The Beauty of Baroque: How to Travel Deeper in the Czech Countryside
In the Czech Republic, roadside crosses, cliff-top chapels, fanciful village homes, and magnificent gardens are as integral to the landscape as rolling hills and dense forests. From the capital city to the countryside, the country is steeped in Baroque.
With the high drama of its curves and arches, Czech Baroque meant to stir the emotions and turn heads, hearts, and minds toward the heavens. Spreading its influence from the main cities to rural villages in the 17th and 18th centuries, the movement’s truly distinguishing feature is its harmonious relationship with the landscape.
You can familiarize yourself with these traits of Baroque while right in Prague, where must-see examples include the 17th-century Troja Chateau with its statued stairwell and garden labyrinth as well as Strahov Monastery’s library with its glorious frescoed ceilings.
In East Bohemia, the town of Kuks features prominent Baroque sculptor Mathias Bernard Braun’s Nativity: the largest open-air sculpture garden in Europe. And in Southeast Moravia’s wine country, the Lednice-Valtice complex includes the best-preserved Czech chateau in the country. Mozart once played in its theater. Czech Baroque is more than just sites; it’s the anecdotes and personalities behind the movement that can really bring it to life. Consider the father-son architects Christopher and Killian Ignatius Dientzenhoffer who likely worked together on Prague’s exquisite Church of St. Nicholas in the early 18th century.
At times, the Dientzenhoffers jockeyed with Jan Blazej Santini Aichel—considered the father of Gothic-Baroque—to win commissions, a rivalry that only spurred them each on to better work. While Santini beat out Dientzenhoffer Sr. to rebuild the Church of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, Killian won the commission to rebuild the convent that is part of the same late-Baroque Benedictine monastery in West Bohemia’s Kladruby.
Still, if we had to pick a frontrunner, it would be Santini for his Pilgrimage Church of St. John of Nepomuk. Built atop Green Mountain in Moravia’s Zdar nad Sazavou, the mystical star-like structure combines references to Christian and Kabbalah symbols with the motif of the number five. It’s an outstanding example of how following the trail of Czech Baroque opens up fascinating, off-the-beaten-path places and presents the Czech Republic from a unique perspective. Each site is a journey in itself, each region its own Baroque destination with the added benefits of related cultural events, hiking and biking trails, and vineyard stops.
From art lovers to architecture buffs, from history fans to spiritual seekers, Czech Baroque offers something for everyone. It’s a chance to immerse yourself in the fairytale-like Czech landscape, where the trees face skyward alongside majestic statues, both of them comfortably in place for centuries.