Bethlehem Chapel - where Master Jan Hus preached

Bethlehem Chapel

The first preaching chapel in Europe was founded 630 years ago.

The Bethlehem Chapel in Prague's Old Town was established by a foundation deed from May 24, 1391 by Hanuš of Mühlheim and Jan Kříž. It was intended exclusively for sermons delivered in Czech.

Bethlehem Square in the 18th century | Source: A. Kubíček,  Betlémská kaple/Wikimedia Commons,  public domain

For over a decade, between 1402 and 1413, it was used by Master Jan Hus, followed by Jakoubek of Stříbro and other important preachers. Beginning in 1609, it was administered for a short while by the Unity of Brethren.

The reform traditions of the Bethlehem Chapel were thwarted by the Battle of White Mountain in 1620. The building slowly deteriorated and authorities decided to demolish it in the 1880s.

The only thing that survived were fragments of the outer wall. It was restored after 1948 by the Communists, who embraced the Hussite tradition and used it to legitimize their own ideology.

Alfons Mucha - 'Jan Hus preaches at Bethlehem Chapel' | Photo: public domain

The reconstruction was undertaken by the architect Jaroslav Frágner, who designed a copy of the original medieval building and used the preserved fragments within the newly built construction.

Bethlehem Chapel | Photo: Øyvind Holmstad,  Wikimedia Commons,  CC BY-SA 3.0

Today, the Bethlehem Chapel in the Old Town is administered by the Czech Technical University in Prague, which uses the chapel as its Grand Aula. The building is also used to host important cultural and social events.

In connection with the 600th anniversary of the death of Jan Hus in 2015, a new bronze bell was placed in the Bethlehem Chapel tower and a special installation was unveiled on its side wall – a sign reading "For the Truth", which can only be seen in sunny weather – a reminder of the fact that the truth is sometimes hidden.

"For the Truth" | Photo: Jan Charvát,  Czech Radio
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