St Agnes Convent, Prague, Czech Republic

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Address:
Klášter u sv. Anežky České, U Milosrdných 17, 110 00 Praha - Staré Město
Description of work:
Replacement of roof coverings
Metal plating of guttering and bay window above the west and east part of the cloister
Investor:
National gallery Prague
Contractor:
GEMA ART GROUP a.s.
Implementation: 09/2012-05/2013

 

The former convent dedicated to St Agnes of Bohemia, one of the most distinguished females in Czech history, has been listed as a National Cultural Monument of the Czech Republic since 1978. The building of the convent was commissioned by the daughter of the Přemyslid King Ottokar I together with her brother, King Wenceslas I, and took place between the years 1231 and 1234. It was the first convent of the Order of Poor Clares built in RomanesqueGothic style on Czech territory.

Soon after its completion in 1234, St Agnes became the convent's first abbess. Shortly thereafter a male convent of the Order of Friars Minor was built in the immediate vicinity. Although the two establishments were close neighbours they led separate spiritual lives. The female convent and its Church of St Francis covered a larger area than the neighbouring Franciscan monastery and the Church of St Barbara.
In 1261 the Church of St Salvador was added to the complex and was to serve as a designated burial place for the members of the Přemyslid dynasty. It was the last resting place of the convent's founder St Agnes, King Wenceslas I and his wife Kunigunda von Schwaben, their son Ottokar II and his wife Kunigunda of Halych, her sister Gutta and others. The importance of the convent as a spiritual and cultural centre of Prague after the death of Agnes of Bohemia in March 1282 gradually lessened.
During the Hussite wars the convent was ransacked by the Utraquist armies, who used the buildings as a weaponry store. The nuns from the Convent of Poor Clares took refuge in St Anne's Monastery, which was one of the few spared from destruction. Once the wars were over the nuns returned but the convent did not prosper and eventually fell into dereliction. In 1556 its premises were acquired by the Dominican Order and the nuns left for the order's monastery in the town of Panenský Týnec. Over time the convent was renovated and after 70 years, in 1626, became again the property of the Order of Poor Clares and remained so until its abolition during the reforms instigated by the Emperor Joseph II during the years 1781 and 1782. The buildings of the complex were afterwards used by various tradesmen and as accommodation for the poor. As the site was in close proximity to the Prague Jewish ghetto, which was in a dilapidated state, the complete demolition of the whole area was under consideration. Thanks to the high cost of the project and to public outcry at the idea – the Society for the Preservation of the Convent of St Agnes was formed at that time – the plan was eventually abandoned.
Gradual renovation of the Convent of St Agnes took place during the whole of the 20th century with the most intense work done in the years 1953 and 1963, when the interiors were converted for use by the National Gallery. The Gothic architecture of the convent made the premises particularly suitable for the the gallery's collections of Medieval and Early Renaissance art, which were installed there in 2013.
Due to the unique historical significance of the location, the project of reconstruction of the roofs is a prestigious one for the GEMA ART GROUP a.s. company. Before the work can commence, all required tests and measurements will have to be carried out. The renovation of the roof covering concerns the area above the west and east parts of the cloisters, the black kitchen and the north-south wing of the building. Further work will include metal plating of the guttering and of one bay window.
The work commenced in September 2012 and was scheduled for completion on 31st May 2013.