Saturday, 30 April 2011

Ludmila of Bohemia

Saint Ludmila, born in Mělník, north of Prague, was the consort of Duke Bořivoj I of Bohemia. The princely couple, who reigned in the ninth century, were early converts to Christianity under the guidance of SS Cyril and Methodius.

In the year 921, Ludmila's grandson Wenceslas succeeded to the dukedom of Bohemia, but his mother Drahomíra, suspicious of her mother-in-law's influence over the fourteen-year-old prince, had her strangled with her own veil at the castle of Tetín near Beroun.

In this image, one of many splendid stained glass windows in the neo-gothic church dedicated to Ludmila in Náměstí Míru, Ludmila is seen wearing the ducal hat of Bohemia and holding in her left hand a palm frond - the iconographic symbol of martyrdom.

Saint Ludmila is the patron saint (16 September) of Bohemia, converts, the Czech Republic, duchesses, widows... and those with problems with their in-laws.

Her mortal remains are housed in the basilica of St George in Prague Castle, and this fine 14th century reliquary bust (not my photo) is on show in the Mediaeval section of the National Gallery in St Agnes's Cloister, not far from the Old Town Square. It was probably commissioned by Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV.

Friday, 29 April 2011

Frescoes in the church of St Ludmila

The neo-gothic church of St Ludmila is a triple-naved basilica dating from the late 1800s. Impressive enough from the outside, the interior is a model of the 19th century decorative arts (and in my opinion, of supreme aesthetic reserve and proportion) which would have Pugin-lovers in a flat spin.  Particularly notable is this exquisite yet subdued fresco-work by the little-known Viennese painter Johann Jobst.

The ceiling of the narthex (the entrance to the nave) depicts the four Old Testament characters known as the 'major' prophets: Ezekiel, Daniel, Isaiah and Jeremiah, pictured here.

Further along are Isaac, Abraham, Jacob and Noah, and the group of saints most closely associated with the Czech lands: Prokopius, Adalbert (also called Vojtěch), Agnes, Cyril and Methodius, Jan Nepomuk - and, of course, St Wenceslas and his grandmother Ludmila.

Other notable features of the church are the gilded high altar by Antonín Turek and the stained glass windows, repeating the litany of saints along both side aisles. But the greatest achievement is perhaps the delicately-decorated cream-washed pillars, which give this magnificent city church real architectural poise and elegance. More tomorrow.

Monday, 25 April 2011

Easter Monday in St Ludmila's Church

Easter is known in Czech as Velikonoce, or 'Great Night', a name which suitably sums up the significance in the Christian calendar of the Resurrection of Christ, but which also recalls the moment of the passing of Winter and the coming of Spring.  

I have been away for a while. When I last posted something on this blog, it was indeed winter, and snow was weighing down the rooftiles. Now, the white stuff has been replaced with fallen blossom and trees are alive with lilac blooms. Passing St Ludmila's today I could have kicked myself for not bringing my camera, so readers will have to make do with a photograph of a somewhat lower resolution than normal, taken on my smartphone. Not too bad after a bit of digital fiddling, and at least it captures the moment.

I also noticed for the first time today that it's only flash photography that's forbidden inside, so look out in the coming days for more interiors of this splendid neo-gothic church at the heart of Naměstí Miru.  And now that the Prague Spring is properly here, may I wish all health and happiness to loyal followers of Vršovice Photo Diary.