Saints Cyril and Methodius Cathedral
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With its size this huge three vault neo Romanesque basilica, built from carved stone according to the design of old Roman churches, ranks among the top most church buildings in Bohemia. Its plans were drafted by a professor of architecture in Vienna, the architect Karl Rösner (1804–1869). However, many details were altered by the Prague architect Vojtěch Ignác Ullmann (1822–1897) and afterwards the builder Jan Bělský and the stonemason master Karel Svoboda performed the construction under his supervision. The construction of the Cathedral took place in 1854–1863.
The cathedral is 75 m long and 31 m wide, height of the main vault is 27.5 m, length is 71m and the width is 13.4 m. Both tall spires reach a height above 78 m and at the southern end there are three semicircular apses. In its time the church was the largest building in Prague and the suburbs.
In 1849, when the number of local residents was more than 12 thousand, Karlín did not have its religious administration, because it was part of the Olšany parish until 1851. The people of Karlín desired to have their own, dignified cathedral and the fact that their desires were answered in the upcoming years was the work of the Prague Catholic Union, especially the count Otakar Černín and St. Vitus Canon Jan Valerián Jirsík.
Collections all across the land started after the building was officially approved. These collections have has seen contributions from such people as the Emperor Ferdinand I of Austria and his wife Maria Anna of Sardinia, and the widowed empress Caroline Augusta of Bavaria (Karoline Auguste von Bayern, wife of Francis I of Austria), after whom the district Karlín was named – Karolinenthal. After the money was obtained the Karlín parish has purchased the site and surrounding lots for 25 thousand gold coins. The premises were then consecrated on March 9, 1954 (the Saints Cyril and Methodius Day back then) by Archbishop Friedrich Johannes Jacob Celestin von Schwarzenberg. The cathedral’s construction was completed in nine years and on October 18th, 1863, on the occasion of the millennia anniversary of the Slavic missionaries’ arrival to Moravia, the cathedral received a ceremonial consecration. The cathedral was consecrated by the Cardinal and Archbishop of Prague Friedrich Johannes Jacob Celestin von Schwarzenberg with the assistance from Bishop Jan V. Jirsík from České Budějovice, who consecrated the side St. Wenceslaus altar, and from Prague consecration Bishop Petr F. Krejčí, who was assigned the side altar of Saint Mary.
The northern façade boasts rich ornamentation. Eleven statues are placed in the arcature under the rose shaped window, a statue of Christ and ten Bohemian patrons by Čeněk Vodník from 1913. A figure of Jesus Christ is at the center above the main doors and kneeling under him on both sides are the apostles Cyril and Methodius. The main bronze center doorway is double winged, covered by copper plates. The iron cast strip and leaf ornaments serve as ribbing and help to connect the figural raised pattern. At the highest point, in a so called Mandorla we have the figures of St. Cyril and Methodius. Under them there are four large medallions with scenes from Czech legends, which horizontally correspond:
- St. Cyril preaching the Christian faith to Slavs and St. Methodius christening Borivoj I, Duke of Bohemia
- St. Wenceslaus blessing the construction of the Cathedral (kneeling builder in the scene is the figure of arch. Ullmann) and on the other side is his martyrdom
- St. Ludmila teaching the young Weneslaus and his martyrdom death
- St. Adalbert pleading for rain and across is the welcome on his return from Rome
The bottom relief among the present depicts the Cathedral’s benefactors, the factory owner Č. Daněk and mayor Josef Götzl.
Two bells hang in the tower on the left, larger steel bell St. Roch donated from Germany in 1892 with a diameter of 123 cm and a smaller bell with a diameter of 108.5 cm casted by Nicholas Löwe. The right tower contains a passing bell with a diameter of 46.5 cm casted by Karl Bellmann in 1851. The tower clock was made in 1868 at the expense of the factory owner Daněk and clockmaker Jan Holub.
The Cathedral’s interior is divided into three vaults by ten decorative columns, where the highest vault is illuminated by fourteen semicircular windows, fitted with a Romanesque tracery. The fl oor is paved with granite and it was acquired through a collection performed by the Duke Jan Harrach. Four contemporary confessionals with rich Romanesque architecture were also constructed at his expense and these are placed in the side vaults by twos.
Mural and sculpture decorations of the Cathedral were being performed until the end of the 19th century and were crafted by top artists spanning several generations. However, much of the assigned work was never performed at all and the schedule for Cathedral decorating approved by Cardinal Schwarzenberg was not adhered to either. Despite this the Ss. Cyril and Methodius Cathedral is a remarkable creation of modern sacral construction marking the start of a new era of arts and it is also a significant proof of the early historicism in Czech Architecture. It was therefore rightfully classified as a monumental landmark building.