Introduction to St. George’s Basilica: Prague’s Oldest Surviving Church


Introduction to St. George’s Basilica: Prague’s Oldest Surviving Church

St. George’s Basilica is famous for being the oldest surviving church building in Prague Castle, Czech Republic. 

It was founded by Vratislaus I of Bohemia in 920 and is dedicated to Saint George. 

The basilica mixes Romanesque and Baroque architecture and has undergone several reconstructions throughout its history. 

It is home to the tomb of St. Ludmila, the grandmother of St. Wenceslas, and other members of the Premyslid royal dynasty are buried there. 

The basilica is also known for its impressive frescoes and altarpieces. 

Today, St. George’s Basilica at Prague Castle serves as a concert hall and is open to visitors daily.

This article will tell you everything about this basilica in detail, including its history, architectural style, and how to visit it.

Quick Facts about St. George’s Basilica

Official name: St. George Basilica

Date of opening: 10th century (precise date unclear).

Hours: Open every day from 9 am to 5 pm

Annual visitors: More than 500,000

Architectural style: Romanesque-Baroque fusion. Prague Castle, including St. George Basilica, was proclaimed a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1992.

Function: Place of worship, historical site, and art gallery

St. George’s Basilica History

The foundation of the church was laid during the reign of Prince Vratislav I in 920, who wished to honor St. George, his patron saint.

This captivating church was originally constructed in the Romanesque style but has undergone various transformations over the centuries.

In 1142, the basilica was destroyed by fire and reconstructed with two steeples and an iconic main apse.

During the 13th century, a chapel dedicated to St. Ludmila and a portico were added. 

As a result of the early Baroque period, the convent’s striking facade and the whole building were reconstructed. 

F.M. Kanka, the architect, expanded the church with the Baroque Chapel of St. John Nepomuk in the early 18th century.  

The church was rebuilt in 1887–1908, guided by the vision of French architect F. Mach, who tried to restore its Romanesque appearance.

Its establishment marked a new era in the region’s spiritual and social landscape, providing a focal point for Christian worship and community gathering. 

The basilica also serves as the final resting place for several members of the Premyslid dynasty, further cementing its significance in Czech history.

St George Basilica Architectural Style Through the Ages

Originally constructed in the Romanesque style, the basilica’s architecture has evolved over the centuries, bearing the marks of various periods and styles. 

The 12th century saw significant expansions, including adding the iconic Basilica’s twin towers, known affectionately as Adam and Eve. 

The 17th century introduced Baroque elements to its facade, a testament to the changing tastes and artistic influences of the time. 

Despite these evolutions, St. George’s Basilica at Prague Castle has retained its Romanesque essence, offering visitors a glimpse into its storied past.

Why Visit St. George’s Basilica?

Stunning Design: The mix of Romanesque and Baroque styles makes this basilica a visual feast.

Royal Past: Learn about the basilica’s deep connections with the Bohemian royals, who used it as their personal chapel for hundreds of years.

Beautiful Interior: Take in the beautiful frescoes, detailed stucco work, and vibrant stained glass that decorate the inside of the basilica.

Fascinating Exhibits: Check out the Basilica Museum’s impressive collection of religious items, from sculptures and paintings to objects used in worship.

Quiet Courtyard: Enjoy some quiet time in the serene courtyard of St. George’s Convent, complete with a lovely Renaissance fountain.

Close to Other Sites: Make the most of your trip to the Prague Castle area by stopping at St. George’s Basilica, close to other must-see spots like St. Vitus Cathedral and Golden Lane.

Art and Iconography Inside St. George’s Basilica

The interior of St. George’s Basilica is a treasure trove of art and iconography, with frescoes that date back to the 12th century. 

These artworks depict scenes from the lives of saints, including St. George himself, woven into the very fabric of the basilica. 

The Altar of St. Ludmila, adorned with a precious depiction of the saint, is a highlight, showcasing the basilica’s role in both religious devotion and artistic expression.

Legends and Lore Associated with St. George’s Basilica

St. George’s Basilica is wrapped in legends and lore, with tales of saints and spirits adding layers of mystery to its ancient stones. 

One such legend tells of a hidden chamber beneath the basilica where the saint himself imprisoned a powerful dragon. 

These stories, passed down through generations, enrich the basilica’s historical narrative, inviting visitors to explore the site and its mythical past.

The Baroque Chapels 

Architect F.M. Kanka designed the Baroque Chapel of St. John Nepomuk in the 18th century.

It is housed within the basilica, which combines Romanesque and Baroque buildings. 

This Baroque Chapel is a striking addition to the basilica and is one of the key elements that reflect the Baroque influence on the site. 

Furthermore, the basilica’s interior is predominantly Romanesque, with simple limestone block walls contrasting with Prague’s baroque and rococo churches.

