The architect that changed the face of many central European cities was born 330 years ago. He designed at the time of high baroque and there are about 200 of his buildings in the Czech Republic. Many of them are gems of baroque architecture that are even referred to in art history books. Come join us on a journey to the past!
Who Was Dientzenhofer?Kilian Ignaz Dientzenhofer was born in Prague on 1 September 1689 as the fifth son of builder Christoph Dientzenhofer. He studied philosophy and mathematics at a grammar school in Malá Strana. He learned architecture from his father and then set off abroad in search of experience. At that time, sons in rich families used to travel for a year or two and Kilian’s father let him study all over Europe for eight years. He had the opportunity to explore the works of baroque masters. He lived in Vienna, Venice, Milan, Florence, Rome and even Naples. In 1715, he returned to Prague and worked on several projects with his father. Later, he even completed some of his father’s buildings on his own. He married twice and had eighteen children. At the end of his life, he worked with his son-in-law, Anselmo Lurago, who finished his buildings after his death. He died in Prague on 12 December 1751 and he is buried at the cemetery in Malá Strana. Besides the ornamental religious buildings, he also designed buildings for the countryside. It is interesting that the folk artists transferred the most important elements of his work all the way to the 19th century: we call this style country baroque. The most famous country baroque houses can be found in the village of Holašovice in South Bohemia, listed by UNESCO.
Baroque Churches – Iconic Prague BuildingsSt. Nicholas Church at Malá Strana in Prague is probably the most famous building designed by Kilian Ignaz Dientzenhofer. It is also his longest project, or we could even say his life’s work. He started working on it when he was an apprentice; the church was his father’s major work, and he returned to it later, after years spent on the road. This church is one of the foremost baroque buildings in Europe and it is often called the most beautiful Czech baroque building. Its grandiose cupola and the spire are an inseparable part of the panorama of Prague Castle. Also, climbing up the bell tower is an experience: there is an impressive view of the red roofs of Prague and the meandering Vltava River. When you visit the church, take notice of the organ: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart used to play this instrument.
Kilian Ignaz was in charge of the construction of other Prague churches, for example, the Basilica of St. Margaret at the Břevnov Monastery, the oldest monastery in Bohemia, founded in 993. The local monks will be happy to give you a guided tour of the monastery, including the church, on the weekend. Other Prague buildings include the Loreta in Hradčany, Invalidovna in Karlín, a part of Klementinum, or the St. Nicholas Church in the Old Town. He built his own villa in Smíchov for his family, now called Portheimka, where the Museum of Contemporary Glass Art now resides.