Prague is home to 3 different churches of St. Nicholas, the largest of which is found in Lesser Town Square (Malostranské náměstí). During our second week of classes, we had the privilege of having our architecture lecture conducted in the nave of this very church!
It is important to note that while St. Nicholas in Mala Strana is a cathedral, its counterpart in Old Town Square is merely a church. The differentiation between these two places of worship lies in their most basic structure. A cathedral plan has very specific characteristics, including a central nave with flanking aisles, a transept, crossing, and choir.
Entrance to the church is free, but in order to walk through the aisles that surround the nave you have to purchase a ticket. When we registered for our classes we payed a fee that was meant to cover the costs for most of our class excursions, so when we arrived our tickets had already been purchased and set aside for us. I, along with most of the other students in the architecture course, agreed that the trips we took during our class time were the highlight of our study abroad classroom experience. Carol, our instructor, has been teaching this summer course for 13 years and even studied at Charles University in Prague when she was a graduate student. Instead of spending most sessions in the classroom building, we had the opportunity to walk around the city and visit monuments that were both popular tourist attractions and culturally significant.
Our tickets granted us access to the upper gallery where one gets an incomparable view of the ornate interior of Prague’s most substantial baroque building. The baroque period was characterized by an almost chaotic utilization of ornamentation with gilded ceiling, dynamic statuary and trompe l’oeil ceiling paintings. After exploring the church we sat in the pews and sketched the interior for 10 minutes for an assignment that was to capture elements of the building that we felt best characterized its baroque style.
This trip ended up being especially beneficial for my other class, a special topics photography course where I took my favorite shot of the term. Check out our classroom’s blog that we’ve kept updated with our weekly assignments over at People & Places: Prague.