Burial Site of Premyslid Dynasty

The St. George Basilica in Prague Castle is renowned for being the burial site of the illustrious Premyslid dynasty. 

The mausoleum in the basilica holds the tombs of several members of the Premyslid dynasty, including St. Ludmila, the grandmother of St. Wenceslas, and Vratislaus I.

Also, Duke of Bohemia, Agnes of Bohemia, Jaromír, Duke of Bohemia, Oldřich, Duke of Bohemia, and Boleslaus II. 

The basilica’s rich history and significance as the final resting place of these historical figures make it a destination for those interested in the Czech Republic’s royal heritage.

Fragments of 12th-Century Frescoes

During excavations under the cathedral floor, fragments of 12th-century frescoes have been unearthed in the St. George Basilica. 

These fragments provide valuable insights into the artistic and cultural heritage of the basilica, dating back to the 12th century. 

In the early 14th century, the renowned Bohemian artist Master Theodoric painted frescoes on the basilica’s walls. 

The discovery of these fragments and the presence of frescoes from different periods make it a significant site for studying medieval art and religious iconography.

Remains of St. Ludmila

Ascend the majestic double staircase to a site of reverence—Saint Ludmila’s ultimate resting place. 

As you climb these sacred steps, you can’t help but feel a sense of wonder.

The remains of St. Ludmila, the grandmother of St. Wenceslas, are housed in the St. George Basilica in a separate Gothic-style chapel dedicated to her. 

The chapel, located in the southern nave of the basilica, serves as the final resting place for St. Ludmila and holds her tomb and relics. 

The chapel was added to the basilica in the 13th century and is a significant site for those interested in the history of the Premyslid dynasty and the early Christianization of Bohemia.

St. George’s Basilica Today: A Living Monument

Today, St. George’s Basilica continues to play a vital role in Prague’s cultural and spiritual life. 

Beyond serving as a place of worship, it hosts concerts and cultural events celebrating Czech heritage and sacred music’s enduring beauty.

Its inclusion in Prague Castle tours allows visitors from around the globe to look at its architectural grandeur and historical depth.

Planning Your Visit to Basilica St. George Prague

Open to the public year-round, the Basilica welcomes visitors to explore its nave, chapels, and exhibitions. 

For a detailed experience, consider joining a guided tour to uncover the stories behind its ancient walls.

St George Basilica Prague Opening Hours

April – October: 9 am to 5 pm
November – March: 9 am to 4 pm
It remains closed on December 24th.

Best Time to Visit St George Basilica

We recommend you plan your visit for early morning as soon as it opens at 9 am or late afternoon after 4 pm to avoid crowds and fully appreciate the basilica. 

These quieter hours allow you to appreciate the serenity without the crowds of tourists. Remember that early birds have the best views!

Read More.

Where is St George Basilica located?

Address: Hradčany 119 08 Prague 1, Czechia.

Find on the Map

St. George Basilica is located in the Lesser Town area, also known as Mala Strana, on the castle’s western side.

Frequently Asked Questions About St. George Basilica

What is St. George Basilica?

The St. George’s Basilica, located within the Prague Castle complex, is a magnificent and historic church boasting Romanesque, Gothic, and Baroque architectural elements. 

When was St. George’s Basilica built?

While the initial construction began in 920 AD and consecration happened in 921 AD, the St. George Basilica’s current form reflects various periods and architectural influences throughout its long history.

Where can I buy St. George Basilica tickets?

The Prague Castle admission ticket will also give you access to this basilica.

What are the timings of St. George Basilica?

St. George’s Basilica Prague remains open to visitors from 9 am – 5 pm (1st April – 31st October) and 9 am – 4 pm (1st November – 31st March).

Is St. George Basilica worth visiting?

If you’re interested in history, architecture, religious art, or seeking a peaceful space within the Prague Castle complex, St. George Basilica can be a worthwhile addition to your visit.

Can I take photographs inside St. George Basilica?

You are permitted to click photographs inside St. George Basilica at Prague Castle. 
However, visitors must respect the sacred atmosphere without using flash photography or disturbing other visitors.

Are there any guided tours available for St. George Basilica?

By booking a guided tour of Prague Castle, you can cover St George Basilica.
It’s an excellent way to extend your visit and obtain a better grasp of the location.

Is there anything else to explore near St. George Basilica?

St. George Basilica is part of the vast Prague Castle complex, which contains a plethora of sights and landmarks to discover.
You can visit St. Vitus Cathedral, the Old Royal Palace, or the stunning Golden Lane, which are all within walking distance of the basilica.

Can I visit St. George Basilica with Prague Castle tickets?

The Prague Castle ticket includes access to St. George Basilica, along with St. Vitus Cathedral, the Old Royal Palace, Daliborka Tower, and the Golden Lane.

Featured Image: Rocter /Getty Image

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