Prague’s famous Jiřího z Poděbrad church consecrated 90 years ago

Church of the Most Sacred Heart of Our Lord at Jiřího z Poděbrad square, Prague

One of the most famous religious buildings in the Czech Republic is the Roman Catholic Church of the Most Sacred Heart of Our Lord on Prague’s Jiřího z Poděbrad square. Built during the interwar era, it was consecrated in May 1932, and has been listed as a National Cultural Monument since 2010.

The unique structure is full of royal symbolism. The protruding stones on the building’s façade are reminiscent of a royal ermine cloak. Meanwhile, the metal dome on the tower of the building is supposed to resemble the apple that a ruler would traditionally hold in his right hand.

History of the Church

Photo: Římskokatolická farnost u kostela Nejsvětějšího Srdce Páně

Prague’s Vinohrady district was rapidly expanding at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. In 1919, local district authorities recognised that the Church of Saint Ludmila on Námestí Míru no longer had sufficient capacity to house the faithful. A public tender was therefore organised for a new grand cathedral which would stand on the nearby Jiřího z Poděbrad square. The design of famous Slovene architect Josip Plečnik eventually won the competition.

The grey masonry church has a rectangular floor plan measuring 38m x 26m with a 13m high coffered ceiling. The building’s copper domed tower is 42m high and features a large round window whose original purpose was to let in more sunlight into the church. Later it was decided that the window would house the country’s largest clock, with a diameter of almost seven and a half metres.

Church of the Most Sacred Heart of Our Lord at Jiřího z Poděbrad square,  Prague | Photo: Štěpánka Budková,  Radio Prague International

Plečnik chose a highly decorative façade for the building, with three quarters covered by glazed bricks and the upper part featuring a gallery and low gable. There are also three large portals on the façade.

The church was consecrated on May 8, 1932, by the Archbishop of Prague, Cardinal Karel Kašpar. The church’s dedication to Jesus’ heart was supposed to express gratitude to God for the country’s recent acquisition of independence, while also beseeching the lord to keep the country safe.

Six bells were consecrated inside the tower. These would be taken down by the Nazi occupiers during the Second World War, in order to be melted down into arms. Only the smallest bell survived. In 1992, two more of the original bells, created by the well-known Manoušek family, were added to the church.