notes from kuhf arts tour 2009:
More from KUHF's Spring Tour: Prague
"...and behind door number 2..." This massive 17th-century door conceals one of my favorite parts of our visit to Prague a little over a week ago.
The Strahov Monastery in Prague was built in 1140 and has a storied past. By the end of the 12th-century, most of its original wooden structures had been replaced by Romanesque stone buildings. Sometime later, it was rebuilt in Gothic style (afterall, one must keep up with the curent fashion) but was destoyed by fire in 1258. Rebuilt again, it was plundered by the Hussites in 1420 and once again sacked in the 1600s during the 30 Years War. Near the end of the 17th-century, the monastery was expanded and rebuilt in Baroque style. The French bombardment of 1742 wiped out most of the medieval gothic buildings, and they were rebuilt in Baroque style to match the rest.
With all of this turmoil, it's astounding to see what it behind that mighty iron door: the Theological Library of Strahov Monastery (which is, by the way, still a working monastery). It is absolutely breathtaking! The incredible vaulted ceiling boasts splendid frescoes. There are historic 17th- and 18th-century globes that show the geography of the world as it was known at the time (for instance, California was an island). There's a handsome wooden turnstile-like contraption which allows one to read several books at the same time. Just place the books on the long shelves which are attached to a large wheel. Rotate the wheel and you have an easy way of doing your research. It's a beautiful piece of furniture, and I believe they said it's one of only 3 in the world and the only one that still works. What a privilege to see it in motion!
A table gloriously decorated with wood inlay turned out to be a one-of-a-kind puzzle piece, but as you might guess, it served an important purpose. Flip open the top and a small chair is tucked away inside a step stool that is folded within. It is an ingenious work of art and is the only one in the world.
The monastery employee told us that the Theological and Philosophical libraries house some 300,000 books and manuscripts. They also have a pretty mean museum of curiosities...a suit of authentic chainmail, various insects displayed for study, books decorated in gold and jewels, monks' shoes from centuries past, and even a stuffed armadillo. they must have known we were coming to visit.
See the Theological Library in my following picture. Until later, --Elaine
notes from kuhf arts tour 2009:
The Glorious Theological Library of Prague's Strahov Monastery
Isn't this one of the most spectacular things you've ever seen? For details about this library, please see my previous post accompanied by a pictured of the massive iron door that keeps this gem safe from harm.
The KUHF Spring Tour group was lucky indeed. As we stood among the centuries-old books and globes, several other tours walked past the open doors where they could only peer in. I'm sure they were wondering why we got to go inside and they did not. That's just one of the many "extras" we got along our May 2009 tour to central Europe. More in a few days. --Elaine
Another Prague Picture
Prague's medieval astronomical clock located in the city's Old Town area has taken a licking but keeps on ticking. (sorry! I couldn't resist)
Mounted on the City Hall tower in Prague's Old Town district, this spectacular clock puts on a delightful show on the hour, and thanks to our wonderful guide, Helena, we were lucky enough to witness the "Walk of the Apostles" at the stroke of noon.
The oldest parts of this mechanical clock date from the year 1410! As repairs have been made over the centuries, different features have been added, the most recent being the processing figures of all 12 Apostles which date from the 1860s. On the hour, the figures pass by the little doorways above the clock. When the doors close, a rooster in an alcove flaps his wings and crows. Flanking the clockface are 4 more statues: a skeleton representing Death tolls the bell while the Miser watches his bag of gold, the Turk shakes his head, and Vanity admires himself in a mirror.
Seeing this is a Big Deal as we learned when we found ourselves in a crush of tourists vying for good camera angles. At the show's end, whoops and applause fills the town square and normal chaos resumes for another 59 minutes. What a charming treat! --Elaine