Czech Open Information Project


VYSEHRAD


There is perhaps no other site in the country which is so thickly entwined with the web of legends believed to relate to the very beginnings of Czech statehood as Vysehrad, the rocky spur overhanging the Vltava where a Slav fortress arose in the loth century. The earliest evidence for its existence dates from the third quarter, and by the end of that century there were three religious buildings on the site, all of which have disappeared. At that time Vysehrad was already the seat of the Czech princes of the House of Premysl and the administrative centre of the land. It achieved its greatest development under the rule of the first Czech king, Vratislav II, who founded the Vysehrad chapter in 1070, the church of SS. Peter and Paul, the basilica of St. Maurice (only the foundations survive) and the rotunda of St. Martin, which has been preserved in a purist restoration of the 19th c. With the removal of princely authority to the Hradshin the old seat of the Premysl kings declined in significance until the Emperor Charles IV restored its role in a new ideology of the state by including Vysehrad, in the coronation ceremony. Thus the procession was to start from Vysehrad, leaving by the Jerusalem Gate, where the bark footware and the wallet traditionally said to have belonged to the ploughman ancestor of the Premysl line were to be deposited for safe keeping. It was also thanks to Charles that extensive building was undertaken at Vysehrad, so that the number of sacred edifices rivalled even those of the Hradshin. First came the reconstruction of the church of SS. Peter and Paul towards the end of the 14th c., a triple-aisled pseudo-basilica with rectangular side-chapels fitted in between the butresses. It was the Hussite wars which brought catastrophy to Vysehrad, since its strategic importance made it several times the object of siege, and when at length it was captured by the Prague military they destroyed it. The baroque period left its characteristic mark on Vysehrad when alterations began in 1654 to make it into a baroque citadel in accordance with the project of Conti and Priami. The Leopold Gate dates from this time. The transformation of the capitular church followed at the beginning of the 18th c. but then the baroque elements were banished during the purist alterations effected by Josef Mocker in 1885 - 1887. Of its original interior furnishings only an early 12th c. Romanesque sarcophagus remains. A "miraculous" painting on wood of the Virgin Mary of Humility dated around 1360 an object of especial veneration in the 17th and 18th c. - was a gift made to Vysehrad from the collection of the Emperor Rudolph II. In the 1880s the idea was mooted of turning Vysehrad into a national cemetery, called Slavin, where the foremost personalities of Czech culture and science would be buried. The project was realised between 1889 and 1893 with Antonín Wiehl as architect. Today some of the Vysehrad buildings are used for exhibitions and social occasions.