St. Barbara's Church
A unique work of the peak and late gothic architecture, whose construction started before the end of 14th century. In the interior, a unique gallery of late gothic and renaissance paintings from 15th century was preserved.
Arciděkanství Kutná Hora, Havlíčkovo náměstí 1, 284 01 Kutná Hora
Tel: +420 775 363 938, fara + 420 327 512 115, Fax: + 420 327 512 115
Open: XI. - III. 10.00-16.00, IV. - X. 9.00 - 18.00, otevřeno denně, 24.12. zavřeno
The centuries-long struggle for autonomy in religious affairs waged between Kutna Hora, represented by its ambitious entrepreneurial class, and the nearby Cistercian monastery in Sedlec eventually led to the construction of a prestigious cathedral-like church in the town. The church was built outside the town walls, on land owned by the Prague Chapter, outside the range of the Sedlec Monastery, and was dedicated to St. Barbara, the miners' patron saint. Founded in 1388, most of the construction was financed by the miners themselves. The impressive structure which, according to some historic sources, had been planned at twice its current length, was erected in stages, and depended to a large extent on the prosperity of the local mines. All sorts of events interrupted the construction several times and more than 500 years elapsed between the start and the definitive completion of the project in 1905.
Kutna Hora had always wanted to be a match for Prague and it was certainly not by mere coincidence that Prague builders and architects had been sent for to take part in the construction. Johann Parler, son of Peter Parler, the builder of St. Vitus's Cathedral in Prague, was the first designer of St. Barbara's. Hence the correspondences between the Kutna Hora church and the cathedral in Prague.
The earliest part, with a ring of ambulatory chapels, followed the example of French cathedrals. Originally, the church was designed as having a nave and two aisles, but another two wide aisles were added relatively early. The Hussite wars interrupted the construction for over 60 years. However, already before them, financial difficulties made it clear that it would never be possible to execute the original design. In 1482, work on the project was resumed, with the local builders more or less fulfilling the ideas and plans of their predecessors. The arrival from Prague of master builder Matyas Rejsek and royal architect Benedict Ried marked a turning point.
Matyas Rejsek was originally a teacher of drawing at Prague's Týn School, and later a member of the stonemasons' guild, who won fame as builder and decorator. His name is associated particularly with the construction of the Prasna brana (Powder Tower) in Prague. In Kutna Hora, he designed the vault over the chancel, completed the triforium and added many stone decorations. The arrival of his successor Benedict Ried brought many radical changes. Ried quite boldly decided to remove the two outer aisles and built a monumental vault with circling ribs over the rest. He had used a similar design earlier, at the Vladislav Hall in Prague. Ried's design continued to be executed also after his death. The hypothesis that it was actually a dismissed design for the Prague Cathedral is not totally unfounded. As silver mining gradually declined, the financial resources slowly dried out, and a provisional wall terminating the church was built in 1558. At that time, mines in the Osel district, the richest one, were flooded.
In 1626, the church was handed over to the Jesuits and was largely Barocised. The unique structure then remained unfinished for over 300 years. In 1884, the town authorities, inspired by the local archeological society, Vocel, decided that construction should be resumed. The project was definitively completed in 1905. The architecture of St. Barbara's is a textbook example of the development of Gothic architecture in Bohemia. The church furnishings and decorations include, apart from Baroque works of art, a 1510 sanctuary from the workshop of Matyas Rejsek (currently placed in the presbytery) and Late Gothic choir benches with woodcarved decorations by Master Jakub Nymburský, of 1480-90. Unique in medieval art are the remarkable Late Gothic frescoes on mining themes in some of the chapels. Probably the most valuable among these are to be found in the tomb chapel of the local entrepreneur Michal Smisek of Vrchoviste (The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba, The Trial of Trajan, Cumaean Sibyl, and others).
These paintings rank among the best Late Gothic wall paintings. There is a clear link between them and the Dutch circle around the painters D. Bouts and R. Weyden, and they must have been executed by an artist with a Dutch training. The Hasplirska (or Winchers') Chapel is decorated with paintings on the themes of work at the winch, the selling of the ore, and others, with which the artist must have been familiar. Paintings in the Mincirska (Minters') Chapel depict the technique of medieval coin minting. There is a clear attempt at portraying a concrete minter, fragments of whose name have been preserved. On the slope next to the church stand the remainders of the Gothic Chapel of Corpus Christi, built sometime in the second half of the 14th century. From atop the walls near the church opens a superb view across the valley of the River Vrchlice towards the Sedlec Monastery.
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