbert.

Construction on St. Vitus Cathedral continued into the twentieth century. The 1920s brought several important additions:

  • Facade decorations by sculptor Vojtěch Sucharda
  • Art Nouveau windows in the northern section of the nave designed by painter Alfons Mucha
  • The Rose Window above the portal designed by Frantisek Kysela
After nearly 600 years of construction, St. Vitus Cathedral was finally completed in 1929.

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