Sunday, 10 June 2012

Kutna Hora St Barbara Cathedral



I've now visited this cathedral three times, first on my own as a reccy the second with my building buff of a husband and thirdly with a group of 12 British archaeology fans. No doubt I will visit it again and will rejoice to do so, because this building must be one of the great medieval ecclesiastical buildings of Europe.

Many people visit Kutna Hora as a daytrip from Prague. Some take one of the many minibus tours that speed between Prague and Kutna Hora and the more canny take the train and save themselves money. The best way to approach St Barbara's is to walk up the hill from the train station and turn left to go past the Vlassky Dvur and St Jakub church and so come on a viewing platform, from which you will get the best view of the cathedral with its extraordinary roof line (above). Then follow the lane up to the Hradek and approach the cathedral along a walk lined on one side by statues and beyond them vines and on the other by the Jesuit Seminary now an important art gallery. 


Inside the cathedral lives up to the expectations raised by its spectacular exterior. The vaulting is utterly unlike any you will have seen in the west, a pure example of the style known as Bohemian gothic, with the ribs flowing from the columns. Along the gallery huge wooden sculptures look down on the nave. If you get a chance pay the small fee and go up to the gallery to see the statues and ribbing up close. 


That this is a cathedral for the silver workers of medieval Kutna Hora is evident throughout the building. Miners in their regulation white coats appear as statues and in frescos, minters sit striking coins and others are counting. In fact the cathedral's frescos merit repeated inspection: I was still finding new elements on my third visit. The frescos are remarkably realistic and human. But then the building is human too, as large in footprint as a large church, which makes its wonders all the more impactful.

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