A Labor Of Love By The Faithful

Another morning, another round of pastries…anything to start the day with a sugar high. But if I’m to maneuver around the crowds that will surely be at Prague Castle on a Saturday, I will need all the artificial energy I can find.

St. Vitus Cathedral or Katedrála svatého Víta, here on the grounds of Prague Castle, is an important representation of Gothic architecture.

It is actually a compilation of several structures,  the first being a church (consecrated to St. Vitus) with a Romanesque rotunda.

A century later, a Romanesque basilica was added to accommodate the growing flock. In time, an apse and a bishop’s mansion were added. By the 1300s, it morphed into the present day Gothic cathedral of significantly grander proportions more in tune with its patrons, who had by now amassed proportionally increasing political clout. The cathedral, after all, was meant to be the place where Bohemian kings were coronated then buried next to their beloved patron Saint Wenceslas.

In the early 1900s, the cathedral was repaired and completed. Over the span of some 600 years–with wars and fires getting in the way–the cathedral now also shows Renaissance and Baroque traits.

That’s a really abbreviated history of this incredible structure. And I mean incredible! I’m already in awe just walking around the grand church taking pictures of its spires and gargoyles. When I finally set foot inside, the first thing I notice is how many people are walking around with their heads in the air, mouths agape. Let me show you why.

I queue up to get this one shot of the royal mausoleum, like the rest of the crowd. I only have half a second to get the picture because the church ladies are shouting at us to not linger in front of the altar (please move, no photos they repeat to us to no use). The light streaming through the Rose Window in the facade gives the marble crypt an eery glow. We all linger, dizzy from the enormity of this place.

I’ve visited many beautiful churches around the world, large and small, elaborate and spartan, each significant in its own unique way. Each a labor of love by the faithful. But there’s something about St. Vitus that takes my breath away. Perhaps it’s the way the vaulted ceilings are magnified by the light dancing in the stained glass windows…it’s just all that light that makes us feel joyous to be in this place. If I had only one hour to spend in Prague, here is where I would be.

I still have the rest of the day at the castle but I’m back on the church’s front steps, where I sat yesterday after finding out I was too late for visiting hours. I feel just as small as yesterday…

maybe even smaller today now that I’ve seen how great St. Vitus is from inside. How does man build stuff like this?


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