Looming over the landscape of old Prague, St. Vitus Cathedral is quite impossible to miss, its gothic spires rising high above the large edifice of Prague Castle.
St. Vitus Cathedral from the north
Construction of this Gothic masterpiece began on 21 November, 1344; it was completed a mere 585 years later(!!!), in 1929.
According to the Cathedral’s wiki page, construction proceeded slowly but steadily under a succession of builders from 1344 to around 1420, when the Hussite Wars broke out and halted construction.
Work resumed in the late 1400s for a very short period before being halted due to inadequate funds, and in 1541 a fire damaged the nascent cathedral considerably..
For most of its history, it sat, incomplete, with a “temporary” wall sealing off the as yet unbuilt portions, until in the mid 1800s a program was started to finish the thing, once and for all, which took a further 70 years
Cathedral, west (entrance) side
And so the cathedral is half rather-old, half not-very-old, but fortunately the architects who finished it carried the design elements of its founders through, and unless you have a very sharp eye for architecture (which I do not), you’d not likely guess it took nearly 600 years to build.
The square in Prague Castle containing St. Vitus Cathedral is heavily touristed, and long lines can form as they throttle entrance to keep the interior at least somewhat peaceful.
Gothic window embellishment
It’s best to visit before noon, before the tour buses disgorge their patrons, and not on Sunday, as it’s a working church, and not open to the public when services are being held.
Although I have not traveled to much of old Europe, I can say with certainty that St. Vitus is a masterpiece of Gothic (and neo-Gothic) architecture with its myriad spires, gargoyles, and reliefs.
St. Vitus Cathedral’s south side
The bell tower (right, above) is generally open to the public, but was closed for renovations each time I visited. Too bad, as I’m sure the view from the top is lovely!
I found the scrolling Gothic window decorations to be particularly graceful and beautiful; such details are everywhere in the cathedral.
A large mosaic of the Last Judgement crowns the three-arched side entrance, through which Bohemian kings used to enter to be coronated.
Many nooks and alcoves have statues or detailed relief carvings in them (God In An Alcove, anyone?), depicting typical-looking Catholic scenes.
Gothic spires galore
St. Vitus Cathedral is a must-visit, especially if you can catch it when the crowds are thinned out. Since the castle grounds (but not the insides) are open late, it’s a nice place for a night stroll, and the architecture is gorgeous.
- Part 1: Vysehrad
- Part 2: Vysehradsky hrbitov (Vysehrad cemetery)
- Part 3: Karluv Most (Charles Bridge)
- Part 4: Vaclavske namesti (Wenceslas Square)
- Part 5: Letecke Muzeum Kbely (Czech Air Force Museum)
- Part 6: Stare Mesto (Old Town)
- Part 7: Staromestske namesti (Old Town Square)
- Part 8: Prazsky orloj (Astronomical Clock)
- Part 9: Josefov (Jewish Quarter)
- Part 10: Vltava River
- Part 11: St. Nicholas Cathedral (Chram sv. Mikulase)
- Part 12: Wallenstein Palace (Valdstejnsky palac)
- Part 13: Kampa Island
- Part 14: Mala Strana street art
- Part 15: Petrin Hill
- Part 16: Mala Strana
- Part 17: Mala Strana house signs
- Part 18: Strahovský klášter (Strahov Monastery)
- Part 19: Schwarzenberský palác (Schwarzenberg Palace)
- Part 20: Toy Musuem
- Part 21: St. Vitus Cathedral gargoyles
- Part 22: St. Vitus Cathedral (exterior) <– You are here
- Part 23: St. Vitus Cathedral (interior)
- Part 24: Prazky Hrad (Prague Castle), I
- Part 25: Prazky Hrad (Prague Castle), II