Strahov Monastery is the seat of the Premonstratensian order founded in 1143 Prague by Bohemian Duke, Vladislaus II, and Bishop of Olomouc, Jindøich Zdík. the Name Strahov derived from the word "guarding" in Czech, as this monastery was the last western defense point in Prague. It is standing close to Prague Castle, but the monastery was never included in its defense system or fell under Hradcany Districts' jurisdiction. Thill this day, you can see part of the walls and gates that are used to separate Strahov Monastery from Prague Castle and protect its western side. Due to its vulnerable position, the monastery has suffered many attacks.
Standing on the outskirts of Medieval Prague, the monastery was taken by siege and burned down in 1420 during the Hussite War. The aftermath of this catastrophe was a long-lasting issue that was resolved only by the end of the 15th century. The Romanesque monastery survived only partially, and later renovations in Renaissance style also did not stand for long.
In 1648, the Swedish army sieged Prague Castle and Strahov Monastery was again damaged. Many precious volumes and scripts from the famous Strahov library were taken as a bounty to Sweden, where they are displayed in museums, palaces, and libraries.
Shortly before the Swedish Army came to Prague, Strahov monastery wrote down another important date to its history: the relics of the Premonstratensian patron, St. Norbert, were brought to Strahov in 1627 from Magdeburg. This is when the nave of the Church of Virgin Marry's Assumption was extended by 7m and its facade was decorated in the Renaissance style. Nevertheless, the Baroque reconstruction of the monastery after the 30 Years War dictates the look of the Strahov complex nowadays. Abbot Jeronym Hirnheim ordered the architect Giovanni Dominico Orsi to build a Theological Hall of Stahov library in 1671-74 and the main monastery gate. The convent buildings were constructed by J.B. Mathey, while the interior decorations of stucco and frescoes were done by Siard Nosecky.
It wasn't long before another war came to the monastery. In 1742-51, the French bombed Strahov, and another construction had to be started. This time, Anselmo Lurago fixed the church's westwerk and Antonin Quittainer added Baroque statues to the complex. The most famous work of this period is the construction of the Philosophical Hall in Strahov Library by I.J. Palliardi in 1783-85.
During Nazism and Communism, monks were expelled from the monastery and were only able to come back after the Velvet Revolution in 1989.
Prague's stunning Strahov Monastery library is one of the biggest and the most beautiful libraries in the Czech Republic. The library's collection is comprised of over 60,000 volumes and is spread over two halls: Theological and Philosophical.
Theological Hall was built in 1674 by an Italian architect Giovanni Dominico Orsi, who designed a stunning Baroque library decorated with stucco and frescoes. The decorations were done by a member of the Premonstratensian order, Siard Nosecky. The frescoes mainly portray Proverbs from the Bible and some of the quotes from Abbot Hirnhaim's teachings. The name of the hall comes from the subject of books stored in it - Theology or religious studies. There are 18,000 volumes stored in the bookshelves and multiple astronomical and terrestrial globes in the hallway.
Philosophical Hall stores 42,000 volumes not only on philosophical subjects but also on astronomy, history, mathematics, etc. This hall is bigger than the Theological one and measures 32 m in length, 14 m in height, and 22 m in width. It was built at the end of the 18th century on the order of Abbot Václav Mayer, who wanted to extend the storage space for the Strahov Library collection. He hired Italian architect Jan Ignác Palliardi for the construction of the new classicist building and a library. Palliardi had to adapt the hall for the walnut bookshelves that were brought from the dissolved Premonstratensian monastery in Louka by Znojmo. The grandiose fresco portraying the Intellectual Progress of Mankind had been painted for over 6 months by Viennese painter Anton Maulbertsch and his only assistant.
Strahov Library was visited by several historical figures, such as Sir William Hamilton (British archeologist and politician), his wife Lady Emma Hamilton, and her lover and the victor of the Battle of Trafalgar, Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson. The most famous guest was Napoleon's wife Marie Louise, who gifted the library a four-volume work on the first Louvre museum, a present criticized by Napoleon for revealing the extent of his war loot.
Strahov Monastery Picture Gallery
Monks of Strahov Monastery have a long tradition of beer-brewing - 600 years! Strahov Brewery as we know it today was built in the 18th century by Abbot Kaspar Questenberg, and later reconstructed after the Thirty Tears War. The brewery makes more than 25 kinds of beer, the most famous one being unfiltered unpasteurized St. Norbert beer in an amber lager, a dark lager, and an IPA. They also have a restaurant with a terrace, which is very popular in summer. We recommend checking the official webpage of Strahov Monastery Brewery for making any reservations.
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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.