The Romanesque Saint George Basilica
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Saint George but No Dragon
If you think that the construction of the Old Royal Palace and the associated All Saints Chapel was the first church, then the Saint George Basilica was second church in the Prague Castle complex. Built in the Romanesque style (monumental and plain) in the year 920 it stayed largely the same for 50 years until in 973 when Prague becomes a Bishopric. At this point the adjacent Convent of the Nuns of Saint Benedikt was added and the Saint George Basilica was reconstructed.
As is usually the case at Prague Castle, the next major reconstruction was in 1142 when the two towers were added following a fire and apart from that the only other significant external change was the facade which was changed very early in the Baroque period (1700-1710).
The Basilica was originally built by Prince Vratislav the first. You won’t know him of course but he had two sons, the older called Wenceslas, the younger called Boleslav. After the death of Vratislav the older son became Wenceslas Duke of Bohemia but in 935 he was murdered by the younger brother who then became King Boleslav. The emperor at the time (Otto) bestowed the title of “King” on Wenceslas and later he was canonised. So next time you hear the Christmas carol “Good King Wenceslas”, just remember that he was “good” but was never a king in his lifetime.
The interior decoration of Saint George Basilica is largely from the period after 1880 and sought to restore it to it’s previous condition before the Swedish army had wrought destruction on Prague Castle at the end of the Thirty Years War. The adjacent Convent was deconsecrated in 1975 and is now used by the National Gallery for exhibiting Old Bohemian Art.
Saint George Basilica is one of the venues for classical concerts and chamber music in Prague as the Romanesque high ceilings give excellent acoustics but if you are coming here in the winter then wrap up well as it’s not an easy place to keep warm.
The Prague Castle Public Areas are included in Prague City Walking Tour.