Saint Vitus Cathedral

Saint Vitus Cathedral

Saint Vitus Cathedral

The Cathedral of Saint Vitus, Wenceslaus and Adalbert (Katedrála sv. Víta, Václava a Vojtěcha in Czech), commonly known as Saint Vitus Cathedral (Svatovítská katedrála) is the cathedral of the Roman Catholic archdiocese of Prague. While the enormous complex of Prague Castle includes many interesting buildings, the cathedral is the one that dominates the city skyline and is visible from far and wide.

St. Vitus Cathedral is the spiritual symbol of the Czech state. It is a Gothic masterpiece, work on the cathedral was commissioned by Charles IV. On 21st November 1344 the Czech king John of Luxemburg (father of Charles), accompanied by the first Prague’s Archbishop, Arnošt from Pardubice, laid the foundation stone of the future  Gothic cathedral upon the site of an earlier 10<sup>th</sup> century rotunda. In all, it took nearly six centuries to complete.

Its first builders, Matthias of Arras and later Peter Parléř, built the chancel with a ring of chapels, St. Wenceslas Chapel, the Golden Portal and the lower part of the main steeple. The final phase of construction only ended during the period 1873-1929.

As well as being the largest and most important temple in Prague, St. Vitus Cathedral also oversaw the coronations of Czech kings and queens.

In the chancel of the cathedral, in front of the high alter, is the royal mausoleum. Below this, in the crypt, there are the royal tombs. Czech kings and queens and patron saints are interred here.

St. Wenceslas Chapel is decorated with frescoes and semi-precious stones. A door in the south-western corner of the chapel leads to the Crown Chamber in which the Bohemian Coronation Jewels are stored.

The dominating features of this building are the cathedral towers. The main south tower was built in several building phases and amongst other towers and steeples in Prague the tower is recognized as the “Queen”. It also houses several bells, one of which is the biggest Czech bell called Zikmund. The tower is crowned with a double lantern dome designed by Nicola Pacassi in 1770. The height of the steeple is 99.3m and its very top is crowned with a double-tailed lion (the coat-of-arms of the Bohemia Kingdom), which was made of a gilded cooper plate. The lion is 3m in height, 170cm in width, and holds a cross in its paws. A gallery on the tower is open to the public and accessible via 287 steps.

The founders surely did not count with the fact that the cathedral construction would last six centuries. During the last neo-gothic phase (1872-1929) the last two towers on the west side were also constructed. The towers, featuring no clocks or bells were finished in 1892. The main entrance to the cathedral created by three portals with a mighty bronze gate door is situated between these towers.

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