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Old town - Prague 1 Category: Church towers

Bethlehem Chapel

GPS: 50°5'2.04"N, 14°25'1.9200000000001"E

Bethlehem Chapel is located at Bethlehem Square in the Old Town. Although the chapel’s spire does not rank amongst the tallest in Prague, the chapel itself is still significant.

The Bethlehem Chapel was founded by a courtier of King Wenceslas II. , Hanus from Milheim on 24th May 1391. The piece of land, on which this sanctuary stands, was donated by tradesman Křížek from the Old Town to provide a sanctuary for the promotion of services in the Czech language. The chapel became a base of the Hussite movement. It had a room for 3000 people. The most important area in the chapel was not the altar but the pulpit. It was from this very pulpit, from which Master Jan Hus gave his fiery sermons.

The unfortunate fate of Jan Hus is well known to most. After his tragic death the sermons were delivered in the spirit of his legacy. The chapel was run by the Dominican order after the battle at Bílá Hora (White Hill). The Jesuits took over the chapel in 1661. The sanctuary was demolished on 16th August 1786 and new housing blocks were built instead.

Memories of the historical Bethlehem Chapel were revived with the 400th anniversary of the death of Master Jan Hus. Architect Alois Kubíček carried out research and he discovered that part of the chapel walls had been preserved. He therefore appealed for the restoration of this significant cultural monument. The government approved the proposal of Minister Zdeněk Nejedlý to rehabilitate Bethlehem Chapel as late as June 1948. Prof. Arch. Jaroslav Fragner and Ing. Bedřich Hacar were together entrusted with this project. The chapel was given the same design as it presumably had in the times of Master Jan Hus. The ceremonial opening was carried out on 5th July 1954.

The chapel has two saddle roofs. The tower, which rises from the east roof, has the look of needle. It stands on polygonal ground plan and the angular slim roof above the chapel’s lantern.