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.
There are a few St. Nicholas Churches kicking around Prague – here is the one in Malá Strana (the Lesser Quarter).
The interior is pink pastry, topping even St. James Cathedral in Innsbruck. If bloodthirsty cherubim and frescoes aren’t to your taste, look for the 19th century graffiti on the railings of the second floor balcony.
Or gird your quads for a trip to the tower. You’ll get a splendid view of the city – and a Soviet-era urinal.
During the Cold War, the Russians used the tower as a convenient observatory post. Spies past their prime were sent to the Dedkárna (Old Geezers’ Room) or Dedkostroj (Old Geezers’ Machine) to keep an eye on “enemy” embassies.
St. Nicholas’s ceiling – The Apotheosis of St. Nicholas – comes to you courtesy of the Austrian artist, Johann Lukas Kracker. It’s one of the largest ceiling frescoes in Europe.
Mozart played here.
Or, to be more precise, Mozart played on this organ. Built by the Jesuit Thomas Scwharz (1745-1747), the organ has over 4,000 pipes.
Mozart’s connection with Prague came about through his friendship with composer Frantisek Dusek and his wife Josefina. They first met in Salzburg, when the Duseks were on their honeymoon.
In January 1787, Mozart arrived for his first extended stay in the Paris of the East, conducting The Marriage of Figaro in the Nostic Theatre.
He returned in August, staying at the Dusek’s villa Betramka. There in the peace of the countryside – and in the ripe ground of the local pubs – he polished off the overture for Don Giovanni. According to legend, he wrote part of the score in between turns playing skittles in the garden.
Don Giovanni premiered on the 29th of October, 1787 in the Estates Theatre and was a roaring success. Though he never again achieved that level of accolade, Mozart is still remembered with great fondness by the city.
Check out this article for more on Mozart’s time in Prague.