Czech “Machu Picchu” becomes popular wedding location

Church of St. Nicholas, photo: Ľubomír Smatana, Czech Radio

A few years ago, archaeologists excavated the remains of a medieval church on a small hill in the middle of Slavkov Forest in western Bohemia. Since then the remains of the Church of St. Nicholas, dating back to the 13th century, have become one of the most visited local landmarks and a popular site for romantic weddings.

Church of St. Nicholas, photo: Ľubomír Smatana, Czech Radio

Photo: Ľubomír Smatana, Czech Radio
For years people living in the vicinity believed that the uneven terrain and isolated rocks sticking from the ground were the remains of old fortifications. But when archaeologists started digging in the area in 2002 they discovered the remains of a medieval church, believed to be the Church of St. Nicolas, first mentioned in historical records in 1246. What they unearthed was a Gothic arch of the church’s main portal, a stone altar and the remains of church walls.

Further efforts to locate a settlement or graveyard in the vicinity of the church proved fruitless. The ruins stand isolated in the middle of wilderness – adding to the feeling of mystery that the place evokes.

Viktorie De Stefanisová, a registrar and archivist from the nearby town of Horní Slavkov, says the site has become incredibly popular for weddings.

Photo: Ľubomír Smatana, Czech Radio
“Dad grew up here after the war and said it was always a mysterious place. The hill was overgrown and no one knew that there was ever a church here. Since it was uncovered, I often oversee weddings in the church ruins. We've already had about twenty of them here."

In its heyday the Church of St. Nicholas would have served for fifty people, the remains of the Gothic portal, which faces East, and the altar, are well preserved. Jiří Klsák, an archaeologist from the Karlovy Vary Museum, told Czech Radio the location of the church was not as big a mystery as it might seem.

"This is where an important trade road from Cheb to Prague led in the 13 century. Weary travellers could stop, pray and even rest here. Possibly, they could also spend the night here. Surprisingly, there were tiles among the finds. "

Today the road from the nearby village of Hrušková which winds its way in the vicinity is no longer as deserted as it used to be. Wedding guests park their cars at some distance and walk to the ruins. There are also more and more bikers using the trail that leads past the ruins which were completely hidden from sight twenty years ago.

But it is at sunrise and nightfall, when the place is completely deserted, that the ruins of the Church of St. Nicholas, dubbed the Czech Machu Picchu, best stand out in their timeless beauty.

Church of St. Nicholas, photo: Ľubomír Smatana, Czech Radio