Princess Agnes, sister to King Wenceslas I, was a devoutly religious person who dedicated her life to the care of the poor and sick. She eventually decided to devote her whole life to God's purpose and founded the first Czech religious order, the Order of the Knights of the Cross with the Red Star, in the 13th century.
The convent is not only the oldest convent in Europe but is also the first and oldest gothic building in the Czech Republic. The Order of the Poor Ladies, also known as the Sisters of the Poor Clares, set up residence here and St Agnes, who was canonized in 1989 by the Catholic Church, was their first abbess.
Under her guidance and that of her influential family, the convent prospered. It was eventually renamed St Agnes Convent, in her honor.
The building is situated on the banks of the Vltava, in the Old Town, near the center of Prague. It consists of two buildings, one being the convent and the other a Franciscan monastery. There are also other buildings located on or near the site including St Francis Church, St Barbora's Chapel and the Chapel of St Mary Magdalene.
The Sisters remained at the convent until the Hussite wars in the 1400s, when they were forced to leave. This led to a deterioration of the building and eventually it ceased as a convent under the orders of Emperor Joseph II.
Many of the buildings fell into disrepair, with several having to be demolished. Throughout the succeeding centuries it was used for a variety of purposes such as storage and also to house the poor of Prague.
It remained in a terrible state until the 20th century when it underwent a major renovation. It became part of the National Gallery of Prague and is now home to an exhibition showcasing Central European art.
Within this exhibition is a very fine collection of wooden sculptures which were created over the centuries and lithographs created by Durer. Another prized artifact is the 700 year old statue of Madonna and a painting of the Annunciation of Our Lady, painted in 1350.
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