There are over one hundred churches in Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic and one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. Augustinians have served there since the year 1258. Their present focus is centred on Saint Thomas' Church (Kostel sv. Tomáše). This was where the 1989 Peace Prayers were said which led to the fall of the Communist government of what was then the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic ("Czechoslovakia.")
The Benedictine monks of Brevnov Abbey built the original Church of Saint Thomas and the adjacent chapel of Saint Dorothy before the year 1227. In 1285, the Church, the chapel and their properties were with the approval of the Abbot of Brevnov given by King Václav II and his wife, Queen Guta, to the Augustinian friars.
This document of invitation was on display at Saint Thomas' Church in 2003 as part of a display to mark the celebrations for the 775th anniversary of this building. Saint Thomas' Church is the only church in Prague that has remained Catholic ever since it was first built. Built in contemporary gothic style, the original Church had approximately the same length and width as the present structure. After thirty-one years of gradual construction, the present site of the priests' house was completed and dedicated to Saint Thomas the Apostle in the year 1316.
In 1379, the main body of the Church - dedicated to Saint Augustine - was finally completed. This magnificent structure, however, was twice set on fire during the Hussite wars in 1420. It was only in 1497 that the edifice was restored for public worship. During the reign of Emperor Rudolph II, the Church and monastery were rebuilt and used as both the parish church and pro-cathedral of Prague. In the beginning of the eighteenth century from 1723 to 1731 the famous Czech Baroque architects, Christof and later his son and successor, Killian Ignac Dietzenhofer, rebuilt the Church in a surprisingly restrained baroque style.
Toward the end of the nineteenth century, the Church was restored on the occasion of its six hundredth anniversary. It was further restored between the years 1963 and 1975. Above the main altar there are two large paintings, copies of The Martyrdom of Saint Thomas the Apostle and The Vision of Saint Augustine by Peter Paul Reubens. The originals, delivered in 1637, were taken from the Church and never returned. They are now in the Czech National Gallery,
Over the main body of the Church the five ceiling frescos dealing with the life of Saint Augustine are matched by three frescos over the presbytery depicting the life of Saint Thomas by Vaclav Rainer. In addition there are remnants of some ancient frescos in the sacristy and processional hall dating from the fifteenth century and sixteenth centuries. The exquisite late fifteenth century gothic Madonna of Consolation is found in the recently restored Curtius Chapel; dating from the same period is the gothic Crux Popularis ("Peoples' Cross"), located in the Saint Dorothy Chapel.
There were numerous 775th anniversary celebrations of Saint Thomas' Church in Mala Strana, Prague during the year 2003, under the theme of "For the Faith of Every Generation". Amongst the exhibits are papal bulls, contracts, photographs, maps etc. displayed in five cabinets. The oldest document is one from 1285, by which King Wenceslas II gave the Augustinians the church and granted permission for them to build a monastery on the site. In the final display cabinet the exhibition highlights the personal artefacts of Agustin Schubert O.S.A. who died as a martyr in a concentration camp in Dachau in 1942. He in the process of being declared a saint of the Church.
Photo GalleryFor the Augnet gallery on the Augustinian history of Prague (and also of Brno), click here.Links
Prague: The Augustinian Church of Saints Thomas and Augustine – an excellent and detailed cultural and historical perspective. A lengthy and informative article by William Faix O.S.A. http://www.augustiniani.cz/en/parish/st-thomas-history
Photos of St Thomas Church, Prague. Interior and exterior images taken on 14th June 2007 at Malá Strana, Prague 1, Hlavni mesto Praha, CZ. http://www.flickr.com/photos/tjflex/2844887724/in/photostream
St Thomas Church. Street directions to this famous Augustinian church in Prague. http://www.prague-information.eu/8
A Texan in Saint Thomas' Parish, Prague. Here is a description of the church and its liturgy in the year 2002. The "Father William" mentioned is William Faix O.S.A., who as still stationed in Prague (January 2012). http://www.angelfire.com/tx5/texasczech/Leigh/Leigh%202.htm AN4203