Church of ST Martin in the Wall
What a curious little place and what a wonderful back story. Like many churches of the time it had a very simple Romanesque design which would be reconstructed in Gothic style two or three Centuries later. Such is the case here. That original block-built Romanesque church was constructed between 1178 and 1187. This is included on the route of the City Walking Tour.
That’s going so far back in time that there wasn’t even an Old Town. In the late 12th Century what you would presently called the Old Town was just a collection of settlements and the Church of ST Martin in the Wall sits at the far end of what was called Havels Town in an area that used to be called Újezd. So when it opened for business it was known as ST Martins Church in Újezd. There was no “in-the-wall” because that would not exist for another 60 years. You can see exactly where it is in present day Prague using the Google Maps link.
Around 1238 it was decided that what would eventually (100 years later) become the Old Town had to be fortified with a surrounding wall. The Old Town defences began construction and in this part of town the wall was built so close to the back of the church that people thought it was literally in the wall hence, the name stuck. Unfortunately the wall also cut the settlement of Újezd in half so you could only get between them by using the ST Martin’s gate.
Mid-15th Century Changes
For 200 years the Church of ST Martin in the Wall stayed as a local secular church but in the early 1400s it was one of the churches in the city that followed Reformist/Utraquist teaching i.e. the Hussite style and is recorded in 1414 as “giving the Chalice” i.e. giving wine at the Eucharist (this was Heresy according to the Catholic Church at the time). This style of religion was also followed by a wealthy man called Jan Holc and around 1440 the Holc family paid for a change to Gothic style with the whole shape of the church rebuilt into what you see today. Note: when you see hooks in the decoration of the church it comes from this period as the hook was part of the coat of arms of the Holc family.
A fire weakened the building in 1678 requiring a rebuild of the tower. The original entry to the church is at the front right corner. The Portico entry was added only in 1779 during a Baroque upgrade. Emperor Josef II closed this church in 1784 and it was used as a warehouse until 1904 when it was bought by the city. The south wall was then strengthened with a red brick butress. Since the formation of Czechoslovakia in 1918 the Church of ST Martin in the Wall has been leased to the Czech Brethren Evangelical Church. Since 1994 it has also been the Prague base of the German-speaking congregation of the Evangelical Church of the Bohemian Brothers which has Sunday service here.
The Church of ST Martin in the Wall is one of a few select churches in the city who host Chamber Music so take a look at Concert Events at ST Martin in the Wall.