One of the great things about visiting a city like Prague is having the opportunity to see and explore so many interesting historic sites. As an example, the Strahov Monastary.
The Monastery has beautiful architecture and a picturesque setting near Prague Castle, but it is best know for its lavish library of ancient texts and manuscripts. So elegant is this library that it was used for filming scenes in the movie, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. There’s also an interesting small church to explore, the Basilica of the Assumption of our Lady. And an excellent monastic brewery at which to enjoy another of the monks’ creative endeavours.
Strahov is one of the oldest monasteries of the Premonstratensian Order in the world, operational nearly continously since its founding in 1143. Over the years the Hussite and other religious conflicts and politicans have tried to shut it down, but somehow the monastery kept going. Strahov Abbey, a Roman Catholic facility, currently has 80 members (monks and novices).
As with many monasteries in Europe, Strahov’s monks were engaged in scholarly and artistic pursuits. These included the creation of an extensive library of historic books and an elegant building in which to store and present them. The most famous building in the complex is the Theological Hall, or Library, whose construction was completed in 1679. The Theological Hall has elaborate roof decorations and paintings which date to the 1720s.
The last threat to the library was its takeover in 1950 by the Soviet Communist regime. The monks were forced to leave and the monastery was transformed into a “Memorial of National Literature”. After the fall of communism during the “Velvet Revolution” in 1989, the monastery was returned to the Premonstratensian Order which began a costly reconstruction of the complex. By 1994 the church had been restored and the Strahov library rejuvinated.
I am fond of visiting libraries and believe that Strahov Library is perhaps the most beautiful repository of books I’ve ever seen. Oh, and they have a pickled dodo bird on display in one of the library’s corridors. Yes, the now extinct dodo — how cool is that? Where else in the world can you see an actual dodo bird?
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