The most famous portraits of the Czech Republic? Views of Charles Bridge with Prague Castle, or, conversely, views from Hradcany to the Old Town of Prague. In both cases, the eye is attracted by a significant landmark – the Baroque Church of St. Nicholas in Malá Strana. Without this fundamental work of the Dientzenhofer clan, Prague would not be what it is.
Kilián Ignác Dientzenhofer achieved the greatest fame of this family of builders. Not only the quality and originality of the buildings, but also thanks to its diligence, it affects Prague and the Czech landscape more than many peers. He built or modified up to 200 buildings according to various sources. He went down in history as one of the main Czech architects of the High Baroque.
He was born and died in Prague, he lived to be 62 years old. He studied construction with his father Kryštof, and gained experience in Germany, France, Italy and Austria. After his father’s death, he took over his workshop and completed a number of his commissions. He is known mainly as the author of church buildings, but he also has aristocratic residences. He followed up on his father’s dynamic compositions, which create a changing play of light and shadows in the interiors. Since his work, he has appeared with greater decoration and delicacy.
Michnův letohrádek in Prague
Dientzenhofer’s oldest civilian building and one of the first independent works is the summer house for Count Michna of Vacínov in Prague’s Charles from 1717–20. It is also called America – according to the restaurant that was in it in the 19th century.
The villa is influenced by an architectural studio in Vienna and the delicate decoration corresponds to the French taste of the time. Its elegant and small architecture foreshadowed Rococo, the garden is decorated with sculptures from Braun’s workshop. Dientzenhofer’s building of a similar type is the Portheimka in Smíchov.
The main facade of Prague’s Loreta
The picturesque Hradčany pilgrimage site with a copy of the Holy Hut was born for decades. Today’s main facade was created by Dientzenhofer’s father and son almost a hundred years after the establishment of the complex. The sculpturally richly decorated western wing of Loreta was completed by the younger of the two builders in 1723. It is dominated by the clock tower with the largest church bell tower in Europe.
Broumov monastery and churches in the vicinity
The architect also followed up on his father’s work in contracts for the Benedictine order. At first it was the Břevnov monastery in Prague and in the years 1726–33 the Brounov monastery. For the monks, who at the time became rich thanks to the weaving workshop, the Dientzenhofer rebuilt the convent and the prelature. They also built a so-called Broumov group of churches, about a dozen country churches. Kilián Ignác had the dominant share in them, and the Church of the Nativity of the Virgin Mary in Hořice also designed the region.
Monastery in Svatý Jan pod Skalou
Since the 11th century, the Benedictines have also managed a place with a cult cave and the spring of St. Ivan in the Bohemian Karst. After the destruction of the island monastery by the Hussites, the local monks moved here. The convent developed in the 16th century, when pilgrimages began to take place here after the alleged remains of St. Ivan were found, and it continued to expand. Dientzenhofer worked here in the years 1728-31, proposing the reconstruction of the north and west wings with the prelature.
Although the area in Karlín, Prague, looks monumental, the original plans were even stronger – only a ninth of them cost. The building for military invalids was built in 1731-37, following the example of Paris. Probably for military purposes, Dientzenhofer was much less decorative than other buildings. The floor plan was created by the Viennese architect Josef Emanuel Fischer from Erlach.
Chapel on Hvězda in Broumov walls
The chapel of Our Lady of the Snows in Hvězda also belongs to the Broumov group. The small central building from 1733 rises on a rocky cliff, has a five-pointed floor plan and access through a cleft over a stone bridge. It is adjacent to a terrace overlooking a large part of the Broumov region. The intended effect of the chapel when viewed from the surroundings disturbs the mature forest.
Church of St. Mary Magdalene in Karlovy Vary
Dientzenhofer’s talent was fully manifested in the church opposite the Vřídelní Colonnade, the building from 1733-36 is one of his best. Facade bends in both directions describe the shape of the internal layout. Although the church is longitudinal, it has a central arrangement around a large oval. The entrance part with two towers and an elliptical chancel are about the same length.
Church of St. Nicholas in Mala Strana
The culmination of the work of the Dientzenhofer family is the church connected with the Jesuit monastery on Malostranské náměstí in Prague. The western facade of the temple, together with its parts after the first two fields of the nave, are attributed to Kryštof Dientzenhofer. The second, including the third field, the chancel, the dome and the slender bell tower, was completed between 1737 and 511 by his son Kilián Ignác. He also modified the original part of the ship to bring the interior into its intricately shaped composition.
He started the construction after completing another important church of the same name in the Old Town Square. The bell tower after Dientzenhofer’s death was completed by his son-in-law and successor Anselmo Lurago.
Originally a Renaissance fortress, Kilián Ignác Dientzenhofer rebuilt the chateau in 1739–40. It has an almost square U-shaped floor plan and a gabled roof. The architect walled up the arcades and demolished the south wing with a cylindrical tower, thus creating a typical courthouse of honor. The chapel of St. Florian has the same author in Kladno, which acts as a miniature of the church.
Church and ossuary in Paštiky
In the middle of the 18th century, the late Baroque, less ornate and more Classicist, prevailed in the Czech lands. A nice example is the Dientzenhofer Church of St. John the Baptist and the tomb with an ossuary in Paštiky near Blatná from 1747-52. Intricately shaped windows or curved corners clearly indicate the architect’s style.
Church and deanery in Přeštice
From 1750 until his death a year later, Dientzenhofer built the Church of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary in Přeštice. The church is an urban landmark and can surprise with a small difference between the heights of ships and towers. The towers were not completed, today’s domes date back to 1995. The north-western façade with the tower is a temple crammed to the road, so it can only be seen from below. It is similar with many other architectural churches – he took this into account when designing. The second entrance, to which the staircase rises, is on the north-east side in the classicist façade of the transept.
In the Pilsen region, the architect also worked at the monastery in Plasy, the church in Nicova and the archdeaconry in Nepomuk.
Parish in Zlonice
Shortly after Dientzenhofer’s death, the parish in Zlonice was built according to his plans – in 1751–52. The main facade faces the garden, the street one is less decorated. The relatively flat decor in the street façade depicts a hint of three risalits (the advanced part of the façade of the building along its entire height, ed. Note), in the direction of the garden, the central risalit actually protrudes from the façade. An impressive element in the street façade is the arch above the central window, which breaks through the main cornice into the gable.