Discovering the Santini Code
Discovering the Santini Code
Venture into the heart of the Vysočina to see the work of the greatest Baroque architect, the genius Jan Blažej Santini Aichel, whose buildings still fascinate us with their perfect composition, purity of design and a number of symbolic references. See how cleverly Santini used the symbolics of the number 5 in the Pilgrimage Church at the Green Mountain, find out about his times in the interactive museum in nearby Žďár Monastery and discover the sights in the historic center of Žďár.
How to get to the starting point
Ždár nad Sázavou is a stop for some express trains from Prague to Brno and is also accessible by bus. From the train or bus station, take one of the city busses to the Žďár nad Sázavou – zámek stop (several lines).
Chateau Žďár nad SázavouMuzeum Nové generace, archiv Vysočina Tourism
1. Chateau Žďár nad Sázavou
We recommend to start the Santini expedition with a tour of the grounds of the former Cistercian monastery. This is where Santini's activities around Žďár started. The brilliant architect was invited by its ambitious Abbot Václav Vejmluva and Santini took part in the rebuild of the monastery, the Basilica of Our Lady of the Assumption and St. Nicholas. Unfortunately, most of Santini's interventions have been lost . After a major fire in 1784, the monastery was closed and later rebuilt into a chateau by Count Josef Vratislav of Mitrovice.
Do not miss the unique multimedia exhibition at the museum, which will provide a total immersion experience involving times around the foundation of the monastery, as well as the famous Santini era and help you understand the genius loci. Expect anything but boring displays and long captions.
July 1 – August 31: Mon – Sun, 9 AM – 6 PM
September 1 – October 31: Tue – Sun, 9 AM – 6 PM
November 1 – April 30: Tue – Sun, 9 AM – 5 PM
May 1 – June 30: Tue – Sun, 9 AM – 6 PM
The Lower CemeteryArchiv Vysočina Tourism
2. The Lower Cemetery
This Baroque cemetery was ordered by Abbot Vejmluva from Santini as a measure against plague epidemics. However, the plague failed to affect Žďár as badly as expected, so the cemetery was used for regular burials. Originally, it had only three chapels arranged in a triangle, which was Santini's reference to the Holy Trinity. It was enlarged to its current size in mid 18th century.
If you have time and want to enjoy the surrounding landscape, take the Okolo Zelené hory/Around the Green Mountain educational trail. This 4.5 kilometre-long circuit around the Konventský and Bránský ponds takes you to all important sights in the area (the Lower Cemetery, the chateau and a Baroque bridge) and give you an opportunity to forget about the busy world around.
3. Baroque Bridge
Before walking from the chateau toward the Pilgrim Church on the Green Mountain, make sure to stop at the baroque bridge linking the Konventský and Branský ponds. Its sculptures are reminiscent of those on the Prague's Charles Bridge.
Baroque BridgeArchiv Vysočina Tourism
Green Mountain Jaroslav Mareš
April: Sat – Sun, 9 AM – 5 PM
May – September: Mon – Sun, 9 AM – 5 PM
October: Sat – Sun, 9 AM – 5 PM
November – March: Closed, guided tours upon request
4. Green Mountain
Santini put his entire life experience in the Pilgrimage Church of St. John of Nepomuk and made it alive with a game of symbols that continues to fascinate visitors from around the world to this day. One of the biggest experts on Baroque architecture, professor Mojmír Hrdina, said the following about this monumental work, added to the UNESCO World Heritage Site List in 1994: „Santini's Green Mountain is like poetry… whereas 20th century buildings are like vulgar shouts.“
The Pilgrimage Church was ordered by Abbot Vaclav Vejmluva after the 1719 discovery of John of Nepomuk's tissues, preserved in his tomb in the St. Vitus Cathedral in Prague. Vejmluva also came up with the idea that the unifying element of the building was to be a five-point star – the same star allegedly appeared on the Vltava River where he Nepomuk was drowned. Santini was able to transform this idea into a magical layout, in which the motive of the number 5 mixes with references to other Christian and Cabbala symbols. The church was consecrated a year before Santini's death.
More information http://www.zelena-hora.cz/
5. Žďár nad Sázavou – town centre
Although most visitors just pass through the town on their way to the fabled Green Mountain, the historic center of Žďár, with its Church of St. Procopius, fort, the historic Town Hall and the Baroque plague column is also worth a visit. Enjoy the pleasant atmosphere in one of the many cafes, and. if travelling with children, do not forget to include a visit to the Model Railway Kingdom, where one of the largest model railways, inspired by the Vysočina landscape, is on display.
January – June, September – December: Sat – Sun, 10 AM – 5 PM
July – August: Wed – Thu 10 AM – 5 PM, Sun 10 AM – 5 PM
Žďár nad Sázavou Ladislav Renner
Žďár is, unlike Jihlava or Humpolec, an as-yet undiscovered beer enthusiast destination in the Vysočina. In recent years, two original small breweries were opened there – a traditionally-focused Revolta Brewery and Mazaný lišák (Cunning Fox), which ofers a number of ale-type specials. Ask for them in the local pubs.
The Turtle Church in ObyčtovArchiv Vysočina Tourism
Possible extension: The strangest of Santini's Churches
If you have time and have come by car, extend your trip to the nearby Obyčtov and Ostrov nad Oslavou, where you will find two unique and virtually unknown Santini buildings.
6. The Turtle Church in Obyčtov
During his work for the Cistercians in Žďár, Santini also designed a number of other buildings nearby. If you have time and want to discover less known architectural gems, go to Obyčtov. Its Church of Visitation of the Virgin Mary was built after Santini's death, but the plans are signed by the genius architect. And what plans they were. The building's footprint and its central nave are modelled on a turtle. According to art historians, Santini may have referenced a turtle because for Christians, it is a symbol of endurance, loyalty and patience in faith.
7. Santini's Inn, Ostrov nad Oslavou
A real Santini curiosity awaits you in Ostrov nad Oslavou. It is the former monastery inn, designed by Santini for the Cistercians in 1720, one of few well-preserved secular Baroque building in the country. The building was returned to its pre-war owners in the 1990's and has been refurbished ever since. We hope it will soon return to its former glory.
Ostrov nad OslavouVladimír Kunc, archiv CzT
Bring back an original wooden souvenir. The art of making split-wood doves is among the oldest folk crafts, passes from generation to generation in Vysočina. People used to hang the doves in their windows to assure good family life.