Church of St. Martin in the Wall

Description

More than 600 years have passed since communion under both kinds was first taken in the Czech lands. It took place in 1414, in a small inconspicuous church dedicated to St. Martin, the patron of paupers and soldiers, but also travellers, hoteliers, winemakers and abstainers. The attribute “in the wall” has a prosaic explanation: the south wall of the church was allegedly attached to the city wall separating the Old Town and what was to become the New Town of Prague. Today, the little Gothic architectural gem is also surrounded by buildings so that it might fail to be noticed by a passer-by. And yet, the church, one of the oldest ones in Prague, is not only riddled with mystery and imbued with a truly medieval atmosphere but it also has remarkable acoustics…

 

It was in this church that one of the first ribbed vaults in the Czech lands was constructed in the mid-fourteenth century, as part of the reconstruction of an originally Romanesque building. The colourful history of the Church of St. Martin, however, contains some much more peculiar events. In 1785, for example, it was sold in an auction and rebuilt as a residential building with storage and commercial space! The reconstruction which returned the church to its original purpose took place between 1905 and 1906 and was planned by Kamil Hilbert.

 

The decorations of the sacral space combine Romanesque, Gothic, Baroque and neo-Romanesque and neo-Gothic elements. The ribs of the vault shoot out of finely chiselled consoles fitted with stone mascarons and the keystones are decorated with a rose and a star. An attentive visitor will notice painted blazons and rare tombstones from the cemetery which surrounded the church for centuries (the outside wall of the presbytery carries a plaque by Josef Mařatka dedicated to members of the renowned family of sculptors, the Brokoffs), and the symbol of the Czech kingdom lined with a laurel wreath. The south-east buttress is crowned with an embossed stone owl and on the north side we can only surmise why one of the gargoyles is in the shape of a grimacing boy who looks down into the street. A little bird-nesting rascal or a roof tiler who mocked the celebrating priest and was turned into stone? We shall never know…

Address

Church of St. Martin in the Wall

Martinská 8, Praha 1