Monday, March 24, 2014

St. Barbara's Church - Kutna Hora

The Roman Catholic church of St. Barbara in Kutna Hora, Czech Republic is a church I just loved and I'm not sure exactly why. Part of it, I think, is the setting. It is not seriously competing with anything else for attention. Head on it reminds me of the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, large and oblong, set down in a depression and surrounded by greenery (it stands on a hill above Vrchlice Creek). 
St. Barbara Church, Kutna Hora, Czech Republic - view from the upper street.
More of a side-view, also from street level. The greenery covers up most of the church, allowing a focus on the flying buttresses and the tented roof.
A path goes down the right side of the church area and reveals walls stabilizing the church-level grounds.
Beneath the walls on the far side, lush greenery camouflages houses below.
The depression concealing Vrchlice Creek lies below the church grounds beneath the supporting walls.
From the side it reminds me of the Colosseum in Rome. 
Colosseum-like under cover of a tent.
It is tan and clean, unlike many of the older churches of Europe that are built from darker rock and covered with centuries of accumulated pollution. 
The beautiful green grounds add to the clean-looking tan walls.
It is dominated by its flying buttresses, so prominent that they almost appear as gills, or wings. In the context of gills, from the front, the pointed spire on top that goes very thin with a small knob on top looks like the illuminated illicium emanating from the head of the deep sea anglerfish

Dominant flying buttresses.
Flying buttresses really do look like fish gills.
From the side, the three pointed spires on top, called a tented roof, remind me of a circus tent or of the roof of the Denver airport
From this angle and a distance, the three tent spires dominate the view.
From beneath the wall supporting the church grounds, the three tent spires are almost overwhelmed by the flying buttresses.
Inside, the clean tan look continues. It is relatively light inside and much of the decoration is related to mining and the minting of coins (this is where all the coins were minted under King Wenceslas II). Kutna Hora was a mining town and it was the wealth from the silver mines that helped build the cathedral. The building became a symbol of the wealth and power of the city. 
Minting coins - note the round coins on the ground.
More minting of coins.
I love the simple lines and colors in this angel.
Jesus placed in the context of the times. Fun armor and era-type clothing.
My favorite mural - detailed looks follow. I have no idea what it represents, but my best guess is King Solomon's mines, an appropriate topic for a church representing mining interests. 
An elephant and a black man seem to lend credence to this mural involving Africa, one of the proposed locations of  King Solomon's mines.
A lion and another black man.
A kind of fuzzy portion of the mural, but the tents seem an obvious nod to the tent-like roof of St. Barbara.
Perhaps Solomon in his luxurious bed.
God looking down on the proceedings. Wonderful bright, mostly pastel, colors.
My guess is this is St. Barbara. Note the replica of the church toward the bottom right.
Replica of St. Barbara Church in the painting of St. Barbara above. The tent-like roof to the far left, the Jesuit college in the center and St. James to the far right. 
My favorite statue - performing some sort of mining function. 
Holding some sort of mining tool and a scale.
No idea what this represents - but beautiful wood carving on the end of a pew.
Another wonderful figure with the backdrop of the ribbed ceiling.
St. Barbara?
A gilded gold wooden statue?
The Christ child and a beautiful silver ornament to the side.
A poor picture of a painting with a flying lobster.
Probably the first painting of a flying lobster I've ever seen! It seems a rather remarkable image in this land locked country, virtually in the center of Central Europe. Had most of the people ever seen a lobster or even heard of one? 
Inside ceiling.
Coats of arms dominate.
One particular coat of arms. Note the mining tools in the feet of the lion and griffin?
Stained glass, or rather, painted glass, installed in the 1900s.

Construction of the church started in 1388, and Peter Parler, who was an architect on St. Vitus Cathedral in Prague, also had a hand in the early architecture of St. Barbara, an eight-sided chapel completed in 1392. The church was consecrated in 1403, despite being unfinished, and was used for prayers. Construction of the church was interrupted many times, by at least 60 years during the Hussite Wars. As the prosperity of the silver mines began to dwindle, so did funds for the church, and the original building which was intended to be twice this size, had to scale down. In 1588, the silver mines were virtually exhausted, so the incomplete structure was completed with a facade and three tent roofs.  The Jesuits arrived in 1626 and took over administration of the building and began modifications. In 1667 the Jesuits began construction of a college, next door, which was completed in the mid-1700s. 
The date of 1675 must be of some consequence - found in the supporting wall. Perhaps that was when the supporting wall was built, by the Jesuits.
As part of the construction, the tented roof on St. Barbara was removed and a raised passageway (which no longer exists) was built between the Jesuit college and St. Barbara. 
The Jesuit college next to St. Barbara.
The elongated side of the Jesuit college.
St. James church and its tall tower in Kutna Hora.
The Jesuits order was abolished in 1773 and the college was transferred to the army. St. Barbara church was not completed until a final burst of construction from 1884 to 1905, at which time the tented roof was returned, presumably at this time as a much more solid structure. 
The name of St. Barbara fits very well, as St. Barbara is a patron saint of miners. Barbara was the daughter of a rich pagan named Dioscorus in Nicomedia (present-day Turkey) who was kept in a locked up tower to preserve her from the outside world. She secretly became a Christian. Once while her father was gone, she had three windows put in her bathhouse, to represent the trinity, instead of the two windows commanded by her father. When her father returned and she acknowledged herself as a Christian, he tried to kill her, but she was miraculously transported to the mountains where she was protected by some shepherds. Ultimately she was condemned to death by beheading and her father carried out the punishment with his own hand. St. Barbara is often portrayed holding a three-windowed tower.  
Looking toward the altar end of the church.
The altar from an upper level of the church.
The altar with a Last Supper carving above it.
The Last Supper carving.
Looking toward the other end of the church: the organ above.


  1. I church that reminds you of the Rose Bowl, the Colisseum, an anglerfish, a circus tent, and the Denver airport AND that has a flying lobster? No wonder you love it!

  2. I love your close-ups of the murals. The historical details you've shared are really interesting. It's fun to remember these sites from the trip.