Basilica of Saint George

Basilica-of-Saint-GeorgeThe Basilica of Saint George (Bazilika svatého Jiří in Czech) is a Romanesque church standing in Prague Castle in Hradčany. It is the oldest church building in Prague.

The church was founded around 920 by Duke Vratislav I of Bohemia, the father of St Wenceslas. Several years later the south side of the building was extended by a side chapel and the remains of St. Ludmila were brought here in 925. The shrines of Vratislav and Boleslaus II of Bohemia are also in the basilica. In 973 the first female Benedictine monastery in Czech lands was founded beside St George’s church. The essential parts of this monastery were preserved until today. The sister of prince Boleslav II, Mlada, became the mother superior of this monastery. Shortly after, construction works began, primarily to enlarge the building on the west side and to create a separated west choir and pulpit with Romanesque clustered windows. More adjustments were made over time. In the second half of the 14th century the basilica was given the new west facia, which was later renovated in the Baroque style in the 17th century.

The monastery burned down in 1142 during the Prague Castle siege carried out by Konrád Znojemský. It was then rebuilt including the construction of two new steeples of the church, which are built from the same Romanesque ashlars as the main building. Unusually, the towers are situated on the side of the east closure of the lateral aisles. They are 41 metres high and their ground plans are not identical in size. The north tower is only 5 metres in width compared to the south tower, which is 6.3 metres in width. The north tower deviates from the vertical by 40cm. The top floors of both towers feature Romanesque clustered windows, with three openings, on two levels. Both towers are crowned by steeple roof helmets with a cross on their very top.

Unfortunately the towers do not house any bells as they were confiscated during the World Wars. The only exception is the bell from 1550 made by Tomáš Jaroš. This bell was hung in the south tower until 1974, and then it was restored and placed in the metal founding exposition in the basement of the Powder Tower. Currently the bell is to be seen in the basilica interior.

The former monastery now houses the 19th century Bohemian Art Collection of National Gallery in Prague. The church also serves as a concert hall.


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