Prague Loreta is a pilgrimage site of the Prague Castle District that is located close to Strahov Monastery. The name comes from an Italian city Loreto, where the House of the Virgin Mary or Santa Casa (Holy House) was transported from Nazareth in the 13th century. According to the legend, Santa Casa was miraculously saved by angels, who rescued it from a city seized by Muslims and took it first to Dalmatia and then to a forest in Italy.
The archeological excavations proved that three walls of the Italian Holy House, indeed, come from the time of Christ's life. It was also discovered, that the original Santa Casa was taken apart and moved to Europe in the 13th century by a wealthy Angeli family. Their name gave rise to the legend of angels' rescue operation. The Italian copy Santa Casa was constructed Donato d'Angelo (another angel!), and it became a popular pilgrimage site. Unfortunately, the building was partially destroyed by fire in 1921, but Prague Loreta is one of its best replicas that you can find!
Prague Loreta was founded in 1626 by Katherine of the Lobkowic family, a religious aristocratic dynasty. Katherine invited a Viennese architect Giovanni Orsi, who also worked on the construction of St. Nicholas Church in Lesser Town. He designed a Baroque complex with Santa Casa surrounded by chapels and a church, that was entrusted to the Capuchin Monastery nearby.
Prague Santa Casa has several bricks from the Italian Loreto in its foundation, which makes it a popular pilgrimage site. It is decorated with stucco reliefs that portray several biblical scenes by Giovanni Cometa. The exterior of the Holy House also has marble statues of the Old Testament's prophets Zachariah, Malachi, Jeremiah, Isaiah, and Moses.
The facade is decorated with Baroque statues of St. Antonio of Padua, St. Joseph, St. John the Baptist, St. Francis of Assisi, St. John of Nepomuk, and 18 cherubims.
Prague Loreta is also famous for its Carillon - the last surviving Baroque musical instrument of its kind in Europe! Its 27 bells were made by Amsterdam-born Claud Fremy in 1683-1691. In 1895, Prague clock master, Petr Neumann, connected Carillon to the clock on the Loreta tower and created a one-of-a-kind mechanism that chimes melodies every hour sharp. Interestingly, this musical instrument can also be played on keys, and many famous musicians, such as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Franz List, and Frank Zappa, were able to try it!
The only rival to this treasury is the one of the St. Vitus Cathedral. The gem of Loreta's Treasury is Prague Sun - a monstrance decorated with 6,222 diamonds, that was created by John Bernard Fischer von Erlach in 1699. It weighs 12 kilograms and when the light hits it, it shines like the Sun! There are many more beautiful artifacts and paintings in the Treasury, but you have to see it with your own eyes!
Prague Loreta is open the whole year.
You don't need to book in advance. Prague Loreto is one of the off-the-beaten-path monuments. There is never a line for tickets. You can purchase the tickets directly at the Loreto entrance.
The entrance fee to Loreta is 180 CZK. It is opened every day from 9:30 till 16:00 in winter, and from 9:00 till 17:00 in summer.
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Author: Valeriia Zahradnikova and Vaclav Zahradnik, Prague guides certified by Prague City Tourism agency. Valeriia and Vaclav have worked in tourism for over 6 years and have guided thousands of Prague visitors.