The Pilgrimage Church of St. John of Nepomuk at Zelená Hora

The Pilgrimage Church of St. John of Nepomuk at Zelená Hora

Built in the 1720s, The Church of St John of Nepomuk is a stunning example of Baroque- Gothic style which is unique to Bohemia and apart from being interesting from an architectural point of view, it also tells a very interesting tale about the man to whom the church is dedicated.

History and myth

Who was John of Nepomuk? His story is possibly a historical fact embellished by a little myth. He lived in the reign of the King of Bohemia Wenceslas IV, son of Charles IV. A conflict between the King and the Archbishop of Prague were to have fatal consequenses for John. When the Archbishop obstructed Wenceslas´s plans for the creation of a new bishopric in West Bohemia, the king decided to punish the offenders. Of course the archbishop quickly fled leaving his subordinates, John of Nepomuk and a few others to take the rack. It is believed that John did not survive the torture, and was already dead when his body was hurled into the Vltava River from Charles Bridge. The myth surrounding Johns story is said to have been started by clerics opposed to the King. Apparently the King believed that his wife had a lover and John was tortured to reveal the Queens secrets. They told of Johns courage at not revealing the secrets of the Queen to whom he was confessor and for keeping the seal of confession and that this is why he was thrown into the murky depths of the river.

The church The architecture is wonderful with an interesting interior and knowing a little about the man, John of Nepomuk, it is easier to appreciate the symbolism of the churches design. The number five is and integral part of the churches layout. There is a five-pointed ground plan, five entrances, five altar niches, twenty-five chapels around a central space, five stars and five angels on the high altar who are carrying the martyr up to heaven. These symbolise, not only of the five wounds of Christ, but also of the five letters in the Latin word „tacui“ (I kept silent) and above all the five starred halo which, the legend tells us,appeared in the river above his drowned (or tortured to death) body.