CHANGE UNIVERSE: Magazine Jewels
Prague | AttractionJanuary 25, 2008

Loreto

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It's my last day in Prague.

So many stories to tell and write about... apart from an amazing Barbie exhibit at the toy museum at the Hradscane Castle, I think I have almost covered them all!

The last place I would talk about is this one called the monastery of Loreta. It consists of a large pilgrimage area containing beautiful chapels and chambers. It is also the most well kept site in all of Prague for security, pictures, visitors and so on.

I wish I could have covered with my camera the world famous and secretly hidden "Diamond Monstrance" -- made in Vienna in 1696 by architect Fischer of Erlach. Fashioned from densely gilded silver, it is graced with 6,222 diamonds.

Unfortunately I could not do so, not even with a special permit from the president himself.

The Prague Loreto, as we know it today, is a fully-fledged pilgrimage site whose construction was initiated in 1626 by Katharina Benigna of Lobkowicz. The complex, today decorated with impressive statues and fountains, was gradually expanded to include cloisters, a tower, a chapel and the Church of the Birth of Our Lord. Its most important architects were Giovanni Batista Orsi and Christoph Dienzenhofer. The pilgrimage site is famous for its carillon consisting of 30 large and small bells, which was constructed in the Netherlands in the late 1600s.

On the stroke of every hour, an ancient Marian song, entitled "We Greet You a Thousand Times" rings out from the carillon. The pilgrimage site is very popular as is corroborated by a wealth of votive donations which now form the remarkable Loreta Treasure, consisting of a collection of valuable liturgical items and many splendid other artifacts originated from the 16th and 18th Centuries now used only for very special occasions (e.g. In 1999, at the 400 year celebration of the arrival of the Capuchins in Bohemia.)

While you walk under the irritated eyes of a very fat and strong Czech body guard dressed in a black coat, an organ plays different Bachian symphonies coming from the main chapel, the one of our Lady of Sorrows (St Wilgefortis). The most important piece contained here is the Gothic Pieta, dating from the 15th Century and donated to Loreto by V. Rincolini in 1687. As legend has it, the Pieta miraculously survived a fire set by the Calvinists and therefore was thought to have miraculous powers. The Chapel is also dedicated to St. Wilgefortis, a martyr highly respected mostly in the northern countries.

It's magic, and it's also very cold in the air.

Among others, the Chapel of St. Anne built in 1687 with the support of public collections and the support of Katarina of Lobkowicz, who donated the relief of Christ Child. The Chapel of St. Francis Seraphinus designed by the famous K. Dientzenhofer (1655-1722) and contains besides a beautiful Baroque altar an impressing painting of the Stigmata of St. Francis Seraphinus by P. Brandl. Chapel of the Holy Family Except from the 17th century Baroque architecture, you will find here a Rococo altar of St. Felix of Cantalicia, decorated with sculptures by Richard Prachner (1705-1782).

Finally, Santa Casa a copy of the Santa Casa in Loreto, Italy, the house where Virgin Mary was told the she will give birth to Jesus, the Son of God.

According to the legend of Santa Casa, 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 themselves. The story has become popular in all Christian world and many other copies of Santa Casa have been built all over the world.

The Loreto in Prague is the biggest and most famous copy of Santa Casa in the Czech Republic and attracts thousands of pilgrims and tourists every year. Joelle's Picks:

The Monastery of Loreta Loretánské nám.7 118 00 Praha 1 tel.: +420/220 516 740 fax : +420/220 516 740 e-mail: loreta@kapucini.cz www.loreta.cz

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