Prague Part 2: Art, Architecture and Religion
This is part two of my thoughts on Prague. If you haven't already checked out my first post about Prague you should probably read it first!
This post will be all about the three things I encountered the most while in Prague. We visited numerous galleries, many of which focused on the old Bohemian style of art. We were very obviously surrounded by architecture. Each section of Prague had its very own style of composing buildings but they all fell into the same base style of Bohemian or Baroque. And, like most European cities, Prague was founded on Religion, fought over religion and made historically important political moves regarding religion. All of these things are heavily interwoven but for the sake of this post we will try and separate them a little for some organization.
One of my favorite gallery visits was actually a happy accident. Grandma and I wanted to visit the Convent of St. Agnes because it was one of the first convents of the order of St. Clare north of the Alps. Founded in 1232 by the Princess of Bohemia, a young and reportedly beautiful woman who was sought after by many suitors. Her marriage could have brought much more wealth to all of Bohemia, however, she choose to open the convent and become a nun with the help of her brother, the future King of Bohemia. I love stories like this and I wanted so badly to see where the legendary Princess had spent the rest of her life in poverty and prayer. When we got there we found out that some of the historic halls were doubling as an exhibition area for Mysterious Distances: Symbolism in the Bohemian Lands. I was psyched because I adore symbolism and I really don't know much about Bohemian artist. It was an interesting contrast, since symbolist often took religious symbols and used them in their art in such a way that the church refused to accept them.
The hall of the fairies and nymphs was rather interesting. If any of you have read Lolita, you can kinda picture the general idea of the hall. The works featured nymphs in the typical image that they are seen, as young seductresses. Then there are the images of the young girls being taken advantage of by the older men who view them as nymphs. The image above was pictures the nymph in a less than innocent view. Rather than having her dressed in the white of innocence, the artist painted her in the clothing of a prostitute.
I included these two statues not because they are examples of my photography skills, as they clearly are not, but to appreciate the masters of sculpting. I love how the marble above looks so effortless. I am always in awe at marble statues. The image below is of a stature titled "Anxiety." I appreciate this statue because so many artist try to capture depression and other mental illnesses that often plague the artist but I never really found one that I could identify with. It's probably a good thing that I can't identify with images of mental illness. But this sculpture captures how I feel when I have anxiety. I don't always feel anxious but when I do, all I want is to wrap myself up in a burrito of sadness until my heart stops beating at five billion miles a second.
If anyone happens to be in Prague anytime soon, I would highly recommend visiting the convent. I believe Mysterious Distances will be up until the end of August and it really is a must see.
And now you all get a rare image of me. This is probably the last time you will see an image of myself in any blog post. I seriously belong behind the camera. I am so awkward in photographs. We went to an exhibit of Salvador Dali. It was fantastic and so incredibly large. There were original sketches of his many images of horses, followed by the tile work, lithographs and other copies he later made of the images. There was also all 100 drawings the make up the Divine Comedy, with the original book bindings that held them all together. There were also examples of his interior design quests, perfumes and tapestries. Never before had I seen so much Dali in once space. So I had to have a photo with the master! I am pretty sure I was not supposed to sit on the Dali lips but I did it anyways.
There are several towns that make up Prague, just as there are in any major city. We visited the Old Town, New Town, Prague Castle, and Josefov. Each area has its own version of the Bohemian style and to the untrained eye it would look all the same.
This image was taken at the very corner of Josefov, the old Jewish town, and Old Town. Old town has the feel of Vienna with a very similar style of architecture. The wealthy friends of the King of Bohemia used to live in this area so the buildings modeled old views of wealth and status. Prague was barely touched in the World Wars so the original buildings remain standing and are homes and places of business for the modern world. Josefov was the old Jewish part of town. Prague was one of the first areas to give Jews a sort of citizenship in the early centuries, but we will get to that later. The buildings in this part of town reflect more of the dark colored synagogues and reflect much less wealth.
The Genius and the Lion statue on top of the Czech national bank building.
On the hottest day of our trip, we took a bus tour. Now I really hate tour groups. Actually, I despise them. But Grandma loves hop on hop off bus tours and when it gets really hot it is hard for her to walk around. So I bit the bullet and sat through a two hour bus tour. I took this time to challenge myself photographically. Trying to take decent photographs out of the windows proved impossible so I started to look up at the open roof, with a heavy focus on the lines that I saw present in the architecture.
