Olomouc – UNESCO Site

 

By Tracy A. Burns

Origin of Olomouc

Located a mere two hours from Prague by Pendolino, the central Moravian city of Olomouc is well-worth a one or two-day visit on any tourist’s itinerary. Founded in the 10th century, the town served as the capital of Moravia from 1187 to 1641. The last Přemyslid king, Wenceslas III, was even murdered in this town during 1306, putting a halt to the Přemyslid dynasty.

Historical center of Olomouc

In the center of the city are two picturesque monument-flanked main squares, dotted with a plague column and fountains with rich sculptural decoration. The middle of the Upper Square is punctuated by a four-winged Renaissance town hall, originally built in the late 14th century. The neo-gothic façade of the northern wing dates from the start of the 20th century. The town hall features a Renaissance portal, loggia, and late Gothic oriel windows as well as an astronomical clock that was stripped of its religious symbolism in the 1950s due to the Stalinist ideology of that period.

Kutna Hora & Bone Church Tours from Prague

Plague column – UNESCO

Nearby the vast Holy Trinity Baroque group sculpture, the largest of its kind in the country, measures 35 meters and dates from the 18th century and was completed by Johann Ignaz Rokický after four other builders died during the plague column’s construction. Baroque statuary abounds at this site that has been protected by UNESCO since 2000. It is highlighted by gilded copper statues of a gold dove, God the Father making a blessing and Christ clutching a cross while perched on a globe. Archangel Michael makes an appearance with a sword and shield while angels swoop Mary away. Six saints stand around three reliefs depicting Christian virtues – the allegories of Faith, Hope and Charity. The bases of the columns are richly decorated with 18 stone sculptures of saints and 14 reliefs. Notice Jesus’ mother’s parents Saint Anne and Saint Joachim. Saints Cyril and Methodius, who spread Christianity throughout the Great Moravian Empire in 863 AD are also represented. There is an inner chapel, too. One of the reliefs there shows Abraham with Isaac and a lamb. The cities of Jerusalem and Olomouc can bee seen in the background of the relief illustrating Jesus’ death.

Saint Moritz Church

But that is not all Olomouc has to offer. Situated at one end of Upper Square, the Saint Moritz Church is a significant example of Gothic architecture in Moravia, even though the interior has been reconstructed in Baroque fashion. Its 18th century organ with more than 10, 000 pipes is the largest of its kind in the country and one of the biggest in the world.

Cathedral of St. Wenceslas

In Olomouc there are many other churches worth peeking into as well. Take the cathedral of St. Wenceslas, for example. Originally an unfinished Romanesque basilica, it is constructed in neo-gothic style and studded with Renaissance and Baroque chapels as well as a late Gothic altar.

Other sights

The Baroque Church of St. Mary-in-the-Snow exhibits exquisite interior painting, and St. Michal’s Church boasts rich Baroque decor. Many Baroque palaces also dot the town. Olomouc’s castle consists of the remains of the Romanesque Přemyslid Palace from the second half of the 12th century.

Museum of Art

One sight not to be missed is the superb Museum of Art. Visitors can goggle paintings by Dutch and Flemish artists from the 16th to the 18th centuries and art during the years 1894-1914, consisting of creations in Art Nouveau, Modernist and Cubist styles ranging from architecture and painting to graphics and even some exquisite books. Painters represented in the collection include Lucas Cranach the elder, Jan I Brueghel, Paolo Veronese and Anthonis van Dyck. Modern sculpture is another highlight.

Places worth a visit around Olomouc

While in Olomouc, don’t neglect to take the bus to the stop called Svatý Kopeček Bazilika (Holy Hill Basilica) to see the magnificent Baroque pilgrimage site, the Church of the Visitation of the Virgin Mary. There is also a plethora of castles and chateaus near Olomouc, such as Bouzov, Kroměříž and Šternberk.

To be sure, Olomouc is a splendid starting point for all central and northern Moravia has to offer.


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