Church of St Wenceslas, Na Zderaze, Prague, Czech Republic


Kostel sv. Václava, ulice Na Zderaze / Resslova, 120 00 Praha 2
Description of work:
Securing of stone elements and vaulting in the interior of the church
Restoration of the wall paintings
The Religious Community of the Czechoslovak Hussite Church
Contractor: GEMA ART GROUP a.s.
Implementation: 05 – 10 / 2006


Overall view of the Church of St. Wenceslas Church of St. Wenceslas Main entrance Gothic window Interior of the church Interior of the church

  • History
  • Restoration work
  • More information

 The beginnings of the Church of St Wenceslas Na Zderaze go probably as far back as the 12th century. The first mention of the church dates from the year 1180. The original structure was a small Romanesque church with a semi-circular apse and a square tower, located in the immediate proximity of the Church of St Peter and St Paul. By 1191 the surrounding land had been acquired by the Order of the Knights of the Cross with the Red Star. The order, with a strong financial support from the noblemen families of Osek and Švábenice, built on the site a monastery, to which the Church of St Wenceslas belonged. During the 13th century the church gained the status of parish church and the adjacent cemetery was founded.
During the reign of the Emperor Charles IV the church was enlarged and rebuilt in the High Gothic style. The original Romanesque tower underwent alterations and the presbytery was enlarged. In 1420, in the era of Hussite wars, the monastery buildings as well the Romanesque Church of St Peter and St Paul were devastated. The only building spared during the raids of the Utraquist armies was the Church of St Wenceslas, which was used by the Hussite clergy. In the years 1586 to 1587 the vaulting was rebuilt in the Renaissance style under the leadership of the architect Karel Mělnický of Karlsperk.
The church was the subject of further alterations after the Battle of White Mountain in 1620, when it became the property of the Order of St Augustine (Augustinians). In 1646 the church was officially re-consecrated by Cardinal Harrach. The paintings of St Wenceslas, work of the artist Karel Škréta, were installed in the church's interior around this time.
As part of the reforms instigated by the Emperor Josef II the monastery, including the church, were abolished in 1785 and its premises were used as storage space and a laundry.
During the years 1822 to 1826 the building was again altered and served as a prison The church was once more re-consecrated and masses for prisoners were held there. This so-called "St Wenceslas Gaol" functioned until 1884, when the inmates were moved to premises in district of Pankrác. After the First Republic was established in 1918 the church was given to the Czechoslovak Hussite Church, who still owns it at present. The church was reconstructed between June and September 1929, when a celebratory mass was held to commemorate the millennium anniversary of the murder of St Wenceslas.
The church suffered serious damage towards the end of World War II, when it was bombed on 14th February 1945 by the Allies. Repairs on the building were carried out in 1947. In 2006 the dilapidation of the church reached an emergency level and immediate repairs and restoration commenced.

The interior of the Church of St Wenceslas had become so dilapidated that part of the vaulting on the south-eastern side of the building had collapsed. Due to the gravity of the damage a technical building survey had to be carried out, which revealed an extremely serious level of damage not only in the nave vault but also in the vaulting of the presbytery. Concreting steel supports were installed to support the structures and building materials. As part of the survey robustness of the bricks, stone and mortar were measured, as well as levels of dampness in the wall and vaults.
In the next stage the wall paintings with motifs from the life of St Wenceslas, dating back to the 18th century and also severely damaged, were restored. The work was carried out by restorers under the guidance of representatives of the National Heritage Institute and in
accordance with Act No. 20/1987 Coll. on the State Care of Monuments.

Restoration of wall paintings:
Restoration of the wall paintings depicting the legend of St Wenceslas, dating back to the second half of the 18th century, was included in the restoration remit. The author of the paintings is most probably the artist Josef Hager. The paintings had already been restored in 1886 and 1947. Detailed research was carried out prior to restoration: visual survey in ordinary daylight and under ultraviolet light was undertaken as well as infrared reflectography and a chemical-technological examination to ascertain the stratigraphy of the colour layers.
The surveys revealed a number of details about the paintings, such as overpainting, retouching, layers of varnish, secondary sealants, under drawings and artist's corrections (so called pentimenti) and the composition of individual colour layers.
The paintings were in a very poor shape and exhibited extensive mechanical damage, such as a thick layers of dirt and a network of small cracks. In the northern and southern vault fields the cracks reached the length of several metres and widths of several centimetres. The layer of paint had become partially detached from the underlying surface, was pulverized and in places had altogether fallen off. The most severely affected was the field in south-eastern corner of the vault, where the colour layer was completely lost. The situation was aggravated by dampness and occurrence of water soluble salts which caused a whitish opacity. Stratification survey established that the original wall painting was created using the fresco technique of Calcitta secco, which was in many place overlaid by a newer layer of colour.
In the most damaged areas the underlying surface had to be fixed and the plaster stabilized by in-depth consolidant. The layer of colour was strengthened by acrylic dispersion and then cleaned and rid of unsuitable repairs in the plasters. Areas of plaster indicative of damage were consolidated, cracks and other minor defects mended using lime grout. To conclude colour retouching was carried out to ensure visual homogeneity of the paintings.
Interior - Wall paintings Interior - Wall paintings Interior - Wall paintings Wall paintings - before restoration Wall painting - before restoration Interior - Wall paintings
Securing of the vaults and stone elements within the interior:
Because a collapse of the vault belt had occurred in the south-eastern corner of the nave, it became necessary to carry out a building technical survey of the whole church. The vault belts intersect in the 14 metres high nave and in three areas form star shapes. The collapse of the belt was connected to the overall derelict state of the building – when the cause of the collapse was investigated, an increased dampness due to water leakage was detected in the walls, as well extensive cracks both in the wall and the vaults, probably caused by unstable subsurface and level of traffic around the church. The vaults had been in the past stabilized by draw bars in the loft space, but this measure had long since lost its effectiveness.
During the survey other areas in danger of collapse were identified, such as the deformed vaulting in the south side of the presbytery, where the arch had been breached. The locality was secured with metal supports and the cracks in-depth filled. The remaining segment of the damaged vault belt in the south-eastern corner was removed to prevent a possible future accident. The extensive split in the pillar of the north wall of the church was so damaging that it was only possible to repair it after the whole structure of the building was appropriately secured.
Vaults Vaults Vaults Vaults Vaults Vaults