Monastery of Strahov (Strahovsky Klaster)

Monastery of Strahov (Strahovsky Klaster) (26)

On a hill between the castle and Petrin Hill stands the monastery of Strahov. It was founded in 1143 by Ladislaus II for the Canons Regular of Prémontré in this place, which was on the trade route between Nuremberg and Cracow.

At the time of its construction, the monastery of Strahov was as big as the palace in which the monarchs lived. The monks had curious commodities here for the time, such as a clever system of canals that brought crystalline water directly from Petrin Hill.

The Canons Regular of Prémontré is a religious order founded by Saint Norbert with the aim of reforming the church and returning to the practices of the Gospel.

Throughout its history, the monastery has belonged to the Canons Regular of Prémontré. In 1952, the communist authorities abolished religious orders in Czechoslovakia and expropriated the monastery, which was returned to them after the Velvet Revolution.

The monastery of Strahov was burnt down in 1258 and the reconstruction work was in Gothic and Baroque style, which is what you can see if you visit it today. The building has two tall Baroque towers that attract the attention of whoever looks at the monastery.

Inside is the church of the Assumption. Firstly, it was a Romanesque sanctuary but later, in 1758, it was reformed and ornamented with abundant decoration, work of the best artists of the time. Over the arches of the side naves you will see paintings that recreate the life of Saint Norbert, founder of the Canons Regular of Prémontré. The façade is decorated with rich statues by Johann Anton Quitainer. 

A unique incident took place in his church related to the history of music. Mozart himself improvised a sonata on the Baroque organ that is still conserved here today. One of the priests who attended was able to partially transcribe it.

On the first floor of the monastery is the Museum of Czech Literature, as well as a painting gallery. Here you will be able to admire Czech Gothic and Baroque works by Dutch and Italian painters from the 17th and 18th centuries.

Since its founding, the monastery of Strahov has been famous for its library. More than 130,000 volumes are conserved in its magnificent rooms, among them some 3,000 manuscripts and 2,000 incunabula. The collections have been sacked on some occasions or victims of fire, but they have always managed to restore them. The library of Strahov is still today considered as a marvel and one of the best in all Bohemia.

In the Theology Room, which is open to the public, the 17th-century walnut bookcases are beautifully sculpted. This is where the oldest manuscript of the library is kept, the Gospel of Strahov, which dates from the 9th century. A globe by William Blaeu reminds us of the conception they had of the world in the 17th century.

In the Philosophy Room, 50,000 volumes of philosophy, philology and history weigh on the shelves that are 15 metres high. In the 17th century the collection and furnishings of a monastery dismantled in Moravia ended up here. The heads of Strahov decided to reform the Philosophy Room and raise its height to make room for these spectacular shelves. One of the most curious examples to be found in this library is the catalogue of French museums, donated by Marie Louise, Napoleon’s wife.

If you look up towards the ceiling, you will just love the fresco painting by Anton Maulbertsch called “The struggle of humanity to discover the true history”.

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