Preservation and Restoration of the Dominican Priory in Prague

The project for reconstruction and renewal of the Dominican priory in Prague began several years ago. First ideas were formed in 2006. The company Cortuum s.r.o. provided extensive support to the Dominican brothers in their initial efforts. Thanks to this company, a range of professional research and analysis was generated, as well as technical information. This rich material served as a starting point for developing an architectural study for the reconstruction of the monastery building. The realization of this study, which was finished in spring 2011, was the work of architect Josef Pleskot and his studio.

Repair of the building itself is not enough, the work needs to have a deeper purpose. This purpose is the community of the Dominican brothers acting in the spirit of their order’s mission. Although the focus of the religious order has remained unchanged for centuries, specific initiatives are always determined by the contemporary context. At present, the platform Domi­nikánská 8 – Place of Education and Culture at the Priory of St. Giles in Prague is the way in which the Dominican brothers help to shape the spiritual and cultural environment of the times.

Preservation and restoration of the Dominican priory in Prague includes both the aim of refurbishment of the building and especially the efforts to open the place to benefit wider public.

We treasure what we have

The Dominican priory of St. Giles together with its church is an important locality in Prague’s Old Town. It is a place with a long and famous history. In the first quarter of the 13th century, the first body of canons in the town was founded and later a school was established. The Utraquists worked here, the Hussite storm swept through, too. The Dominicans have resided at St. Giles from 1626 to the present day. They have rebuilt the original church and built a monastery in the Baroque style.

The Prague monastery was always one of the most important places for the work of the Dominicans in our country. The order´s General Study was one of the founding subjects of the Charles University. At present, researchers can draw from a rich library. The monastery has been a centre of intellectual and artistic life and is an inherent part of the spiritual and cultural landscape of Prague.

vážíme si toho, co máme

We feel a responsibility

The heritage we have received from previous generations imposes obligations on us. Our task is to preserve the material cultural values and the spiritual legacy of our predecessors. An even more urgent commitment is to keep this heritage alive and develop it further. We cannot let it become a celebrated but dead, memento. We approach the past with humble respect; we perceive and accept the present with healthy caution and we look into the future with a firm hope.

cítíme odpovědnost

We want to open up

The functioning community of friars which invigorates the old walls of the monastery is not here just for itself since the Dominicans are the order of preachers. For a long time our priories have been centres of education not only for the order itself but also for its surroundings. At St. Giles we also organize various lectures, debates and cultural events.

In future, we want to expand these activities and focus especially on the Christian concept of humanity because this question stands at the heart of our Western civilization. This could develop in time into a firmer institutional form of education and research. We want to offer a part of the original monastic cells to visitors. The modest equipment of the cells, free from clutter, can, together with the monastery´s si­lence, provide a space for focusing, gaining strength, listening and spiritual renewal. The guests´ cells will be available both to participants in one of the organized programmes and to people who would like to leave the noise of the street and the daily rush for a moment and enter a contemplative place. They will be able to join our religious life, study in our library or focus on their own work. The monastic character will be preserved throughout the entire building.

chceme se otevřít

We create conditions

The priory has been neglected over the last sixty years. The building is in an unsatisfactory condition, some parts are even in serious disrepair. Its equipment is very outdated and accommodation does not meet current needs or health and safety regulations. Improving the external conditions is a prerequisite for further life and development of this place.

The concept behind the architectural design for the recovery is based on four points:

– Creation of a New Entrance

Creating a new friendly public entrance is needed to make the opening of the priory a reality. The best place to do it is at the corner of the building where Husova, Jalovcová and Řetězová Streets cross each other. There is free space there toward which the monastery wants to open up.

vytvoření nového vstupu

– Offering the Space to Visitors

The quadrangle of the priory will be divided diagonally into a cloistered part and part for guests. The cloistered part designated only for monks will consist of two wings perpendicular to each other, along Jilská Street and St. Giles church. This division of the building creates an impression of wide-open arms to guests who will use the monastic cells in the two remaining wings. The community of brothers will thus offer space to people who will come in via the newly built entrance.

nabídnutí prostoru příchozím

– Connecting with the Church of St. Giles

The Baroque priory building was attached to the majestic medieval church very pragmatically. Numerous building changes of the wing adjoining the church show that the connection between both units was never perceived as satisfactory. On all floors, the reconstruction aims to renew elements which in past created a closer attachment and connection between the monastery and the church. The culmination of the development will be an adjustment to the roof of the priory´s south wing following the original historic intention to build another floor here. At the same time, this will create a very quiet and calm place in the cloistered part of the priory.

přimknutí ke kostelu sv. Jiljí

– Revival of the Medieval Levels

Opening the priory could compromise its quiet environment, especially the silence of the paradise garden. The renewed monastery therefore requires meeting spaces which are placed under the level of the cloister. On the basis of recent archaeological research, we can deduce that making a cellar under the north wing of the building and the cloister will be possible, and will create new spaces needed to fulfill the programme intentions of the renovated priory. The most valuable part of the archaeological structures will be preserved for the future. By descending about four metres under the current level of the cloister, activity will return to the spaces where social life in the Middle Ages had pulsed.

oživení středověké úrovně