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The Pilgrim Church of St John of Nepomuk at Zelena hora (Green Hill) is situated near about 2 hours from Prague by car. It was built between 1719 and 1722 according to the plans of Jan Blažej Santini Aichl from the initiative of Vaclav Vejmluva, a significant abbot of the Cistercian monastery. The church is one of the supreme pieces of Baroque Gothic in Europe. The pilgrimage site was added to UNESCO Heritage List in 1994. The Pilgrim Church of St John of Nepomuk at Zelena hora was returned to the property of the church - The Roman Catholic Parish of Zdar nad Sazavou II in August 2014, after a long period of 50 years. 

 Zelena hora belongs to a significant pilgrimage sites in the Czech Republic. Thousands of pilgrims are coming every year to pay tribute to St John of Nepomuk, the main Patron Saint of Bohemia, to give thanks and pray for help.

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The pilgrimage Church of St. John of Nepomuk near the monastery in Žďár was built thanks to the longtime, close and immensely fruitful cooperation of two extraordinary people. The impulse was given by Václav Vejmluva, an abbot of the Cistercian monastery in Žďár, who was a proven devotee of John of Nepomuk before he was beatified as well as after he was canonized. The preparation of the project dates back to the period from late April to the beginning of August 1719 and is considered a direct reaction of the abbot to the discovery of preserved tissue in the tomb of John of Nepomuk in the St. Vitus Cathedral on 15 April 1719. The design of the building was entrusted to famous architect Jan Blažej Santini-Aichel to whom abbot Vejmluva is alleged to have presented his ideas about the new sanctuary and the symbols used, which was fully compliant with the requirement of the Church: “Fathers propose, artists create“. The architect then worked on the basis of the outline. Santini dealt with the project quite individually, without any respect to the traditions concerning the shapes of religious buildings; he only accepted the contemporary viewpoint of the structure of a pilgrimage destination. The architect melted the abbot´s idea of the church in which the main role was to be played by the pattern of a star, into an extraordinarily impressive form which was only appreciated by the modern time, yet not always. Friedrich Radnitzký, a member of the Central Committee, referred to the church as a "visually mysterious phenomenon" as late as 1886. The project was finished unusually quickly but this was nothing exceptional for Santini. Moreover, the abbot and the architect had cooperated together for many years and they were both specialists on symbology and the teaching of the Cabala which they used to a substantial extent in the project. Santini knew very well what the abbot wanted from him. Thus the resulting architecture must have been affected positively by the atmosphere of mutual understanding. The definitive shape of the building does not differ much from the first design and only a few changes were made.

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Zdar nad Sazavou is situated at the frontier of Bohemia and Moravia in a picturesque region of Bohemian-Moravian Highland in the centre of the protected landscape area of Zdarske vrchy.

Its history is closely associated with the development of the Cistercian monastery in Zdar and dates back to the second half of the 13th century. Cardinal Frantisek of Ditrichstejn promoted the small village of Zdar to a town in 1607. The former monastery developed the present form during large reconstructions in the time of Abbot Vaclav Vejmluva in the first half of the 18th century. The reconstructions were designed by architect Jan Blazej Santini-Aichel.

The pride of Baroque Gothic, the Pilgrimage Church of St. Jan Nepomuk at Zelená Hora, was rightfully entered in the UNESCO Heritage Sites. Its creator, the ingenious architect and builder, Jan Blažej Santini-Aichel, was supposed to become a master mason according to family traditions. However, his father decided that it would be better, if his artistically gifted, but physically handicapped son would learn to be a painter and study basic construction engineering. He could not have been more right. During his relatively short life – he died at the age of forty six – Jan Blažej created about 60 structures of extraordinary quality. Roughly ten of them are considered top examples of European architecture of the time.

At the age of 23, the gifted builder was awarded his first commission. Abbot Wolfgang Lochneren trusted the construction of a convent for the Cistercian monastery in Zbraslav. The well-educated Abbot was impressed by Santini’s innovative concept of the convent, as well as the fact that the young architect not only was multilingual and has a good knowledge of geometry, but was also knowledgeable in Christian and religious mysticism. His recommendation opened the door for Santini to other ecclesiastical projects. Only two years later, he was commissioned a contract for the construction of a monastic church in Sedlec near Kutná Hora, there upon in Plasy, Kladruby, and Rajhrad.

Mutual understanding in the area of architecture and arts formed a strong, long-lasting bond between Santini and Abbot Václav Vejmluva, who headed the Cistercian monastery in Ždár nad Sázavou. Thanks to this relationship, the town became the canter of Baroque Gothic in Bohemian and Moravian lands. In addition Santini’s participation as an architect in the construction of the church at Zelená Hora, he also took part in the extensive reconstruction of the monastery’s formerly Gothic part. Some of the original monastery’s structures remain on the estate to this day.

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(c) zelena-hora.eu, zamekzdar.cz

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