The historical Strahov Monastery is situated on the top of Petrin Hill about 1.5 km from Prague Castle. Its prominent position overlooks much of the Mala Strana area.
Its history can be traced back to the 12th century. Originally, most of the building was constructed out of wood but this was replaced at the end of the century by a new, more opulent Romanesque building, at that time considered to be largest in Europe.
It was built by King Vladislav II and was occupied by a Roman Catholic order of canons called the Premonstratensians. This order was founded by St Norbert in 1120 and relics relating to him are kept in the Monastery. The Monastery is one of the oldest orders in the world.
It has undergone several more reconstructions during its life time. In 1258, a fire destroyed much of the Monastery and it was rebuilt in gothic style. The next major alteration occurred in the 17th century after the Monastery was severely damaged by the Swedish army in 1648. The new building was constructed in the baroque style. Most of the building we see today was constructed in the 17th and 18th centuries.
There are several areas of interest within the Monastery including the Church of the Assumption, the Strahov Picture Gallery and the internationally famous Strahov Library.
The library contains well over 200,000 books and manuscripts, the earliest dating back to the 9th century. The oldest part of the collection is kept in the Theological Hall, built between 1671 and 1679. It is a beautiful room with ornately decorated ceiling and an interesting collection of 17th century Dutch globes. It houses a large collection of religious books and manuscripts.
Another grand hall, called the Philosophical Hall, was added in the 18th century and this too houses a large collection of books covering topics such as philosophy, astronomy, mathematics and history. Its high ceiling is adorned with artwork which depicts the history of man.
The Strahov Church also called the Basilica of the Assumption of Our Lady is also worth a look. It is a large building 63 meters long and over 10 meters wide. Its original flat wooden ceiling was replaced with a dome after the fire in 1258. Its interior is richly decorated in baroque style. Every surface is covered in some form of artwork from frescoes of the Virgin Mary and St Norbert to sculptures. There is also a fantastic organ which was built in 1774 and on which Mozart played when he visited the Monastery in 1787.
The Cabinet of Curiosities contains extensive scientific collections such as insects, minerals and sea creatures. There are even remains of an extinct Dodo bird. An archaeological collection containing weapons and ceramics is also on display.
The Strahov Picture Gallery contains one of the best private art collections in Europe. Its artworks date from the 14th to the 19th century.
Throughout the monastery's history, except for a short time under Communist rule, the Premonstratensian order has occupied the monastery and spiritual services are routinely held.
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