Náměstí Svatopluka Čecha: Church of Saint Wenceslas

In 1929, to commemorate the millennial of the martyrdom of St Wenceslas, three major commissions were undertaken for the Catholic Church in Prague. The cathedral of St Vitus – begun in the 14th century – was completed, along with two entirely new buildings. One was the Church of the Sacred Heart in Vinohrady, the other the Church of Saint Wenceslas in Vršovice (above) designed by the eminent Josef Gočár with fellow architect Alois Wachsman.

Built on the site of a former cemetery, Gočár and Wachsman’s functionalist design is notable for its ‘staircase’ roof, mirroring the naturally-sloping ground as it ascends towards a tall apse-shaped chancel. The West end, inscribed with the prayer ‘Saint Wenceslas, let neither us nor our descendants perish’, is surmounted by a 150-foot high white tower of concrete, its bulk set off by a river of Luxfer prismatic glass.

For eighty years, the facade lacked the intended statue of Saint Wenceslas. Fortunately, a one-tenth-scale maquette had been preserved by the family of its original designer Bedřich Stefan, and a half-ton bronze by sculptor Jan Roich based on that model was craned into position in September 2010.

The interior is notable for the stepped ceiling, and the full length stained glass window depicting the mounted saint and supporters, by the designer Josef Kaplický (father of the architect Jan Kaplický).

Stained glass window of Saint Wenceslas by Josef Kaplický (1930)