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La sede


La sede


Un profilo storico-architettonico


cappella cupola

cappella cupola







cappella cupola


di Petra Oulìkovà

The Chapel of the Assumption of Virgin Mary, traditionally named after its founders as "Italian", belongs to the most outstanding buildings of its time.

Its importance is not diminished by the fact that we don´t know the architect. At the moment, even the names of the other artists who took part in the decoration are still unknown.

The Chapel was built as a neo-construction between the choir of the church of the Most Holy Saver and the church of St. Clement. The northern side of the Chapel is adjacent to the wing of the Clementinum palace with the sacristy and the linking corridor within the former Jesuit quartering. The original building was finished in 1590, but the process of internal furnishing lasted for another 10 years. The solemn benediction of the Chapel was given by the Papal Nuncio Filippo Spinelli in 1600. The decoration of the inside of the Chapel was completed only in the year 1606. The importance of the Chapel is determined by its perfect typological maturity. It was in fact erected on an oval plant with an internal deambulatory, which creates a low chapel with a circular deambulatory gallery on floor. The building of the deambulatory was most likely determined by the practical need of gathering the majority of people in the Chapel, and by the necessity of joining the Chapel with the adjacent Jesuit College. The oval disposition, meaning the plant based on a dynamic shape, played an important role in the Baroque architecture of the following century. The Manieristic concept, not static, elastic, dinamised by the oval of the plant and of the dome, and by the verticality of the space, was further highlighted by the contrasts achieved through the elegant distribution of the sources of light. The oval had also its symbolic dimension. It embodied the idea of grace and was hence related to "the most gracious Being" – the Virgin Mary. Although the author of the project is unknown, it is evident that it represents a pure example of Roman architecture of the time, which is related to the oval-plant examples, which, at that time, were built by Ottavio Mascarino and Francesco da Volterra.

With regards to the Italian Chapel, the figure of the papal architect Mascarini, who worked for the Vatican in the years 1574 – 1591, is often mentioned. The Italian congregation was able to request the project from Mascarini through Alfonso Visconti, at that time papal nuncio, who laid the foundation stone for the reconstruction of the Prague Chapel. Another source of inventive could potentially be the Jesuits, in particular Antonio Possevino. Possevino was an outstanding art theorist and as delegate of the Pope across Eastern Europe in 1581. He was in Prague, and here, in the old Chapel, he had to preach in Italian.

Either the project of the Italian Chapel was already born in Rome or develop by an Italian architect in Prague, it is sure that the Marian Company chose that shape, still unknown beyond the Alps, for its genuinely Italian traits. Its making was assigned to Italian brick layers and sculptors, among whom there was surely the rector of the Congregation, the court sculptor Antonio Brocco.

In the eighteenth century there were significant structural changes of the Chapel. In the first place, in 1715 there was built an entry colonnade shared by the Church of St. Clement and the Italian Chapel. Its construction was most likely directed by Giovanni Antonio Lurago. Due to the colonnade, the orientation of the Chapel was altered. Twenty years later a radical transformation of the inside of the Chapel followed, and the Chapel acquired a dominant Baroque trait. The fresco of the "Assunta" on the dome ceiling and other wall paintings were made in the years 1733-1735, again, by Italian artists. During the third quarter of the 18th century, the skylight tower was added to the basis of the attic, probably by the other Italian architect Anselmo Lurago. This marked the end of the structural renovations of the Chapel.

In the following years, in spite of the acquisition of a new painting by Josef Bergler for the main altar, in the year 1812, and of the new pipe organs, in the year 1897, the Chapel deteriorated. During the 70s and 90s of the 19th century, there were some refurbishments of the inside and of the outside of the Chapel. During the 20th century, the deterioration process continued up to the point that the need for technical refurbishments and restoration of the whole Chapel became more and more urgent.

It is necessary to preserve its authenticity, since the Italian Chapel not only represents one of the most important and outstanding monument of Rudolf´s Prague, but also of the entire holy Manieristic architecture in Central Europe. The monumental Chapel, over time, overcame two other oval-plant buildings, the Church of St. Michael´s in Augsburg, and the tomb of Pomis of the Habsburgs in Gratz. Already at first sight, due to its shape, it stands out across time and witnesses the homeland of its builders and rectors. It has always been a proof of the always flourishing mutual relations between Italy and the Czech lands.


ultimo aggiornamento 15.07.2016