Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Strahov Monastery

After his pilgrimage to the Holy Land in 1138 the bishop of Olomouc Jindřich Zdíktook hold of the idea of founding a monastery of regular canons in Prague, having the support of the bishops of Prague and the Czech ruler Soběslav I and after his death, Vladislav II. After his first unsuccessful attempt to found a Czech variant of the canons' order at the place called Strahov in 1140, an invitation was issued to the Premonstratensians whose first representatives arrived from Steinfeld in the Rhine valley. Thus a monastery originated which has inscribed itself in the Czech political, cultural and religious history for all time.
In 1779 Václav Mayer occupied the abbot's throne and was the last to carry out great building activities. His most outstanding work was the building of the new library, now in Classical style. Today it is called the Philosophical Hall. This work brought the extensive building activity at Strahov Monastery to an end and the following generations of abbots devoted their attention merely to minor architectural repairs, all under the influence of contemporary fashion, and to maintenance of the area as a whole. The monastery survived in this way until 1950, when it was taken over by the communist regime, the religious being interned and placed in civil employment, very few of them being able to work in the clerical administration as priests of the diocese. The monastery was subjected to thorough archeological research and transformed into the Museum of National Literature. In the course of the said archeological research the long since forgotten Romanesque form of the monastery was revealed and reconstructed in a sensitive way.  I found the Museum of National Literature to be interesting and remarkable.  Well worth the visit.

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