St Agnes of Bohemia Convent
St Agnes of Bohemia Convent is considered to be the first Gothic building not only in Prague, but throughout the whole of Bohemia. It represents one of the most famous and significant convents in Bohemia. In 1978, it was declared the National Cultural Monument of the Czech Republic. The convent was founded by the sister of King Wenceslas I as a complex of two monasteries – Clare Nuns Convent and Minorite Frati Friary – and three sanctuaries – St Francis Church, St. Saviour Church and Mary Magdalene Chapel – all of them dating back to the 13th century. Moreover, you will find St Agnes’s private oratory, St Barbora’s Chapel and the Premyslid mausoleum.
History Of The St Agnes Convent
The complex of St Agnes Convent was built in 1233 – 1234. The first women came to the convent in autumn 1233 – five nuns from Italian Assisi and seven Bohemian girls of nobel birth. They belonged to the Poor Clares, (also called The Order of Poor Ladies), founded by Saints Clare of Assisi and Francis of Assisi in 1212 on Franciscan principles. In 1234 St Agnes of Bohemia, the daughter of the Bohemian king Premysl Otakar I, entered the convent and became its abbess. King Wenceslas I. and later on the Pope, took the convent under their protection and accorded it many privileges. At that time, the St Agnes Convent represented one of the most modern buildings in Prague. The nuns left the convent during the Hussite’s movement. The convent, as many others, was abolished in 1782 on the order of the Emperor Joseph II and a hundred years of devastation followed.
The first attempts to save this precious monument date back to the end of the 19th century – when the union for the renovation of the convent was established – and with several interruptions, lasted another century. The reconstruction was completed as late as 1986, when the exhibition facillities of the National Gallery were opened here. At present, it houses medieval art collections.
It’s said that the Clarisses used to make an elixir called swallow water from an old recipe they received from a poor Polish noblewoman. The nuns sold the elixir to people for a token amount, or just gave it to them for free. After the abolition of the St Agnes Convent, only one of the nuns knew the secret recipe. Unfortunately, she never revealed the secret to anybody else and the secret died with her. So far no one has ever been successful in recreating the elixir.
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