The West-Bohemian monastery in Plasy was founded in 1144, which makes it the oldest monastery in the Czech territory. In the 17th and 18th century, it was rebuilt in the Baroque style based on the designs of several Baroque masters: J. B. Mathey, J. B. Santini and K. I. Dientzenhoffer. In 1785, the monastery was abolished and it was used as a private residence of Chancellor Metternich and his family, who founded a family tomb there.
The tour of the Plasy Monastery in West Bohemia near Plzeň will take you to the residential building of the monks, built in the high Baroque style. The history of the monastery is presented with information about the unusual design of the foundation of the building. The tour will take you to the capitulary hall, the Chapel of St. Bernard and the hospital wing with an exposition of a pharmacy, even with unique Baroque toilets. In addition to that, you will see the library hall, the office of the abbot, the reading room and the winter dining room. The guide will tell you about the history of the monastery as well as about what followed its abolition.
Monastery on waterThe Plasy Monastery is built near a river where the monks in the Middle Ages built an artificial canal leading through the area. They used it to bring water to the mill and drive the lumber mill. The Plasy water system is special thanks to the perfect design of the foundations of the convent, which was reinforced with 5,100 oak poles driven into the ground due to the marshy soil. A wooden grate was placed on the poles and then the walls of the building were built. To prevent the grate from rotting and the building from sinking, water from several sources was brought to the foundation to limit the access to air which de facto caused the wood to petrify. The warning “Aedificium hoc sine aquis ruet” is a message to future generations. Therefore, even today, the height, temperature and quality of water in the two Baroque pools inside the building is checked four times a day.
Santini’s self-supporting staircasesFour self-supporting staircases were built in the convent based on the design of Jan Santini Aichel. Two of them connect the ground floor with the attic and two have three arms and are in the buttresses of the heavenly courtyard. At the bottom part of the three-arm staircases, Santini had the “mirrors” built – Baroque pools for checking water in the foundation grate.
Underground systemAlong the heavenly courtyard, 4.5 metres above the ground, a unique heating system of the building is hidden internally. It is a long crooked underground passage that leads to two places on the ground floor of the building. The outlets from this passage lead under the windows on the ground floor. In summer, heat accumulates in the ground around the passage and in the cooler months, the warm air travels to the building through the outlets.
The secret ingredients of Plasy powderOne of the profitable activities of the monastery was the production and sale of Plasy powder. This white mineral tablet made the local monks famous at the beginning of the 18th century, when they even exported it beyond the Czech borders. Processing the main ingredient, a vitriol slate acquired from a quarry in Hromnice, was extremely secret. Pharmacist Lucas Martin Gottlieb guarded the preparation of this stomach medicine very carefully. No wonder, his preparation was not as bitter as most stomach medicines and it was very popular thanks to its flavour.