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St. James's Church

Romanesque St. James's Church


St. James's Church in Jakub – part of the Církvice municipality

The church was built in 1165 in a Romanesque style. It is believed to have been founded by Lady Mary and her sons (Slavibor and Paul). The family originated from Švábenice, a small town in the heart of Moravia. It is believed that Lady Mary commissioned the construction of the church in a kind of personal compensation, for her husband`s excommunication due to his involvement in the revolt against King Vladislaus II.

The church was consecrated on 19th November 1165 by Daniel XIII (the Bishop of Prague), with both King Vladislaus II and Queen Judith were in attendance. This information can be found in the prevailing foundation charter (or “authentica”), which was discovered in 1846 during internal repair works to the Church (you can find a copy of the charter including its translation on the other page of this tour guide).

St. James' Church consists of a rectangular nave 9 metres long and 6 metres across with an adjacent apse 2.4 metres in diameter. Also, with a tribune that's original entry was through the courtyard balcony and was later changed to a stairwell on the first-floor level.

On the west side of the structure there is an adjoining tower which was used to serve as a fortified refuge and a landmark.

As for the architecture, the church’s exterior is its most significant element. Monumental buildings usually have their main frontage facing west. However, with St. James' Church this was impossible due to the location of the tower, so the main frontage is therefore on the southern side of the nave.

The significance of the founder's family wealth including their cachet, has been masterfully expressed, shown mainly in the reliefs that decorate the south frontage of the nave.

The wall is decorated with lesenes with two lines of arc friezes and the entrance is lined by an arching portal made from red, yellow and grey sandstone.

A tympanum including a rare red sandstone relief depicting the bust of Christ’s blessing, accompanied by two angels is embedded into the portal.

On the sides of the entrance there are two damaged sculptures of St. Peter and St. Paul.

On the first-floor level there are a total of seven unevenly tall and wide blind arcades. Three of which have windows and the further four have unique figural reliefs.

There are numerous opinions as to whom these figures should or do represent. They include one of a bishop with a crosier giving a blessing in a ceremonial garment (possibly Daniel St. Adalbert), one is St. James giving a blessing above the entrance with two figures kneeling at his feet (possibly the founder's sons), a knight with a sword and shield (probably King Vladislaus II (St. Wenceslas) and a priest with a crosier and a book without any hat (most probably the persecuted bishop - Jindřich (Henry) Zdík of Olomouc (St. Procopius).

These Romanesque sandstone reliefs constitute the largest preserved set of sculptures from those times in the Czech Republic. Neither their creator not place of origin is known. All the reliefs were created between 1150 and 1165, however they were probably originally intended for a larger building. This is an assumption made based upon the cutting of the reliefs (shortening the sword and the legs of the kneeling figures), which is rather rough but typical for its time.

Compared to the artistically rich and dynamic exterior the church interior appears to be much less of an interest. However, the western part is an exception, namely the nave tribune, under which there is a groined vault carried by two columns (“Romanesque Renaissance”).

In the walls of the nave there are embedded seven tombstones of members of families who had a special relationship with this place.

Translation of the Authentica

Year after the birth of the Lord 1165 I, Daniel, unworthy as I am, but of God's grace the thirteenth Bishop of Prague, on the eleventh month and the nineteenth day of the month during the reign of Frederick, the Holy Roman Emperor and in the times of Vladislaus, the grand King of the Czechs, I have laid by my own hand into this altar the remains of these Saints: of the Lord's wood, of the Lord's grave, of the blessed Virgin Mary, of Saint John the Baptist, of Saint Andrew, James and Bartholomew, the Apostles, of Saint Wenceslas the Martyr, of Saint Adalbert the Martyr, of Saint Blaise the Martyr, of Saint Sixtus the Martyr, of Saint Leon, of Saint Ludmila the Martyr, of Saint Eleven Thousand Virgins and of other Saints

These and all God's Saints please intercede for me with the Lord. Amen.

I, Vladislaus, the King of Czechs of the time, plead for the same. Amen.

I, Judith, the Queen of Czechs, plead for the same. Amen.

I, Mary, the builder of this church, together with my sons Slavibor and Paul, at the same time plead for the same.

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