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The Old Town of Prague is home to the Clementinum, one of the most spectacular architectural complexes in the area. It was the spot chosen by the Jesuits to build their centre on being called to Prague by Emperor Ferdinand I in 1566. The mission given to the clerics required an operational base from where they could undertake a not exactly small task: convert the Czechs to Catholicism.
Europe was experiencing an agitated period due to Luther’s Reform, which led to Protestantism and many religious wars. From Rome, Catholicism fought to hold on to its privileged place amongst the European nations.
The Clementinum, thus called because it was built over the old monastery of Saint Clement, was built between the 16th and 18th centuries and ended up occupying what before had been houses, churches and gardens.
From the beginning, the Jesuit institution rivalled the Carolinum, the other university in Prague. On joining the two universities in 1622, the Jesuits came to control the city’s entire higher education system. Nevertheless, the clerics continued believing that two-thirds of the people of Prague were heretics. For this reason, they organised fervent searches for suspicious books written in Czech, which ended up later on the bonfire.
In the Clementinum there is also the church of the Holy Saviour and its Baroque courtyard, which dates from the 17th century. From its façade, seven large statues of saints sculpted by Jan Bendl contemplate the visitor. The night is the best time to appreciate the complex, since it is beautifully illuminated. If you are a veteran traveller perhaps you could check out the similarity of this building and its courtyard with that of the Gesù in Rome.
Also of note here is the Italian chapel, from the late 16th century, the design of which tells us of the beginning of Baroque style. If you get the chance, you should visit the chapel of the Mirrors, which only opens for classical music concerts.
In 1773, the Pope decided to dissolve the congregation of the Jesuits, so its members had to abandon the work they were carrying out in the city. The Clementinum was turned into the library of the University of Prague and later the National Library. Some of its rooms can be visited, but in silence, naturally.
Guided visits are organised to get an in-depth knowledge of the place and to appreciate its Baroque and Rococo style. It is one of the best options, since the Clementinum, with its three churches and ten courtyards, is considered the largest architectural complex after that of Prague Castle.
Basilica and convent of Saint George (Bazilika a Kláster Sv. Jirí) (33)
Church of St. Nicholas (Sv. Mikulas) (11)
Monastery of Strahov (Strahovsky Klaster) (26)
Town Old Building of the Old Town (Staromestská Radnice) (9)
Cathedral of Saint Vitus (Katedrála Sv. Víta) (31)
Golz-Kinsky Palace (Palác Kinskych) (4)
National Gallery, Sternberg Palace (Národní Galerie - Sternbersky Palác) (29)
Saint Nicholas of Malá Strana (Sv. Mikulás) (40)
Charles Bridge (Karlûv Most) (2)
Our Lady of the Snows (Panna Marie Snezná) (52)
The Astronomical Watch (10)
Celetná Street (7)
Church of Saint Thomas (Sv. Tomás) (44)
Jan Hus, Bethlehem Chapel (Betlemska Kaple) (6)
Lobkowicz-Schwarzenberg Palace (Lobkovicky Palác) (36)
National Theatre (Národní Divadlo) (48)
Our Lady of Loreto (Loreta) (28)
Royal Way. Nerudova. (37)
State Opera (Státní Opera) (57)
Cernín Palace (Cernínsky Palác) (27)
Convent of Saint Agnes of Bohemia (Kláster Sv. Anezky) (16)
Jewish Quarter of Prague. The Golem. (21)
Masaryk Quay (Masarykovo Nábrezí) (51)
Old Jewish Cemetery (Stary Zidovsky Hrbitov) (24)
Petrin Hill (Petrínské Sady) (42)
Saint John Nepomucene (Sv. Jan Nepomucky na Skalce) (46)
Vtrba Garden (Vrtbovská Zahrada) (38)
Charles IV Square (Karlovo Námesti) (49)
Cubist Houses (Kubistické Domy) (59)
Kampa Island (41)
Municipal House (Obecní Dum) (12)
Old Town Square (8)
Royal Garden (Kralovská Zahrada) (35)
Slav Island and the Mánes Gallery (Slovansky Ostrov) (50)
Wallenstein Palace (Valdstejnsky Palác) (43)
Church of Saint James (Sv. Jakub) (19)
Golden Lane (Zlatá Ulicka) (32)
Letná Park (Letenské Sady) (17)
National Avenue (Narodni) (54)
Old-New Synagogue (Staronová Synagóga) (25)
Royal Palace (Stary Kralovsky Palác) (34)
Slavic Monastery of Emmaus (Kláster Na Slovanech -Emauzy-) (45)
Wenceslas Square (Václavské Námeí) (47)
Castle Gallery (Obrázarna Prazskeho Hradu) (30)
Museum of Dvorák (Muzeum Antonína Dvoráka) (53)
Prague City Museum (Muzeum Hlavního Mesta Prahy) (18)
Centre of Modern and Contemporary Art (Sbirka Moderního a Soucasneho Umení) (20)
National Jewish Museum, Maisel and Pinkas Synagogues (23)
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Mozart Museum. (60)