Archway leading into Old Town Square.
Prague Castle had a mix of Middle ages old and the more recent Bohemian new. The Old Castle, as well as the many churches and outer walls reflected the style of the Middle ages, incredibly dramatic and gothic. The new castle and many of the other buildings that were added as the city grew reflect the Bohemian style of Old Town.
Now I didn't really end up photographing New Town architecture at all. I thought it looked terrible in comparison to the rest of the city. Some of the buildings were typical Soviet style, others had the old town feel, but all of them brandished billboards and other advertising signs.
Charles Bridge is the most beautiful and most famous of all the bridges in Prague. It is impressive at all hours of the day but especially stunning at sunset. The image below feature Grandma at one of the best restaurants we ate at (we ended up eating there twice) with the Charles Bridge in the background.
Like all major European cities, Prague was founded and built upon Religion; specifically Roman Catholic with a rather large Jewish population. First we will talk about Josefov, the Jewish section of the town. In the Early 1200s, Emperor Joseph II (the town is named after him) gave Jews some citizen rights. He was one of the first to ever do this. While they were not considered fully citizens yet, the Jewish population could expand and practice their religion in peace. They could attend schools, read and write, and thus began the Jewish enlightenment. The Jews were restricted to one area which became heavily populated and was extremely poor. For the longest time they only had one cemetery to burry their dead. There are an estimated 100,000 buried in the small cemetery and about 20,000 headstones in various states of supporting against eachother. The Old Jewish Cemetery is the second oldest in all of Europe.
By the cemetery was a synagogue dedicated to the many Czech Jews who were lost in the Holocaust. The walls were filled with their names and it was beautiful and creepy at the same time. The Czech Jews originally did not receive any kind of monetary condolences like many other Jews did across Europe. It wasn't until the early 80s that they were ever given a formal apology and condolence.
This woman was supposed to tell me to stop taking photographs. In most of the religious historic sights, photography is forbidden without a special permit. Now this permit can be purchased by anyone at the ticket window for an extra 10 euros. Being the cheap person I am, refused to ever buy the permit, and also never got caught. However, in the Holocaust memorial, all photography of the names of the lost were forbidden.
There were five synagogues in the Josefov, however we only went to three of them as the other two were closed for restoration. The next few images feature the Spanish Synagogue, the most recent synagogue of the town. It has an impressive Moorish interior design and the gilded bronze and gold makes the whole synagogue glow.
I am a sucker for light coming through stained glass windows. It is one of my biggest weaknesses in life. I could only photograph stained glass windows the rest of my life and I would be happy.
Next up is the Prague Castle, with its most important feature, St. Vitus's Cathedral. The Cathedral is what people look at in the skyline to point out the Prague Castle. It stands right in the center of the old castle walls and is the largest and most impressive building in the entire compound.
Above is the exterior of St. Vitus and below are images of the interior.
I warned you all, stained glass is my weakness. The light cast through the glass is absolutely stunning. Especially in St. Vitus.
This poor girl got caught in my photo cross fire. I loved the amazing stained glass light on her face but the poor thing yawned just as I took the photography. I had to include it just because it gives me a little laugh.
Once again I am amazed at sculptures and how they can create these effortless fluid statues out of metals. While it morally bothers me how much money and gold goes into decorating Catholic churches, I can still appreciate the artistry. Here is my philosophy on religious institutions with pom and circumstance; with the amount of money that cost to create all of the beautiful artwork in the church, all of the gold that decorates virtually every surface, all of the energy that is put into building this impressive building, the church could have done something meaningful. The money could go towards helping feed the poor or preserving the environment or even helping out members of the church. The energy and people required to build this could have built several homes for women trying to escape abusive husbands or orphanages, etc. And if your leader is convincing enough, if you passionately believe in the word of the bible or God or whatever, should it matter how beautiful your house of worship is if you are giving back to the community instead? That is just my opinion. Regardless, I can appreciate the beautiful work that goes into creating this beautiful and historic houses of worship.
Above, school children rest after viewing St. Vitus Cathedral. Below, A palace guard patrols the area, blending in perfectly with his cameo.
These last two images are of the Basilica of St. George. That's all I have for this blog post, But I have decided that I have enough random other images to create one more post about Prague. This final post will have more words and less images. My final thoughts on everything I have seen, some more images of my Grandma and other fun things will be included! I will have it up soon. Enjoy, and once again, I welcome feed back on everything I post.
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