“A huge cultural loss” – historic wooden church burns down in Prague

Photo: Leoš Kučera, Twitter Hasiči Praha

A rare seventeenth century wooden church burned down in Prague on Wednesday. The building, which had been transported to Prague from Carpathian Ruthenia during the interwar era, was completely destroyed. Prague City Hall has since announced it intends to start a fundraiser to rebuild the church.

Photo: VitVit,  CC BY-SA 4.0

Prague has five churches dedicated to Saint Michael the Archangel, but none as unique as that which, until Wednesday, stood in Prague’s Kinsky Gardens.

It had originally been built near the Rusyn city of Mukachevo in the local Boyko style during the second half of the seventeenth century. During the First Republic era, when Carpathian Ruthenia (today in Ukraine) was part of the Czechoslovak state, it was gifted to the city of Prague by Rusyns as a symbol of their folk architecture.

It was dismantled, transported and rebuilt in the Czechoslovak capital, where it stood and served as an Orthodox church until this Wednesday when it burned down completely.

Photo: Leoš Kučera,  Twitter Hasiči Praha

Firefighters were at the scene, but their vehicles had difficulties getting to the church, because it lies atop a hill, the director of the Prague Fire Rescue Service, Luděk Prudil, told reporters on the scene.

“We could not get the vehicles all the way to the church, so we had to use supply hoses to get the water here.

“The damage is significant. The tower and roof have collapsed. The main beams are scorched but they survived. However, experts will have to decide whether the building can be saved. ”

Photo: Leoš Kučera,  Twitter Hasiči Praha

The National Heritage Institute is currently surveying the scene and identifying which parts of the church could possibly be retained.

The damage has so far been estimated to lie in the millions of crowns. What exactly caused the fire is thus far uncertain. However, investigators told CNN Prima News on Thursday that it was likely the result of a human error.

Calls for rebuilding the church appeared soon after the news broke.

Photo: Leoš Kučera,  Twitter Hasiči Praha

The Ukrainian Ambassador to the Czech Republic Yevhen Perebyinis, wrote that the church was one of the “connecting bridges” between Ukraine and the Czech Republic, and that it was a “matter of honour” to have the church restored.

Photo: Leoš Kučera,  Twitter Hasiči Praha

Prague Mayor Zdeňek Hřib said that the burning down of the church was “a huge cultural loss” and it needed to be restored as soon as possible.

On Thursday, the council of Prague City Hall voted in favour of setting up a year-long crowdfunding programme for this purpose. In its press release, City Hall said that the decision now has to be ratified by the Ministry of Interior.

Once this is done, the city administration will publish the bank account to which members of the public can contribute.

Several institutions, such as the National Museum and the Ministry of Culture have already offered to help.

Spokeswoman for the National Heritage Institute Andrea Holasová told Czech Radio that since the church had already been dismantled and rebuilt during the First Republic era the church plans from that time may come in useful.