The Church of St. John of Nepomuk
a Baroque jewel built in the birthplace of the most famous Czech saint
Summer 8:00–18:00 / Winter 8:00–16:00
Place / address:
Phone: +420 773 122 633 Mr. Jiří Špiřík)
According to a legend, this Baroque church was built in the Saint’s very birthplace. As early as in the 1640s, the Šternberk nobility had a church built there and dedicated to St. John the Baptist, which in 1734 gave way to the Baroque church designed by the famous architect and builder K.I. Dientzenhofer. To this day, mass is held there every year to mark the anniversary of the birth and martyrdom of St. John of Nepomuk. Below the steeple and in the immediate surroundings of the church, there are 14 panels describing the most significant events associated with the figure of St. John of Nepomuk.
The nave of the church is freely accessible during opening hours. A tour of the entire church (including areas protected by a security system) must be arranged ahead of time with the priest or sexton.
The history of the church
The construction of the church is closely connected with the spreading of the cult of St. John of Nepomuk. In 1641, the Fama Posthuma, the first biography of the Martyr of Nepomuk, was published. The book is dedicated to František Matyáš of Šternberk, owner of the Zelená Hora manor, who at that time had a church built and dedicated to John the Baptist in the supposed location of the saint’s birthplace. The church was most likely finished only in 1660 by his widow, Ludmila Kavková from Říčany. The church was destroyed during a major fire in the city on August 20, 1686, and was restored by the founder’s son, Václav Vojtěch from Šternberk.
Following the canonization of John of Nepomuk in 1729, the structure probably no longer met the requirements of a popular pilgrimage church. In 1732, the manor’s owner, Adolf Bernard from Martinic, decided to renovate the church. The construction began on October 7, 1734, when the cornerstone was laid, and finished on October 22, 1737. The architect and most likely also the builder of the new church was Kilián Ignác Dientzenhofer. Adolf Bernard from Martinic died in 1735 and the construction was finished with the financial support of his daughter, Marie Dominika; however, she only got the allodial title to part of her father’s property, mainly Zelená Hora. A much larger trust fund went to her uncle, František Michal from Martinic. Financial support for the construction works greatly diminished, which is perhaps why the church dedicated to such a prominent Baroque saint does not feature a painted ceiling. The two steeples were not constructed until 1741, which may have been caused by the builder’s financial difficulties. The information about the construction between 1766–1768 or 1767–1770 perhaps indicate the fact that the original steeples were heavily damaged during the fire of the city in 1746.
In 1878-1879, the church was repaired according to plans by Antonín Baum and Bedřich Münzberger. Apart from regular maintenance, the cupolas of the two spires that were damaged during the fire of 1835 were raised, and most importantly, the interior was largely modified. The original and most likely very prominent, centrally located alter of St. John of Nepomuk, covered with a canopy and featuring a silver-plated statue of the Saint, was removed. A new, much more modest altar was put in its place. Also, the main altar of St. John the Baptist was replaced with a neo-Renaissance one. The remaining altars as well as the pulpit were moved off-site and restored. The reconstruction also included the installation of new flooring, a wooden vestibule and replacing the windows. The next maintenance works, primarily plaster repairs and both exterior and interior paint finishes, took place with the oversight of the National Heritage Authority in 1928, and later in 1992–93.