Critics' choice

Loreto review 1 Users say 5/5 Rate it

A sculpture of the bearded St Wilgefortis, the skeletons of another two female saints, the highest concentration of cherubs found anywhere in the city… Built as part of a calculated plan to reconvert the masses to Catholicism after the Thirty Years' War, the Loreto is probably the most outlandish Baroque fantasy you'll see in Prague.

At its heart is the Santa Casa (Holy House), a small chapel with a history that seems too improbable to be true. The story goes that the original Santa Casa was the home of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Nazareth until it was miraculously flown over to Loreto in Italy by angels, spawning a copycat cult all over Europe. This one, dating from 1626-31, boasts two beams and a brick from the 'original', as well as a crevice left on the wall by a divine lightning bolt that struck an unfortunate blasphemer. However, the red colour scheme makes it look less like a virgin's boudoir and more like a place in which to hold a black mass.

The shrine was a particular hit with wealthy ladies, who donated the money for Baroque maestri Christoph and Kilian Ignaz Dientzenhofer to construct the outer courtyards and the Church of the Nativity (1716-23) at the back. They also sponsored the carving of St Wilgefortis (in the corner chapel to the right of the main entrance), the patron saint of unhappily married women, who grew a beard as a radical tactic to get out of marrying a heathen, and that of St Agatha the Unfortunate, who can be seen carrying her severed breasts on a meat platter (in the Church of the Nativity). The famous diamond monstrance, designed in 1699 by Fischer von Erlach and sporting 6,222 stones, is in the treasury.

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Loreto details

Loretánské náměstí 7,
Prague 1

Area Prague

Transport Tram 22 .

Telephone 220 516 740

Loreto website

Open 9am-12.15pm, 1-4.30pm Tue-Sun.

Admission 110 K±; 90 K± reductions.

Comments & ratings 5/5 (Average of 1 rating)