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The Spiritual Life of Žižkov

Location: Atrium at Žižkov, green area in front 

Since the 14th century when Charles IV gave the order to plant vines in areas within 3 miles of Prague, and vineyard manors were built, the spiritual leadership of the population was entrusted to the priest of the St. Henry’s and St. Kunhuta’s Church in the New Town, Jindřišská Street.

That is why the chronologically earliest religious building in the territory of Žižkov is only Early Baroque, the Church of St. Roch which was originally a cemetery chapel of the Old Town Plague Cemetery in Olšany built in 1680 -1682. The church of the Exaltation of Holy Cross (built in 1717 to 1719) was only built during the next Black Death epidemic in 1713 – 1714 when the plague cemetery for the New Town of Prague was established. A hermitage – a plastered wooden structure – was attached to the church and the hermit served as parson and bellman. The church was consecrated in 1720.  Accommodation for the priest was added later, and so was the chapel of the new Burial Society of Our Lady of Sorrows. The church was damaged by the victorious Prussians in 1757 when Prague was hit by the Seven-Years’ War, and then affected by the reforms of Joseph II which involved, inter alia, abolition of eremitism (1782) and termination of the Burial Society as well as the cemetery in 1787. The church itself became a parish church, independent of the St. Henry and St. Kunhuta’s Church of New Town, and a rectory was built and a parish community started. Parochial services were held here until the end of 1842, when all religious actions in the church were stopped due to the poor condition of the building and the St. Roch became the parish church. The Chapel of Our Lady of Sorrows on the site of the present Čajkovského Street was demolished in 1890. At the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, several attempts to save the dilapidating building were made in vain, mainly because of funding; some valuable artefacts have survived though. For a time, the building was used as a warehouse, the rectory as a shelter for the poor and the ex-cemetery as a vegetable garden. In 1962, one wing of the ex-rectory and the church presbytery were demolished because of their pitiful condition. The reconstruction only started in 1977 when the nave was adapted to a concert hall and a modern annex with the Atrium exhibition hall was added. In the location of the old timbered well in the middle of the square atrium, there is currently a seashell-shaped fountain by Jindra Viková, Peter Oriešek and Pavel Baňka. The Sitting Girl statue is a work of Jan Bartoš. Any visitors are watched by the Baby by David Černý over the entrance. 

When the general reconstruction of the second parish church of St. Roch started in 1879, dignified substitute premises were needed since Žižkov already had a population of over 20,000 people, predominantly Catholics. The Society for the Building of a Catholic Cathedral in Žižkov was founded in the same year. The cornerstone of the future St. Procopius Church in the Sladkovského Square was installed in October 1898 and the Consecration Ceremony was held in 1903. The next important Catholic church is the Art Nouveau church of St. Anna consecrated in 1911, administered by the Roman Catholic Parish of St. Procopius. The Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is administered outside the Žižkov Catholic spiritual leadership which belongs to Vinohrady, and the St. Vojtěch church at Na Balkáně belongs to Karlín.

Once the Czechoslovak Republic was founded, potential for churches, chapels and prayer houses of non-Catholic churches opened in Žižkov as well. The Czechoslovak Hussite Church, Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren, Evangelical Brethren Church,  Baptist Union in the Czech Republic, Orthodox church and the Jewish Community are all represented here.