A few from the history of church

~ Construction ~

St. Stephan's Church was founded by the emperor Charles IV in 1351 as one of the two parish churches of the New Town of Prague. Its construction took much time, as it was usual at the époque. Full 40 years were necessary until it was consecrated to the glory and honour of St. Stephan in 1392. This consecration was and it is still rather rare in our country. It is now the only church of this name in Prague and even in the whole Bohemia there are only few others. St. Stephan was one of the first Christian martyrs. He died in Jerusalem not very long after Christ's death, possibly about the year 35, and was venerated from the very beginning of the Christianity. He was an ardent and dauntless preacher of Christ, perhaps Greek speaking Jew, but his words agitated the Jewish council and so he was condemned to death by stones. The scene of his death is recorded by the sensitive Zimprecht's brush on the title painting of the main altar.
The tower was not built till 1401 and originally it should be placed at the church's side, as it is the case of St. Henry's church, but at the last moment the project was changed and the tower was built in the middle of the front. So the church obtained the appearance, which we know today.

~ Cemetery ~

In the past, there was also a cemetery around the church. This fact shouldn't be special itself unless its extent was as large as it was. The St. Stephan's cemetery was rather large even within the reign of Charles IV, it was called the Pilgrim Cemetery because there were buried the bodies of those who died during the wandering to the saint relics.
After it was used as the pest cemetery. In 1380 about 3500 of dead found their peace there and within the great pest of 1502 even 13 268 deceased were transported there from all the Prague towns. Since the environs of the church remained empty for long time, the cemetery could extend undisturbed and so in the époque of his largest upsurge it touched the New Town's walls (today Sokolská street). It was abolished in 1784 but the terrain wasn't adjusted till 1833.

~ Hussite era ~

The St. Stephan's church was also the witness of the very beginning of Hussite riots and even the scene where their first dramas took place. The 30 June 1419 Jan Želivský preached in the Church of Virgin Mary The Snow. From there a tempestuous throng of burghers set out for the St. Stephan's church. There people plundered both the parsonage and the church and then continued to the New Town hall where, as the response to a stone thrown from the window, threw the same way the councilmen. According to the unconfirmed reports, the St. Stephan's parson was hanged on a beam put forth the window, but as this mention so the other fantastic reports about the damages on the church seem to be exaggerated. On the contrary the church survived these stormy times in a relatively good state. However from this day of June till the year 1621 when the last Hussite parson Jan Hertvicius was chased, the St. Stephan's church remained Utraquist.

~ Furnishings ~

In the course of centuries many of prominent burghers were buried in the walls of the church. There are numerous tombstones getting witness about their lives and passing. In 1738 the most prominent citizen found his eternal sleep there: the baroque master of the stone, sculptor Mathias Bernard Braun. In 80-s of the 17th century Jan Kornel Dvorský from Greifenberk made annexe a small chapel with a vault for his family to the southern aisle of the church. It was completed in 1686 and obtained the name of Kornel chapel. It faces all the daring fellows who would tend to disturb the calm of buried remains by a baroque metal railing. And Mathias Zimprecht, once more, reminds the God's commandment by the painting of Christ bellow the Cross decorating in a wooden baroque altar with the plastics of St. John the Baptist and St. Gregory. In 1736 the Branberger chapel was annexed from extern to the northern aisle, also protected by a metal railing and decorated by a fresco of the Judgement Day from 1739 and completed by an altar with the pest patrons St. Sebastian and St. Roch.

~ Legend tells ~

No historical monument should be called a monument if it wasn't enveloped in the tissue of mystery, legend or at least a short intriguing story. This rule is even stronger in the case of Prague and so nobody should be surprised that the St. Stephan's church, being a proud part of Prague's history, has also one of that stories…

Not far from the church, already within the life of Jan Hus, was a workshop of certain Lochmayer widely known as Lochmar. He was an excellent bell-founder, although he was very unpopular among his neighbours. Not because he was a German but because he was a very dogged Catholic and enemy of Master Jan. He conducted petulantly, rudely and he insulted all the followers of the famous preacher with a same hardness as he could rule the hammer. In the beginning of the Hussite riots, he was finishing the bell for the St. Stephan's Church and he expressed himself that his bell would accompany the first cursed Hussite on his march to the scaffold. But once he got a strange idea: He joined the crowds of displeased citizens in the streets and injured heavily some of them by his hammer. This time the cup of patience overflowed. Lochmayer had been arrested in the city hall roundhouse until he was condemned to death. By this time though, his bell was already hanged in the tower of the church and the bell-ringer decided to try it exactly in the time when poor Lochmayer was being accompanied to the headsman. When he realized that what he promised to the others met now him, he cursed his work. It didn't save him from the execution but the sound of his bell became dark and oppressive. That is why the councilmen finally decided that it wouldn't call the believers to the service but that it would be used only in the case of fire, storm or another danger that could menace Prague.
More than one century later the story continues. By this time a poor widow with her son Šimon lived near the church. She worked hardly from the morning till the night so that they would have something to eat but the boy grew rather in the street then home. It should be no surprise then that he was unruly and had crawled through all kind of houses, the church or the belfry. One mild summer evening there was a storm visible in the distance and so the St. Stephan's bell was made to ring. Šimon instead of hiding himself and praying for the God's favour found that very funny and decided to swing a little bit on the bell's rope. So he escaped of the bell-ringer's attention, ran up the stairs and caught the rope. But the swing of the bell was already too big and so it threw out the little rascal through the window to the cemetery where he immediately died. People charged his death to the curse of the bell and even there were some who claimed that the widow came from the family of the headsman who executed Lochmayer a long time ago. In order that the bell couldn't harm anymore, it was decided that it would be recast. If this measure was sufficient or not, we don't know. But no other reports about any villains threw out by the window…

What to say about the story? Existence of no Lochmayer or such a person is proved in the 15th century, but the bell with his name probably existed. In 1585 the master Brikcí from Cimpberk finished the new bell "Maria" provided with a cast writing:


Which means:

Was that old bell Lochmar? In accordance with the old records, the old bell was provided by a long cast writing:



Continuing by pious verses. However, once completed the bell cannot be additionally provided by a long writing, so it couldn't be cast in the beginning of the Hussite wars but after the death of Šimon, which arrived the 24th august 1542. Although recasting the bell after 40 years was very unusual. Either it was badly cast or it had another technical defect. And mysterious things there are three: If it was Šimon's mother who let recast the bell, she couldn't be a poor widow at all because it was a really expensive thing. So, as in case of many of these stories it is up to the reader to choose the truth. The only fixed fact is that a stone cross reminding the death of little Šimon stood at the side of the church until 1883 when it was removed to a unknown place…
Copyright © Lukáš Kopenec 2007