The Loreto

01December 2012

My Last Day

Regan left early in the morning to catch her flight back to Canada.  I had one extra day before leaving for Nairobi and it was a gorgeous one.  Blue skies and sunny.  A nice way to end my visit in Prague. 

After taking my time getting ready, I headed to Paul’s where I bought a sandwich and mint tea for lunch.  I took the tram towards the Monastery and ate my lunch outside, in the sun.  That felt really nice.  I had to wait for the Boutique to open, so I walked around, found the path that leads directly to the Square and from there to the Loreto.  I listened when the bells chimed a tune, indicating it was noon.  Since I had to wait until 1pm for both the Monastery boutique and Loreto to open, I bided my time by walking around the quaint streets in the area, enjoying the scenery and the warmth of the sun.   

After visiting the Loreto, which was worth waiting for, I walked towards the castle, using the side streets.  Just Gorgeous.  I had to go back to visit St. Vitus Cathedral, as I did not take enough time when I first was there.  I arrived just in time, as it was closing early.  The church emptied slowly, and  I stayed until the very end, when noone was left inside.  I never thought that I  would experience the quiet and a view without the guards and barricades.  How peaceful! I went to the Golden Lane, as I missed that the first time as well.  It was now sundown, and the cold was gripping me again.  I huddled in the Boutique until the light ceremony and choir performance started.  Never did make it back to Old Town and the official first day of the Christmas market.   

Our Lady of Loreto: a Pilgrimage Site

Loreta is a Marian pilgrimage site containing a copy of the Holy House (Santa Casa), the Baroque Church of the Nativity of Our Lord, a cloister and six chapels. The complex took on its current appearance over time. First the Holy House was built in 1626 -1627, gradually followed by a single-storey cloister with chapels, the Baroque Church of the Nativity of Our Lord (1734 – 1735), fountains, space for a unique treasury and more. All this is presented on the outside by a single façade designed by architect Kilian Ignaz Dientzenhofer, whose design was based on the previous plans drawn up by his father, Christoph Dientzenhofer.

After completion, the Loreto has been maintained by the Capuchins, an order connected with the St. Francis of Assisi’s Brotherhood.

Loreto Treasury

The Loreto treasury, which started from a substantial donation by Benigna Katharina von Lobkowitz, is priceless. Most items, predominantly monstrances, chalices, altars, miniatures and other votive gifts, stem from the 17th and 18th centuries. The oldest object is a 1510 Gothic chalice donated by Christoph Ferdinand Popel Baronet von Lobkowitz. The most well-known object is a diamond monstrance called the Prague Sun. The gilded silver, 12 kilogramme, 6,222 diamond monstrance (An open or transparent receptacle in which the consecrated Host is exposed for veneration) was created in 1699 by Viennese goldsmiths who followed a design by Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach.

Loreto: Inside the Bell Tower

Loreto Carillon

The Loreto’s frontal façade is dominated by a tall baroque tower built in 1693, where the famous carillon, set in motion in 1695, is located.  

The bells were cast by Amsterdam bellmaker Claude Fremy, and the playing mechanism was constructed by Peter Neumann, a Prague clockmaker. The instrument has a total of 27 bells in the span of over two octaves, with a keyboard of atypical proportions. The bottom octave is also controlled by a row of pedals. The carillon has two separate playing systems – a clock machine with a cylinder that is programmed to play the hymn “A Thousand Times We Hail Thee” on the hour, and a completely independent mechanism that is controlled by the player. 

The carillon was restored in 1994 by Petr Rudolf Manoušek and is one of the oldest working carillons in Europe, especially among those that have been preserved without the use of inauthentic interference. Despite its imprecise tuning, it was decided to keep the original bells for their artistic and historical value, as this is the last existing set of playing bells by C.Fremy in the world – it is not possible to change the fixed tuning of his bells.

Loreta Casa Santa

Santa Casa is the place in Nazareth where the Archangel Gabriel announced to the Virgin Mary that Jesus Christ, the Son of God would be born from her blessed womb. In the very same house the Holy Family stayed after their return from Egypt and Mary lived there for years to come.

In 1291, a Christian family named Angeli had the Holy House moved, piece by piece, from Nazareth to Dalmatia and later in 1295 to the Italian town of Loreto. From the name of the Italian family “Angeli” people developed in time the legend that the Holy House had been brought to Loreto by angels. The story has become popular in all Christian world and many other copies of Santa Casa have been built all over the world.

This Santa Casa copy, complete with stunning fresco pieces and the statue of Our Lady of Loreta, sits in a delightful courtyard surrounded by chapel-lined arcades.

The Loreto in Prague is the biggest and most famous copy of the Santa Casa and attracts thousands of pilgrims and tourists every year.

Loreto Cloister

Church of the Nativity of our Lord

I sat quietly in this small church – in awe.  But at the same time, this style is a bit  (ok a lot) over the top for me. 

The Dientzenhofers, an important family of architects, had an impact on the building development of the Prague Loreto in the first half of the 18th century. Christoph Dientzenhofer began the two-phase reconstruction of the church and designed the western facade of the entire complex, which was finished, after his death in 1722, by his son Kilian Ignaz. (The latter is also the author of the design of the terrace with balustrades in front of the facade.) In 1735, Christoph’s stepson, J. G. Aichbauer, finished the final reconstruction of the church, financed (as was most of the interior decoration) by Countess Maria Margarethe Waldstein, née Czernin von Chudenice. 

It was consecrated on 7 June 1737, but work on the interior continued until the end of 1738. The principal altar is decorated with an alleged replica of a Renaissance painting of the Adoration (perhaps from the circle of F. Lippi), with a wrought rocaille frame and sculptures of SS Joseph, Joachim, God the Father and the angels, by M. Schönherr (1701-1743). The two side altars of St Felicissimus and St Marcia, with the large reliquary display cases, are located in the chancel.

The side altars in the nave have superb Rococo paintings of St Apollonia and St Agatha, by Anton Kern (1709-1747), supplemented at the sides by equally impressive sculptural pairs of cherubs by Richard Prachner.

The original organ by the master L. Spiegel, provided at the expense of Countess Eleonore Caroline von Lobkowitz in 1718, was replaced between 1734-38 by a new instrument by the masters F. Katzer and K. Weltzer from Králíky. The frescoes of the Nativity of Our Lord and the Adoration of the Magi are the work of J. A. Schöpfl (1702-1772); they are inferior to the painting in the third vaulting field above the chancel, with the scene of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple, by W. L. Reiner (1698-1743)..2 

My Last Night

The last hours of the day were spent listening to a choir sing while the Christmas tree lights were turned on outside of St. Vitus Cathedral, a yearly ritual I am told…  and one more walk over the Bridge, looking over the beautiful landscape that is Prague.

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