St James Basilica
If you have come from the Old Town Square and you’ve walked through the Tyn Courtyard then as you emerge onto the street at the far end (Mala Stupartska) you’ll see the church 30 metres to your left.
The church, to be accurate it was made a “Basilica Minor” in 1976, has a yellow colour and huge metal decorated black doors. Personally I think the best view of the outside decoration is in the afternoon when the front (west) face of the Prague St James Basilica gets the sun. The road to the side is called Jakubska which translates as “the way to Jakub”. Little wonder then, that James in Czech translates as Jakub. The church is on the route of the Old Town and Jewish Quarter Walking Tour and the Prague Architecture Walking Tour.
If you are thinking about going inside ST James Basilica then the picture above is what awaits you but it’s pot luck whether you’ll get in. This isn’t a “drop-in” type of church and not even the notice on the door is accurate. At best you can say that it’ll be open a couple of hours in the morning (loosely 10am to 12pm) and a couple of hours in the afternoon (loosely 2pm to 4pm). Free to enter if open, they accept donations or if you take a postcard consider a CZK10 coin for the box but you are not allowed to take pictures or video.
Why Visit the Prague St James Basilica
Whilst the Baroque exterior feels a bit plain (except the west face), it’s the stunning interior people come to see. My favourite way to show people ST James Basilica is first to enter, walk my clients about half-way down the aisle so it looks like we are heading to the Altar etc but then stop and look back.
You’ll then be looking at the organ (pictured) which is located right above the door (fun fact – even if you can’t get into the church it’s not uncommon in the morning to be able to get into the viewing area and feel the vibration of the organ when it’s being played). It’s a huge beast, largest in Prague and it is played regularly for services etc. During the month of August there is usually an organ playing competition going on here. On any day of the week but especially in the summer after 4pm you’ll be coming here for a service or a classical music event. Check for Concerts at ST James Basilica.
The other thing that draws people to the Prague ST James Basilica is the legend. The Basilica was built in the early 18th Century hence the Baroque style. But it replaced an even older Catholic church built on this site in the 13th Century. It is said that a thief broke into that 13th Century church and tried to steal something from the altar. His arm was held in a vice-like invisible grip and the only way the authorities could remove him was by sawing his arm off. The arm, or what’s left of it, can be found when you walk back towards the entrance high to the left of the windows hanging from the chain. Maybe I should mention now that Prague ST James Basilica was for many years the local church for the meat market further down the road so many butchers would have been in the congregation…..