The Chapel of Saint Barbara

Formerly dedicated to Saint Philip and Saint James, the Apostles, in 1338, this chapel was magnificently endowed by Stephen of Tetin, a great benefactor of the Order. Originally the chapter or meeting area of the Augustinian community it was transformed into a lovely gothic devotional chapel of ease as described above before the Hussite wars. Because of the unsettled political and religious atmosphere after the Hussite wars had ended in 1437 the Augustinians could only gradually return to St. Thomas. Reconstruction of the ruins could only substantively begin in 1497 under the able prior administrator, Augustine of Domazlice. By 1499 such progress was made that the newly renovated chapel now rededicated to Saint Barbara, the virgin martyr of Nicomedia, was reopened for services. The small sanctuary added to the chapel in 1410 was redone in the ascendant renaissance style and two portals, again of renaissance provenance were erected with the following inscriptions:

HAEC EST DOMUS DEI ET PORTA COELI . 15 . FERes CASTlus CIVIS MEDIOsis . 96 . This is the House of God and the Gate of Heaven Feres Castlus, a Milanese citizen. 1596

The second door reads:

DOMUS MEA DOMUS ORATIONIS VOCATUR . 15 . FERes CASTELlus CIVIS MEDIOsis . 96 . My House is called a House of Prayer Feres Castellus a Citizen of Milan. 1596.

The present main altar of imitation marble erected much later in 1709, encases the picture of Saints Barbara and Catherine in Sacred Conversation with the Holy Family. Painted ca. 1600 by the Swiss born artist, Josef Heinitz, court painter to Emperor Rudolph II, St. Barbara is portrayed with the attribute of the chalice since she was invoked against a sudden death without the benefit of the sacraments. To her right stands St. Catherine of Alexandria holding the sword of her execution with the remnants of a spiked torture wheel underfoot. At the pinnacle of the altarpiece is an oval portrait of St. Mary Magdalene in ecstasy.

The chapel contains some extant examples of consecration crosses that since 1968 have been restored. The overdone painted groins in the gothic ceiling date from the renaissance period (1551–1600). On the north wall there is a lovely fresco of the Pieta dating from about the end of the fifteenth century. This religious motif of the sorrowing mother holding the body of her dead son became a Catholic symbol of reparation for the wholesale iconoclasm of the Hussite era.

There are ten cenotaphs in the chapel comemorating the life and deeds of some illustrious men and their families who for their benefactions were granted the privilege of being buried in the monastic precincts. Some 73 years of service (1564–1637) extending through the reigns of Maximilian II, Rudolph II, Mathias and Ferdinand II are here represented. Beginning from right to left there is an Italian military man, a lawyer from Speyer, a German Latin secretary, a Moravian negotiator, an imperial councillor, a Venetian merchant, an Austrian banker, one Moses Krause without any identifying profession and a funerary tablet under benches extolling one “Ruland, a noble and outstanding Dutchman”. The recently uncovered and beautifully preserved cenotaph before the main altar, likewise, extolls the deeds of still another courtier who died in the late seventeenth century.