Prague: St. James Church, House of the Golden Ring, Týn Church, Powder Tower, Jerusalem Synagogue, Medieval Art

On my last day in Prague I visited a church, a museum, another church, a tower, a synagogue, and a medieval-art gallery, nee convent.

Church of St. James

The Church of St. James, Kostel Sv. Jakuba, was tucked away and a little hard to find even with my mapping app.

Not much to look at on the outside, the inside of this old Gothic church was lavishly redecorated in the baroque style in the late 17th century. Lots of rich wood complemented the beautiful altarpiece, statues, stained glass windows, and other ornamentation.

House of the Golden Ring

The House of the Golden Ring contained a small museum that explores Prague’s urbanism, structures, and design in the time of Charles IV. That time was from Charles’ arrival in Bohemia in 1333 to his death in 1378.

The museum displayed some artifacts. Pictures of a few of them are below. However, it conveyed most of the information through clever animated videos and interactive displays.

I say clever because of the audio. On entering the museum, I received headphones for my use while there. The headphones had a dongle on the end of the wire hanging down from the earpieces.

The cylindrical dongle had “EN” printed on one side of the cylinder. Rotating the cylinder showed “CZ.”

I guessed, correctly, that these were languages. However, the use of the dongle was not obvious. The woman who handed me the headphones didn’t speak English. Her instructions to me involved a series of pointing and pantomime demonstrations.

(We were at a display when she gave me instructions. Why she pantomimed it rather than just doing it for me the first time is a mystery to me.)

The end of the dongle was magnetic. Each of the video areas and interactive displays had strips or posts with lit rings embedded in them. Attaching the magnet to the metal plug inside the rings connected the sound.

(Shades of Apple’s MagSafe connectors for MacBooks. I’ll never forgive Apple for doing away with those.)

On the personalized interactive displays, I selected the language I wanted on the screen, assuming I wanted English or Czech. The selected language came out of the earpieces regardless of how I oriented the dongle.

At animated videos intended for larger audiences and at non-interactive displays, if I attached the magnetic dongle with the “EN” up I got English. Otherwise I got Czech.

I guess people who speak neither Czech nor English are out of luck. We anglophones are the most spoiled travelers in the world.

Alright; alright. I know this is a post on a museum in Prague, not on technology, but the gadget lover in me thought it was cool. If you’re not happy with having to read about the technology I’ll give you a full refund.

Oh, that Hebrew below? That’s a fragment of a Jewish gravestone.

By the way, while I wandered through the museum I saw about a half dozen or so staff and not another soul. That’s not entirely true. There was a mirrored surface at one point, so I saw myself. And a couple walked in as I was leaving. But that was it. It’s a pity it wasn’t busier. (A pity for the museum, not for me.) I found it interesting.

Týn Church

Unlike the Church of St. James, Týn Church is very easy to find. Its two towers loom over Prague’s Old Town Square.

Its entrance, on the other hand, is less evident. It’s down a short pedestrian alleyway perpendicular to a portico running behind the patios of the restaurants in the newer buildings immediately in front of the church.

Týn Church entrance

What does the lower facade of the front of the church look like? I haven’t the foggiest. Other than a little bit of stonework around the door, none of it was visible because those newer buildings were in the way. The picture to the right is the door and the bit of visible stonework.

To my eye, the interior of Týn Church was less impressive than the Church of St. James. Part of that was because it was less elaborately decorated. Another part was that the colours in interior of St. James were more vibrant. I don’t know, but the interior of St. James might have been cleaned more recently, making it less dingy.

Powder Tower

As if the Old Town Hall tower was not enough, I climbed another tower today. This one was the Powder Tower. It has a street running through its base.

The Powder Tower is mostly an almost black colour, but I think the stone is grey. It could do with a major cleaning. But, then again, who am I to criticize? I clean my condo once a decade whether it needs it or not. Maybe. If the weather isn’t thoroughly atrocious that day I might go for a walk rather than doing my scheduled decennial condo-cleaning.

The tower was, at one time, the main gate into the old walled city. It was also a storehouse for Prague’s gunpowder back when that was a thing in walled cities, hence the name.

The tower’s stairs included a couple of narrow spiral staircases with tight turning circles and a couple of somewhat wider straight sections. The top provided great views.

Jerusalem Synagogue

The Jerusalem Synagogue is also known as the Jubilee Synagogue. It’s Prague’s “new” synagogue.

“New” is in quotes in the preceding paragraph because I’m from Toronto. What, you might ask, has that got to do with scare quotes around “new” when describing the Jerusalem/Jubilee Synagogue?

Toronto is a comparatively young city. Very much so. Toronto’s Old City Hall was completed in 1900. Our New City Hall opened in 1965. Construction of the Jerusalem Synagogue in Prague finished in 1906. Describing as new something that opened only six years after our Old City Hall opened feels weird to me. But, compared to Prague’s old synagogues, Toronto’s Old City Hall is practically an infant. Europeans probably think it weird that we call our Old City Hall old.

Built in the Moorish style, the Jerusalem Synagogue is much more colourful and vibrant than Prague’s old shuls. Rather than me trying to describe it, see the pictures below.

When I was there, the women’s gallery upstairs housed a couple of exhibits. One told the story of the Prague’s Jewish community after World War II, through the rise of communism, and after communism’s fall.

The other exhibit told the history of the Jewish communities in a number of Bohemian towns, some dating back to the 16th century. Many of the Jewish buildings in those communities have been returned to the Jewish communities and restored. The exhibit included stereoscopic pictures of a few synagogues, rabbis’ residences, and other religious buildings in those towns.

Museum of Medieval Art

I also went to a convent today, the Convent of St. Agnes, to be precise. Although, it’s no longer a convent. Today it’s the Museum of Medieval Art. It contained paintings, sculptures, and altar pieces.

Bigger than it looked from the outside (maybe it’s a TARDIS), the museum was still small enough that my eyes started to glaze over as a result of my usual museum/art gallery-induced catalepsy only about three-quarters of the way through, rather than the usual half or quarter way.


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