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The Windows of St. Vitus Cathedral

July 15th, 2011, Promulgated by Bernie

St. Vitus Cathedral, Prague, Czech Republic

(Click on the pictures for larger views.)

St. Vitus is the Cathedral Church of Prague in the Czech Republic. It sits atop Castle Hill and looks out over the city that is across the river. Two other churches have stood on this site, but construction on this one began in the middle of the 14th century. The first architect, Matthias of Arras, planned the cathedral and began the actual construction. He died in 1352, and a young architect by the name of Peter Parler took over; Parler worked according to the original design, but was left to his own devices in subsequent stages once the original plans were implemented. Parler was eventually succeeded by his two sons, Wenzel and Johannes. However, there were many interruptions over the centuries and so it would not be until the 20th century that the cathedral was finally completed.

There are many things about St. Vitus Cathedral of interest not the least of which is that the tomb of St. Wenceslaus is located within its walls. But visually what struck me the most when I visited there last week were the stained glass windows added in the 20th century. Most notable were the new stained glass windows for the north wall created (donated, I think) by Alfons Mucha, the Czech Art Nouveau painter.

 

Sts. Cyril and Methodius window by Alfons Mucha . Events from their lifes are arranged along the edges of the window.

 

Detail of Cyril and Methodius window.

 

"Pentecost" window.

 

North wall windows.

 

North wall windows.

 

Older windows.

 

Older windows.

 

To be honest, I prefer (like) the olders windows. They don’t compete with the architecture; they harmonize with it. The geometric organization and canopy motifs in the older windows echo the gothic architectural style, and their color beautifully balances the neutral colored stone of the walls. The 20th century windows strike me as too self-aware; too distinct. Their swaths of color are too intense and too large.

Are the newer windows beautiful? On their own I would say, yes. But, as liturgical art for this particular building I would say they are good but not, excellent. They are, for the most part, orthodox and derived from our iconographic tradition. The Cyril and Methodius window is mostly a ‘history’ window and so is expectd to be somewhat unique. Unfortunately, that window is closer to the most sacred part of the building than the more sacred subject window, “Pentecost.” In my opinion, a dogmatic or scriptual subject should be positioned closer to the altar than an image of a saint or an historical event. In this cathedral, for example, the most sacred window -in the apse- depicts the most sacred subject in Christianity, the “Holy Trinity.”

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All of these pictures were taken by Bernie Dick.

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One Response to “The Windows of St. Vitus Cathedral”

  1. avatar annonymouse says:

    I’ll bet they have liturgical dance at St. Vitus!

    I couldn’t resist. Thou shalt laugh. If you didn’t, thou shalt google.

    Nice windows there, by the way. Much better than those at STA.

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