Name of Monument:

Zelená Hora, Church of St. John of Nepomuk

Location:

Zelená Hora, Moravia, Czech Republic

Date:

1719–1722

Artists:

Jan Blažej Santini-Aichl (1677–1723, Prague), František Benedikt Klíčník (1677 Ivanovice na Hané – 1755 Brno), Jan Pavel Čechpauer – Řehoř Thény (1695, Burgeis – 1759, Jaroměř)

Denomination / Type of monument:

Religious – Pilgrimage Church

Patron(s):

Cistercian Monastery in Žďár nad Sázavou – Abbot Václav Vejmluva (1670 Brno – 1738 Žďár nad Sázavou)

History:

The establishment of the church was associated with the upcoming beatification and canonisation of John of Nepomuk after his miraculously intact tongue had been found in his grave in St. Vitus Cathedral, Prague. The construction was initiated by V. Vejmluva, abbot of the nearby Cistercian Monastery, who named the hill above it after Zelená Hora, near Nepomuk, the martyr’s birthplace and the place from which the first Cistercians came to Žďár. In 1722 the church was consecrated and construction work continued with cloisters with five chapels and five gates. After the architect’s death, the complex was completed by F. B. Klíčník who was, like Santini, a member of the Penitent Brotherhood in the monastery which was founded in 1722.

Description:

The church construction combines two chief motifs, a tongue, and a five-pointed star, creating a unique building. The expansive intertwining shapes and movement of light provide it with a striking dynamism. Here, V. Vejmluva established a “spiritual mausoleum” for John of Nepomuk, a saint canonised in 1729, and whose cult became one of the most widespread in Central Europe.

View Short Description

This pilgrimage church is one of the most remarkable buildings in Czech lands. It combines two main motifs: a tongue, and a five-pointed star. The expansive, intertwining shapes and movement of light provide the geometrical central building with a striking dynamism. The building mythologizes in visual form a previously insignificant place and presents its origin as a divine miracle. It was here that a learned abbot of the Cistercian Monastery established a “spiritual mausoleum” for John of Nepomuk, a saint canonised in 1729, and whose cult became one of the most widespread in Central Europe.

How Monument was dated:

Historical context and archive material

Special features

Sketch of the frontage

1719

Jan Blažej Santini-Aichl (1677–1723, Prague)

The building, designed by Santini, was executed by local master bricklayers.
The sketch shows that a double staircase in the front leading to the gallery opposite the high altar was dropped. The basic layout and volume of the building were thus geometrised into perfect symmetry – situated on top of a hill – between heaven and earth.

Ground plan

1719

Jan Blažej Santini-Aichl (1677–1723, Prague)

The principal compositional element is a five-pointed star (five-pointed ground plan, five entrances, five altar niches, ten chapels surrounding the central space, five stars and five angels on the high altar), symbolising the five wounds of Christ, five letters in the Latin word tacui (“I was silent”) and, in particular, five stars in the halo of St. John of Nepomuk. Legend has it that the stars appeared in the River Vltava after the martyr had been drowned in it.

Vaulting

Interior, Church of St. John of Nepomuk

1720–1722

Jan Blažej Santini-Aichl (1677–1723, Prague)

The symbol of St. John of Nepomuk at the top of the vaulting is the central motif of the church interior. It is a symbol repeated in the shape of the pointed windows; their incorporation into “lantern” chapels above the entrance vestibules, resembles a sword in a sheath. The metaphor also appears in the legend of St. John of Nepomuk; he refused to break the confidentiality of the confessional, his tongue being like a sword in a sheath.

High altar

1720–1722

Jan Blažej Santini-Aichl (1677–1723, Prague)

The sculpted, distinctly vertical altar, symbolically shaped like a tongue, is placed within a tall arcade that reaches to the gallery on the second floor. Unlike many other constructions of its kind it does not dominate the church interior but symbolically enhances it. There is no ornamental decoration or painting. The building itself, created by matter and the work of light in space, is the sole bearer of meaning. Light is also symbolically divided in the space. In the bottom section the area is illuminated by candles, i.e. fire an earthly light, while on the first floor Divine Light enters the space through mirrors. The symbolic linking and oscillation of rays of light is portrayed in the ribbed walls of the first floor. The second floor and the top of the vaulting, where a symbol of the saint (epitomising a holy miracle) is found instead of the usual symbol of the Holy Spirit, are illuminated by pure light coming through the windows. Without a doubt this horizontal three-part approach also symbolises the Holy Trinity.

Angels

1722

Jan Pavel Čechpauer – Řehoř Thény

The decoration in the chapel originally consisted only of this group of sculpted angels bearing a celestial sphere decorated with five stars and with St. John of Nepomuk standing on top of it. The statues were created by local artists.

Selected bibliography:

Zdeněk Kudělka, in Ivo Krsek –­­ Zdeněk Kudělka (ed) –­­ Miloš Stehlík –­­ Josef Válka, Umění baroka na Moravě a ve Slezsku, Prague, 1996, pp. 274–281.
Dirk De Meyer, Johann Santini Aichl, Architectuur et ambiguiteit I-II, Eindhoven, 1997.
Mojmír Horyna, Jan Blažej Santini-Aichl, Prague, 1998, pp. 338–339.
Jiří Kroupa, in Jiří Kroupa (ed), Dans le miroir des ombres. La Moravie a la age baroque 1670–­­1790, Paris–­­Rennes–­­Brno, 2002, pp. 133–134, cat. 26.
Jiří Kroupa, Světlo jako architektonický element v tvorbě Jana Santiniho, in Morava v době baroka, Brno, 2004, pp. 78–83.
Jiří Kroupa, „Heiligkeit und Herrlichkeit in dem Heiligthum“ aneb Oslava svatořečení Jana Nepomuckého ve Žďáru, in: Lubomír Konečný – Jiří Kroupa – Michaela Šeferisová-Loudová, Orbis Atrium. K jubileu Lubomíra Slavíčka, Brno 2009, pp. 579–590.

Additional Copyright Information:

Copyright images "Národní památkový ústav v Brně": Národní památkový ústav – územní odborné pracoviště v Brně.
Copyright images "Národní památkový ústav v Telči": Národní památkový ústav – územní odborné pracoviště v Telči.

Citation of this web page:

Zora Wörgötter "Zelená Hora, Church of St. John of Nepomuk" in "Discover Baroque Art", Museum With No Frontiers, 2019. http://www.discoverbaroqueart.org/database_item.php?id=monument;BAR;cz;Mon11_D;15;en

Prepared by: Zora Wörgötter
Copyedited by: Jiří Kroupa
Translation by: Irma Charvátová
Translation copyedited by: Mandi Gomez


MWNF Working Number: CZ 15