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St. Procopius Church and Environs

Location: corner of the park (Seifertova, Sladkovského náměstí)

The Neo-Gothic St. Procopius Church almost fills the entire space of the Sladkovského Square; its 73 m tower is one of Žižkov’s dominants. When the general reconstruction of the parochial church of St. Roch started in 1879, dignified substitute premises were needed. At the time, Žižkov already had a population of over 20,000 people, predominantly Catholics. Therefore, the Society for the Building of a Catholic Cathedral in Žižkov was founded in the same year. The Archbishop of Prague, Bedřich Cardinal Schwarzenberg, gave consent to Sunday and festive masses to be held in the open in front of the school at the Komenského Square and a more permanent place for divine service was established later at the John of Luxembourg House at the Štítného Street for the time till the new church is built. The cornerstone of the St. Procopius Church was laid on October 30, 1898, at the location of the St. John of Nepomuk Chapel of the Reismonka vineyard manor upon the 50th anniversary of rule of Emperor Franz Joseph I (the church is also called “Jubilee Church” for that reason) and consecrated by Cardinal František Schönborn. The design of the three-nave cathedral was prepared by architects Josef Mocker and František Mikš. It took five years to build the church, which was consecrated in September 1903. The cathedral is over 51 metres long and accommodates up to two thousand people. There is a rare tympanum above the northern entrance, with a Madonna and Child to whom the local patron, St. Procopius, is passing a model of the church; the western entrance has St. Vojtěch inviting visitors in to the church. Both works were made by Josef Pekárek, a student of J. V. Myslbek. Inside the church, there is a valuable painting by an early Baroque painter, Karel Škréta, named “St. Wenceslas, protector of Prague against the Swedes” from 1649. The main alter is Neo-Gothic, designed by architect František Mikš. Eight panel paintings donated by important Czech noble families represent scenes from the life of St. Procopius, the patron of the church. The marlite pulpit with granite stairs was made to the design by František Mikš, the organ was made by Emanuel Petr’s company in Žižkov. The stained glass in the windows was designed by painter K. L. Klusáček. The last window in the southern nave was only added in 1992 based on the original design by Cyril Bouda. It portrays the meeting of Duke Oldřich with St. Procopius in the forest near the Sázava River (close to the Sázava Monastery).

From the beginning (1890), the Sladkovského Square was named after the journalist and politician, Karel Sladkovský. Earlier, this was the place of one of the vineyard manors, called “Reismonka” after its owner. The shorter sides of the square are lined with rental apartment blocks in the openings of the Vlkova (to the west) and Čajkovského (to the east) Streets towards Seifertova in whose direction the square is gently sloping down.  

The entire southern side of the Square is taken by the massive Neo-Renaissance building of the Karel Sladkovský Grammar School, one of Prague’s oldest secondary schools – originally a Royal higher school whose building was funded by the Žižkov town office in 1898–1899 to the design of Jindřich Motejl, the then-municipal engineer of Žižkov. The first two classes of the Žižkov Royal Higher school started on September 20, 1897 still in the temporary premises of the Žižkov Town Hall at the  Havlíčkovo Square. The building at the Sladkovského Square opened in 1899. The status of the school changed several times; there was a 4-year grammar school for a long time but, in 1994, it reverted back to the eight-year model. This was the place of work of Antonín Svojsík, the founder of the first scouting club in Bohemia, or the later Chairman of the Czech National Council of 1945, dr. Albert Pražák. The high quality of teaching and quantity of well-known graduates gave the school a nickname of “Sorbonne of Žižkov”. The graduates include e.g. actor Jaroslav Marvan, mycologist  Miroslav Smotlacha, sculptor Olbram Zoubek, philosopher Václav Bělohradský, journalist and writer Ondřej Neff, singer and composer Janek Ledecký, opera singer Dagmar Pecková.

Jaroslav Seifert, poet and writer, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, was born in the nearby Bořivojova Street no. 816/ 104 in.  1901. His house has a commemorative plaque. His family moved all over Žižkov when he was a child, and he spent some time during his secondary school studies in the Kubelíkova Street in Žižkov where he attended the Royal Higher School (Business Academy today). He gives a captivating account of Žižkov in his book, All the Beauties of the World, and fondly remembers his childhood in his book Stars above the Garden of Eden. The Primary School and Kindergarten in Vlkova Street are named after him, and there is a 2016 memorial by sculptor Jan Roith near the Lipanská tram stop in the direction to the city centre. A ribbon of cast concrete is shooting towards the sky, and the quote from “December 1920” states: “The word flew like a bird towards the network of the stars.”