Klementinum – Baroque Pearl of Prague

Explore the Klementinum

The Klementinum is often mistakenly referred to as a building. In fact it’s a complex comprising a number of separate buildings, churches and chapels. At 20,000 square metres, only Prague Castle is larger by area so let’s explore.

Klementinum national baroque library
The Klementinum houses the National Baroque Library

Why Visit the Klementinum?

You would normally come into the complex for one of two reasons. Firstly it has two really nice classical music venues, the larger at the Church of Saint Clement and the smaller at the Mirror Chapel. The other reason is to do the Klementinum Guided Tour (check the Skip the Line Tips and Tricks post for how to book online) which takes in the Astronomical Tower, Meridian Room, Baroque Library Hall and Mirror Chapel if not being used. @CZK300 for a 45 minute tour. Note that at the time of writing if you have a Prague Tourist Card then you get a 25% discount. Opens from 10am. (check the website to see exactly what’s on the tour).

Some History

The oldest part of the complex is in the corner closest to Charles Bridge where you’ll find the Dominican Church of Saint Salvatore. The Dominicans had come to Prague in the 13th Century and established the monastery in this location. On the one hand they emphasised learning and scholarship but on the other they had no time for reform and were the people who imprisoned and executed Jan Hus. In 1420 the Hussites descended on Prague and largely destroyed the monastery. The Dominicans left it derelict until 1556.

In 1556 the Jesuits arrive in Prague and initially stay in the grounds of the destroyed monastery which had been given to them by Emperor Ferdinand but they soon begin to build the outer wings of the complex and aimed to be self-sufficient in food production. They called it “Insula nostra Klementinum” (Our Island Klementinum) and built the Saint Clement Church, the Mirror Chapel and the Astronomical Tower over the next two centuries. During the Thirty Years War in 1620 the Battle of White Mountain was fought and the Catholics won. The Jesuits then had free rein to develop and run their college. They initially take over the Charles University Library and move it here, then in 1654 the Jesuit college and Charles University are merged creating the “Charles-Ferdinand University” which remained until 1918.

The Jesuit order was ejected from Prague in 1773. From 1780 King Joseph II closed many churches and monasteries so he used the Klementinum mainly as a hospital and warehouses (for example, the Mirror Chapel was used to store books) and in 1781 it became part of the National Library.

On a side note you might like to read about a man who worked at the Klementinum and his project called Langweils Model.