Night of Open Churches opens 1,800 houses of prayer across Czechia

More than 1,800 churches, temples and religious sites will open their doors to the public within the 15th annual Night of Open Churches on Friday, June 2. The event includes concerts, exhibitions, and access to houses of prayer otherwise closed to the public. I spoke with Stanislav Zeman from the Prague Archbishopric and asked him how this increasingly popular tradition started.

Photo: Štěpánka Budková,  Radio Prague International

“It started in Germany actually, in the year 2003, namely in Frankfurt and Hannover. They say it started by coincidence, by a church accidentally being left open in the evening. People were interested and sneaked in. And the clergy realized that people were interested and would welcome the chance to visit churches even in the night hours and so that is how it begun. Slowly, it spread all over Europe. For example, two years after, in 2005, Vienna joined massively, the year after that Brno – the Moravian Diocese – joined in and in the following year it went nationwide.”

The event has become increasingly popular. What are you offering the public this year and are all churches open or only Catholic churches?

Photo: Štěpánka Budková,  Radio Prague International

“It is an Ecumenical action, so also Protestant churches are involved, all Christian denominations are opening their churches, chapels and prayer rooms. This year we have a record number of churches taking part – 1,805 are “logged in” for the event.”

And in some of them there are cultural events taking place?

“Of course. In some of them you can just enter and observe and sit quietly, maybe they will switch on some music, but in others there will be special events. We know about 7,600 programs including concerts, exhibitions, lectures or just talking to a priest. There’s a big variety of programs and I am sure people will find what they prefer.”

Photo: Štěpánka Budková,  Radio Prague International

Is it mostly believers who come or is this for the broad public? Is this intended to get people to come to church who would not otherwise do so?

“Exactly. This is not only for believers, it is mainly for people who are just interested. No one need be ashamed of not knowing the rituals and so on. The aim is to attract and inspire people who have never entered a church or go very rarely.”

Is there a special theme this year?

The Church of St. Kajetan in Nerudova Street | Photo: VitVit,  Wikimedia Commons,  CC BY-SA 4.0 DEED

“This year is focused on baptism – the sacrament and the ritual itself. But also this year we are marking 300 years since the death of the genius Czech Baroque architect Jan Blažej Santini  -so where it is possible we show his work and there will be a lecture in the Church of St. Kajetan in Nerudova Street in Prague where he lived and he also left his mark on his church architectonically.”

I understand there is also a special app that people can use for the Night of Open Churches?

“Yes there is, either on Android or Apple. The novelty this year is a QR code where you can “like” your favorite church and it will be shown on the main website”