Sunday, 29 November 2009

Church of St Nicolas, Vršovice

As promised, today we're visiting the oldest building in Vršovice.  Occupying a plot of land where once a Romanesque chapel stood, the present church dates from 1704 and was extended in 1896. But predating it by nearly two centuries is one of the two bells hanging in the church's magnificent octagonal belfry. It was cast in 1511 by the master founder Bartoloměj of Prague, who was responsible for many of the bells which still survive throughout the Czech lands.

Against the north side of the church is a statue erected to the memory of the 14th century St John of Pomuk, now called Nepomuk, south of Plzeň.  The stories of his life and death differ widely, but what is certain is that he disagreed with King Wenceslas IV either over the power of the state to influence church matters or - more colourfully - because he refused to reveal to the diminutive monarch what the Queen had told him in confession. The enraged king had John thrown off the Charles Bridge into the Vltava, where according to legend five stars hovered over the drowning man. His remains are entombed in an extravagantly baroque tomb in St Vitus's Cathedral in Prague Castle.

For those interested in such arcana, the badly-weathered Latin inscription - which translates 'The town of Vrsovice dedicated [this statue] to St John Nepomuk, special defender of their homeland' - can be decoded by extracting only the letters representing Roman numerals, in order to reveal the statue's date. Such 'chronograms' are common on baroque statues, columns and even sheet music. For other examples, see my posts here, and the interesting website Saxa Loquuntur.

SANCTO IOANNI NEPOMVCENO SPECIALI PATRIAE PATRONO CIVITAS VRSOVICENSIS SACRAVIT gives
C II MVC CILI I CIVI VVICI CVI= 1685

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