The church in Kutná Hora is fascinating. It is a combination of a vertically designed Gothic temple and its dynamic Baroque reconstruction managed by the pioneer of Baroque-Gothic – Jan Santini Aichel. The cathedral, together with another temple – St Barbara’s Cathedral – is registered on the UNESCO list of cultural heritage sites.
Santini’s masterpieceThere is more than one site in Kutná Hora in Central Bohemia that you will want to see. The city is literally packed with cultural heritage from past centuries. One of the most significant monuments, not only of the city, but also of the Czech Republic, is no doubt the Cathedral of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. It is a monastery church of the adjacent Cistercian monastery. Originally, there used to be a Romanesque church from 1142, but it was destroyed in the 13th century. Not long after the disaster, a new Gothic, now five-nave basilica was built there in forty years.
Two hundred years later, the monastery was burned out and deserted. The reconstruction of the buildings started at the beginning of the 18th century when the church was rebuilt into the look we know today. The reconstruction was done by architect Santini, who was twenty-five at that time. His designs respected the old construction as well as the original Gothic elements. The interior was vaulted again and two unique Baroque self-supporting worm staircases without the interior screw were built on the sides. The architect was trying to emphasise the width and the height of the monumental Gothic space of the building. The barrel vault of the main nave was decorated with dynamic circulation of stucco ribs that resemble late-Gothic vaults.
Even though the architecture of the building completely respects the Gothic origins of the temple, its furnishings are mostly Baroque. The abbot of the adjacent monastery – or the investor of the building – strived to get the best artists available in Bohemia to decorate the cathedral. The vault in the transept is decorated with a fresco depicting the Holy Trinity by Jakub Jan Steinfels, there are illusive paintings by Tadeáš Supper, paintings by Petr Brandl and sculptures by Matěj Václav Jäckel.
Ossuary and All Saints’ ChurchNear the cathedral is a unique ossuary under another of Santini’s constructions, the All Saints’ Chapel in the cemetery in Sedlec u Kutné Hory. The ossuary is decorated with human bones – the remains of about 40,000 dead people, victims of plague epidemics and wars.
The current form of the cemetery chapel that was built at the end of the 14th century is the result of Baroque modifications made by Santini at the beginning of the 18th century and the overall reconstruction from the mid-19th century, during which the bizarre decoration of the interior from human bone remains was created.