Main venue history
Václav Havel and his wife Dagmar also established foundation VIZE 97 which rents St. Anna church for organising beneficial events and providing venue for conferences as FORUM 2000 and now Analysis and Activism III are. The foundation VIZE 97 also kindly subsidises our event which therefore can takes place in this spiritual place right in the centre of historical part of Prague.
PragueCrossroads, St. Anne's church
In the Old Town of Prague, near Charles Bridge and the embankment of the Vltava, in a prominent and much visited arca, you will find a square called Anenské náměstí. On this square opposite the popular Theatre on the Ballustrade, which was, among other things, the scene of Václav Havel's theatrical work in the 1960s - there are buildings of a former convent of Dominican nuns with the church of St. Anne.
The church has had a long and eventful history. The first sacral building on this site was a rotunda of St. Lawrence, erected in the first half of the 12th Century, probably as part of a now defunct manor. In the 1230s, the Knights Templars settled in this area and during their tenure the church was substantially remodelled. In 1313, the manor and the church were purchased by Dominican nuns. King John of Luxembourg regarded the new Dominican settlement in the Old Town as a renewed royal foundation; in 1320, the convent received a donation from John's consort, Queen Elisabeth. During this period the old church was demolished and replaced by a new Gothic minster of St. Anne; the roof truss above the nave was completed after the year 1364 and the choir was decorated with murals in the 1370s. The new church was one of the most outstanding specimens of mendicant architecture of the period in the Old Town.
Unlike many other monastic establishments that were destroyed in the Hussite wars in the 15th Century, the Dominican convent of St. Anne survived. A tale attributes this to the intercession of the convent's Abbess who was an aunt of the Hussite commander Jan Žižka. The convent was then destined to become a forced refuge for nuns of all orders on condition that they would take the Eucharist in the reformed fashion, je. receive both the bread and the cup.
The convent was again extensively remodelled in the 17th Century, with substantial financial support from Queen Anne, the wife of Emperor Matthias.
In 1782, during the reign of Josef II, the convent was dissolved. Its buildings were later sold to a Prague printer by the name of Schönfeld, who opened a printing house on the premises in 1816.
The years 1880 - 1884 witnessed a dismantling of the Gothic vault in the church and the removal of the third floor of the church tower. The building was partitioned into multiple storeys and converted into a warehouse. The original wooden truss of the 1360s, unparalleled in Central Europe, is still preserved, together with valuable murals ascribed to an artist from the circle of Master Theodoricus, the most renowned painter from the time of Charles IV, whose name is associated with the decoration of Karlštejn Castle and of St. Wenceslas' Chapel in St. Vitus' Cathedral at Prague Castle. The composition of the Seven Sacraments, one of the oldest of its kind in Central Europe, testifies to the excellence of monumental painting in Prague in that period.
The church of St. Anne, therefore, constitutes an historical monument of prime importance. As part of the protected area of historic Prague, it is also included in the UNESCO list of world heritage.
The former convent is currently administered by the National Theatre, which has had the building partially reconstructed for use by its desecrated church has for quite some time been earmarked for cultural purposes; however, finances for its restoration have so far been lacking.
The Dagmar and Václav Havel Foundation Vision 97 is now coming up with an initiative aimed at breathing new life into this attractive site. Its founders would like to provide assistance in order that the church can be opened to the public and converted for new uses. After a sensitive, unpretentious reconstruction, the church should become a venue for spiritual events of various types, including ecumenical get-togethers, as well as an historical monument open to visitors. Ir should thus serve the quest for a key to coexistence, mutual respect and dialogue among the various cultures, religions and spheres of civilisation in the world - a mission which the founders of the Vision 97 Foundation regard as the principal task for the coming century. A house that for centuries was a sacred place would thus acquire a new important role as a meeting point for various concepts of the world and various interpretations of the character of the universe. The church could also serve as a scene for a wide range of other events, such as theatrical performances, cultural presentations, concerts, exhibitions, etc.
The Vision 97 Foundation has contracted with the National Theatre a lease of the church for 99 years for a symbolical fee of 1 Czech crown per year and is now working together with the theatre on the administration of the building. The architectural design of the envisaged remodelling has been commissioned from architect Eva Jiřičná, Al Design and AED Project will participate in the realisation of this undertaking. The costs of the project are estimated ar 100 million Czech crowns.
The project aims to keep the structure of the building largely intact, in order that the "original construction elements can be uncovered and highlighted; the underlying objective is to preserve the unique spirit of Gothic architecture while organically blending the feel of the ancient past with contemporary perception.
Since the original furnishings of the church have been lost, the Foundation has approached two distinguished Czech artists, B. Dlouhý and K. Nepraš, with a request to create works of art for the remodelled church interior. The resulting arrangement shduld illustrate that modern art can often be brought to bear in an ancient sacral setting no less successfully than works drawing on historical patterns and that this combination can be an enrichment to historical edifices. Ir should be an inspiring example of a path that stands open, although it has been rarely trodden so far.
Knowledge of one's own history, and a well thought out, unostentatious, sensitive and resourceful approach to the legacy left to today's generations by our ancestors, are inseparable components of a nation's awareness of its identity. In supporting the project of the restoration of Sr. Anne's church and its adaptation for spiritual and cultural purposes, the Vision 97 Foundation takes yet another step in the pursuit of its declared task to promote activities of a pioneering nature that point the way into the Future.
*) Text and images taken from PragueCrossroads, website and leaflets