Kutná Hora was the second largest city in Bohemia in the Middle Ages. It owed its wealth to silver mining. Bohemian silver coins were minted here for centuries. The old town is dominated by the late Gothic Saint Barbara Church.
Kutná Hora and the Church of St. Mary in Sedlec: facts
|Official title:||Historic center of Kutná Hora and St. Mary’s Church in Sedlec|
|Cultural monument:||in English »Kuttenberg«, former miners’ settlement and birthplace of Josef Kajetán Tyl (1808-56), author of the Czech national anthem; Architectural monuments such as the five-aisled St. Barbara Cathedral with its three striking tent roofs (1532), the former Jesuit college based on plans by Johann Domenico Orsi de Orsini (1633-79), the Ursuline monastery, the church of St. John Nepomuk, the stone house, the Welsche Hof with the royal chapel and in Sedlec the monastery church of the Virgin Mary based on plans by Giovanni Battista Santini (1667-1723)|
|Country:||Czech Republic, Central Bohemia|
|Meaning:||the “medieval treasure” of a mining settlement founded on silver mining|
Kutná Hora and the Church of St. Mary in Sedlec: history
|1283-1305||under Wenceslas II. “Industrialization” of Central Bohemia|
|around 1300||Minting of the famous “Prague Groschen”|
|1330-1420||Church of St. Jacob|
|1388-1547||Construction of the St. Barbara Cathedral|
|1419-34||Destruction of the Sedlec monastery in the Hussite Wars|
|1485-95||Construction of the stone house|
|1498||Print of the famous Kuttenberg Bible|
|1509-12||Completion of the Church of the Virgin Mary on the Halde|
|1547||The last »Prague Groschen« was minted|
|1733-43||Construction of the Ursuline monastery|
|1734-54||Construction of the Church of St. John of Nepomuk|
|1784||Secularization of the Sedlec Monastery|
Silver rush around the “Welsche Haus”
If the traveler were to turn his back on Prague to visit Kutná Hora, 65 kilometers away in a south-easterly direction, he would first see St. Barbara’s Cathedral, which is dominant at the highest point of a long mountain ridge. It is hard to believe that the small district town of Kutná Hora, which now has 21,000 residents, was once a serious competitor to the Moldavian metropolis and that the aforementioned church was even designed as a counterpart to the famous St. Vitus Cathedral in Prague.
In fact, in the Middle Ages, Kutná Hora was the most important of the Bohemian cities after Prague: like “the big sister”, it had the right to vote in the Bohemian state parliament, and it owned the central mint. It is said to have been the wealth of Kutná Horas that enabled Charles IV to develop Prague into the metropolis of the Holy Roman Empire.
The rise of the city was triggered by the so-called »silver rush«: Kutná Hora has been a major economic power since the 14th century thanks to its rich ore veins. In no other place in the world at that time was more silver mined than in the Bohemian city. This triggered a development similar to the North American gold rush: miners from Thuringia and the Harz Mountains were hired; there opened one miners’ colony, a little further on the next.
Thanks to its silver, the city enjoyed a number of royal privileges. Wenceslaus II issued a royal mining law in Kutná Hora, which regulated metal mining and coinage. In 1300 he had a royal court built in the mining town, into which six Florentine minters moved. The Kutná Horas mint, for which all other municipal mints in the country were closed, was called “la corte italica” or “Welscher Hof” or “Vlasskýdvur” because of the Florentines. And the Bohemian denarii, previously referred to as “raw and imperfect”, were now called “Prague groschen”, a stable currency valued throughout Central Europe because of the high silver content.
The silver rush that lasted into the 17th century not only attracted miners and merchants, the centuries of wealth also offered the opportunity to hire well-known artists. Builders and bell-makers came, illuminators and stone sculptors, fresco painters and wood sculptors. Famous builders, including Peter Parler (1330-99), who planned the choir of St. Vitus Cathedral and Charles Bridge in Prague, contributed to the St. Barbara Cathedral, which is dedicated to the patron saint of miners. Its construction was financed by wealthy local mine owners, which is why the frescoes in the church also show the work of miners and coin-miners. Wars were responsible for the almost two centuries of construction of St. Barbara, but many cooks, read: builders, did not spoil the broth in this case, as one of the most beautiful Gothic churches in Bohemia was built.
St. Barbara is by no means the only structural testimony to the former economic importance of the city: a few town houses, some in the Baroque style with Gothic portals, small squares with stone fountains, other places of worship and chapels as well as the former castle convey a rather closed picture of the formerly larger one Old town.
Today, the city is internationally present not only as a world cultural heritage site, but also through the text of its medieval councilor table, which can be read similarly at the United Nations in New York, in the Geneva “Palais of Nations” and in the Prague National Assembly: “If you as Member of the congregation entering through this door in your official duty, put aside all your passions: hatred, hostility, violence, friendship, hypocrisy, subordinate your own worries to those of the congregation… «