Where the Greatest Baroque Geniuses Shook Hands
If the Kladruby monastery stood closer to Prague, it would definitely be one of the big tourist agency crowd-pullers. However, since it is located almost on the German borders, you do not have to push your way through crowds of tourists to get there. Even the Czechs have not yet discovered this gem.
And yet the late-Baroque Benedictine monastery is one of the best that our religious architecture offers, and many Prague temples turn green with envy. No surprise. Its current look was created by the greatest geniuses of the 18th century: Jan Santini Aichel and Kilian Ignaz Dientzenhofer. The Church of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary in the monastery, built by Santini in the Gothic-Baroque style, is one of the largest temples in the Czech Republic, after St. Vitus Cathedral and St. Barbara Cathedral in Kutná Hora.
The third largest temple in Czechia will not only impress you with its size, but also with its rich sculptural decorations designed by Matyáš Bernard Braun.
However, the Kladruby monastery was not only a place of spiritual life. It also became the centre of important political events several times. For example, it played a big role in the dispute of King Wenceslaus IV of Bohemia with Abbot Jan of Jenštejn. The king was trying to get rich Kladruby under the management of the newly established bishopric, which would significantly limit the influence of the powerful abbot. Jan of Jenštejn was helped by the archbishop’s vicar Jan of Nepomuk, who later lost his life for his loyalty. After Jan of Jenštejn was forced to leave, Wenceslaus IV had the vicar arrested and thrown into the Vltava River after torturing him. To commemorate these events, the monastery has preserved over five hundred representations of Jan of Nepomuk – the largest collection of its kind in Europe.
The monastery’s purpose ended in 1785 when Joseph II decided to abolish it. In the following years, the compound was used as barracks, a hospital and a home for invalids. Knight Alfred Windischgrätz, who later annexed it to his estate, had his wife Eleanor, who was accidentally killed, buried there in the newly founded Windischgrätz crypt. His remains were also moved there after their family tomb in Tachov was closed down.
There is an educational trail that starts at the monastery that will tell you other stories of Kladruby and interesting facts from local history and nature. For example, you will learn how local burghers made their living, what legends there are about the local Calvary, and where the Úhlavka River used to flow.