Saints Peter and Paul Minster
The memorable Saints Peter and Paul church in Mělník is, because of its foundation, one of the oldest churches in Bohemia and František Palacký puts its and its local chapter’s foundation in the period of the Duchess Emma († 1006). Emma was the wife of the Czech Duke Boleslav II, who was a main founding figure of the second half of the 10th century. Therefore very probably, his wife Emma, originally a Burundian princess, also wanted to have a dignified God’s residence near her new castle in Mělník.
Architect Kamil Hilbert studying the building of Mělnik’s church during its renovation carried out in 1913 and 1914 came to the conclusion that the oldest part of the building was a fragment of a Romanesque tower standing on the south-west corner of the Minister’s ground plan. Because of this he assessed the origin of the tower as 1000.
Then in addition he assumed that this fragment was one of the two towers of the originally Romanesque three-naved basilica.
The little stoup’s foot and shaft, which were found during the previous repairs of the Minster in 1892, proves the Romanesque origin of the church.
The earliest references to Mělnik’s chapter church, probably consecrated at that time only to Saint Peter, are from the reign of King Vratislav I (1061-1092).
Other references are found in 1125, when chronicler Kosmas dedicated his “Chronicle of the Czechs” to Melnik’s provost Šebíř (Severo praeposito ecclesiae melnicensi). This is also proof of the age and importance of Mělnik’s chapter.
The first account of the Mělnik church is from 1172. It says that in 1172 the ancient Mělnik church burnt down after being struck by lightning.
The Gothic rebuilding proceeded in the 14th century. This is proved by fragments of this construction on the north side of the present presbytery, which were pointed out by Kamil Hilbert during the renovation of the Minster in 1913. The visible signs of this stage of the building process of the church are the current sacristy, originally a chapel of God’s Host built before 1330. The chapel was at that time an annexe of the Romanesque Minster, of which the Gothic reconstruction was only started in approximately 1380.
Then, in the days of the provost Jan from Landštejn († 1389), the chapel gained its current shape. About one hundred years later the next stage of Gothic building of the three naves of the temple and the large tower occurred. This stage was managed by master builder Johann Spiess from the Frankfurt Royal Works.
The sponsors King Władysław II Jagiellończyk and the town are remembered on the south nave keystones with the Wladislavian W and the oldest known artistic presentation of the town’s emblem. The main nave of the temple was originally lower and it only gained its current shape during the third, last Gothic reconstruction, at the beginning of the 16th century. This stage was carried out by another master builder Benedikt Ried from the Pístov Royal Works.
Large, almost cathedral like windows wonderfully brighten the interior separated from the main nave by a wide staircase. Because of this last Gothic reconstruction the usual triumphal arch is missing. The presbytery net vault is multi-coloured and bears the date 1533, the windows have small flame traceries. The main nave has a stair vault.
The most noticeable part, which can be seen from many miles away, is the Minster tower. It was built during the second Gothic construction. Its foundations were laid in 1483 and the whole building was finished in 1488 as marked on the highest cornice.
The Bohemian Kingdom sandstone relief emblem is preserved under the great north window. The tower was originally covered with a Gothic pyramid and four smaller pyramids on the little side towers. After a big fire on the 8th July 1681 the tower Gothic ending was replaced by a Baroque onion-domed cupola covered with shingle. During the fire in 1681 the bells, most probably made by the Prague bell founder Egidie-Jílek, melted and it was only in 1690 that three new bells were hoisted in the tower from the Mladá Boleslav’s bell founder Jean Pricquey (of French origin from Lorraine).
Two of them are still chiming to this day. The third one was requisitioned during the First World War. In 1937 Father Václav Koníček, a retired professor and Mělník’s Saint Ludmila’s church curator, acquired a new bell consecrated to Saint Ludmila.
The bell was made by the Herold company from Chomutov. It was again confiscated for the war in 1942 and it was only on the 22nd of August 1993 that the Litoměřice bishop Monsignor Josef Koukl consecrated a third bell to Saints Anežka and Zdislava and mounted it in the tower. This was only possible because of the gifts of organists, ministers and parishioners who all gave what they could. The bell weighing 1,433 pounds (650 kg) was made by Petr Rudolf Manoušek from Zbraslav.
The Minster of the Mělnik Saints Peter and Paul with its mighty bell tower is a dominant feature of the town at the confluence of the Vltava and Labe and is a treasured memory of our antecedents with their desire for a “supra naturam” direction.
foto 1 - ing. Jiří Čermák