Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Strahov Monastery...and spectacular views of Prague!

Yesterday I took you to the Strahov Monastery Brewery (hope you enjoyed it!), thus I thought that today might be a good day to visit the Monastery itself.  I also have a little surprise for you... one of the best views of Prague can be seen from here.  Come along!

The Strahov Monastery (Strahovsky Klaster) 

The Basilica of Assumption of Our Lady

The Royal Canonry of Premonstratensians at Strahov is one of the oldest monasteries of the Premonstratensian Order in the world.  The Premonstratensians are a religious order of canons founded in 1120 by St. Norbert as an independent part of the Catholic church.  The original building was almost completely destroyed by a fire in 1258.  It was reconstructed in a Gothic style, but that was not to last, as Baroque retouches were added during the beginning of the 18th century.   

During communism, the members of the monastery were unable to live within its walls, but they gathered wherever they could and nurtured the spirit of their House until they were able to return.  After the fall of communism, the abbey was returned to the Premonstratensians in 1989.

Ever since their establishment, the Premonstratensians have tried to live in the spirit of their order's five ends:  the singing of the Divine Office, the spirit of habitual penance, a special devotion to the Holy Eucharist, a special devotion to the Blessed Virgin, and zeal for the salvation of souls.  Strahov Abbey and its members also pursue this way of life.

The Strahov Library is mindblowingly beautiful!  
Theological Hall
The Theological Hall was built in Baroque style in 1679 by Giovanni Domenico Orsi. The hall's name comes from the fact that it contains numerous editions of the Bible of parts of the Bible in many languages.  The Strahov library was carefully maintained then so the collections have stayed in tact for hundreds of years.  For instance, it was forbidden to enter the library with a light and to stay there past 7:30 pm.  There were also prohibited books that were kept in a special place.

There are more than 18,000 volumes in this hall...

The scenes on the ceiling are based on the hall's founding ideas that true wisdom is acquired through fear of God.  In fact, there is a legend above the iron gates in the hall that declares, "INTIUM SAPIENTIAE TIMOR DOMINI" - The beginning of wisdom is the fear of God.

The Philosophical Hall

The Philosophical Hall was built in 1782 because the library gained many books in the 17th & 18th century and needed another hall to house them.

The beautiful walnut interior was brought over from another monastery and adapted to fit the hall.  This is a fun fact...the highest row of books is only accessible by a hidden staircase, which is, of course, hidden behind a set of false book spines.  This hall contains more than 42,000 volumes 

The gorgeous fresco is called "Intellectual Progress of Mankind" and depicts science and religion as they have evolved over centuries.  

The Strahov library has had some famous visitors too.  In fact, Napoleon Bonaparte's wife, Mary Louise, was so impressed by the library that she sent in a four volume work on the first Louvre Musuem!

Unfortunately, visitors can only peek into these two spectacular halls from the corridor as apparently humidity fluctuations jeopardize the frescoes and books.  Beautiful nonetheless.

The corridor that connects the two halls houses the so-called Cabinet of Curiosities.  Before modern museums there were...well, cabinets.  They store what the monastery calls "mysterious and remarkable" findings.  I'd label some bizarre as well!  You'll see a range of items...everything from weapons to insects to the remains of a Dodo bird.  Yes, a Dodo bird.

So what did you think?  Pretty huh?  Well... the best view is yet to come. because behind the monastery sits a cafe overlooking the city...and it's patiently awaiting our arrival.

Shall we?

Did I not promise spectacular views?!?

Petrin... perhaps we'll head there tomorrow

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