Slavic Monastery of Emmaus (Kláster Na Slovanech -Emauzy-)

Slavic Monastery of Emmaus (Kláster Na Slovanech -Emauzy-) (45)

Perhaps you have heard the popular saying that states that in Prague there are as many churches as there are days in the year, but what is surprising about this temple, the Slavic Monastery of Emmaus, is that it conserves inside as many stories as the religious life of Prague has had chapters.

The Slavic Monastery of Emmaus, like its church, was founded in 1347 by the enterprising Charles IV, who had the support of Pope Clement for this undertaking. His aim was to bring the Oriental and Occidental churches closer together. The first people to inhabit the monastery and give it life were Croatian Benedictine monks, who gave mass in old Slav and devoted themselves to transcribing old documents in order to perpetuate this language. In a short time, the monastery became the most important cultural centre in Bohemia.

In 1419, the monks went over to Hussitism, the religious doctrine promoted by Jan Hus, by which they managed to save the monastery from destruction during what were called the Hussite wars. In 1446, an order was formed related to this movement.

After the Catholic victory in the Battle of White Mountain, the monastery passed into the hands of Spanish Benedictines who came from the Abbey of Montserrat, in 1635. In 1712 the whole complex was restored in the dominant artistic style of the time, Baroque.

Towards the end of the 19th century, a new change of order meant that the monastery was occupied by German Benedictines expelled by Bismarck, who at the same time transformed the temple into neo-Gothic style.

But the tempestuous history of Emmaus does not end here, since it was practically destroyed by North American bombing in 1945. In its reconstruction, nearly 20 years later, Frantisek Cerny added two stunning concrete ailerons to the church.

The Slavic Monastery of Emmaus was famous for “scriptorium”, since here were transcribed magnificent versions of the Holy Scriptures. This is the case of the “Registrum Slavorum” or “Slavic Gospel”, also known as “Text of the coronation of the kings of France”. This latter name is due to the fact that all the kings of France, from Henry III, were sworn in over this gospel when they were crowned. It had been taken to France by the Cardinal of Lorena and given to Rheims Cathedral in 1574.

Some of the most admired frescos in Bohemia are conserved in the Slavic Monastery of Emmaus. Dating from 1360, their age is not the main reason for their bad state of conservation, but the fact of having been partially destroyed during the Second World War.

In the cloister, the Gothic mural painting was saved from the destruction that other temples suffered during the Hussite wars, due to the fact that the monastery housed a Hussite order. In the lower part of the painting, several episodes of the Old Testament herald the scenes that can be seen in the upper part, dedicated to the life of Jesus. Of the three artists who it is believed worked on these frescos, only two are known: Nikolaus Wurmser of Strasbourg and Master Oswald, from the Court of Charles IV.

Since 1991, and perhaps with the intention of finally giving it some peace, the Slavic Monastery of Emmaus has housed several Czech scientific institutes.

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