The story of the nosy church official…
Rumor has it that the painter of the chapel fresco (I’ve seen it ascribed to Karel Skréta, Johann Kracker and a variety of other names) liked to work in privacy. One day he spotted a Jesuit church official peeking in on his progress. As punishment, he included the spy in his painting. Espionage, it seems, has been with St. Nicholas Church since the beginning.
The former seat of the Czechoslovak parliament (1918-1938) is now the home of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra.
In bad weather, Vladislav Hall did double duty as a stadium for indoor jousting tournaments. That’s why the Riders’ Staircase is wide enough – and tall enough – to admit a knight a horseback. Beats the Astrodome.
In 1989, President Václav Havel decided that the khaki communist uniforms of the castle guards had to go. He turned to an old friend, Theodor Pistek, for help.
Pistek had been the costume designer for Milos Forman’s Amadeus and knew a thing or two about fabric. After careful consideration, he came up with the blue outfit seen here – an echo of army uniforms from the first Czechoslovak Republic (1918-1938).
Alfons Mucha (1860-1939) was an Art Nouveau artist with a sensuous taste for life. If you’re in Prague for more than a day, don’t miss a visit to the Mucha Museum. Go at least an hour after opening to avoid running into the tour crowds.
Mucha catapulted to fame with his poster for Sarah Bernhardt in Giselda and never looked back. In a flurry of beauty, he produced promotional material for the Divine Sarah; ads for cigarette papers, champagne and tourist boards; jewelry, stage sets and costumes. Look for swirling floral motifs and wide-eyed women in flowing drapery.
A proud patriot, Mucha devoted much of his later art to his country. In addition to this magnificent window in St. Vitus Cathedral, he designed stamps and banknotes for the ill-fated 1920s-1930s republic and worked on the Lord Mayor’s Hall. His decidedly epic 20-canvas Slav Epic took him 18 years to complete.
In the spring of 1939, Mucha was arrested by the Gestapo. During the interrogation, the 78-year-old artist contracted pneumonia, eventually being released due to illness. He died a few days later.