The Sacristy

In the corridor between the north wall of the presbytery and the Sacristy are preserved the best- though mutilated remains of the original fourteenth century gothic Church, the presbytery of which had been consecrated on 2 May 1315 and the entire edifice on 17 April 1379. The corridor adjoining the sacristy, the initial gathering place of the friars before processing into the monastic choir, was an important meditative area before the celebration of the Church offices. The walls and ceiling with the groined arches dating according to some historians from 1499 mark the first restoration stages following the Hussite wars. Of paramount interest are the wall frescoes. On the south wall of the corridor adjoining the Church are the barely visible remnants of a crucifixion scene in what has come to be known as the Arma Christi. According to some art historians the central plastered area once contained a depiction of the Man of Sorrows accompanied by adoring angels and saints. To the left is the Crucifixion scene portraying the Mater Dolorosa and the Apostle John now scarcely visible. At the bottem of the scene is a kneeling figure probably an influential personage and benefactor who was probably buried in the Church. To the upper right is depicted the Mystical Ladder or the ascent of the soul to God. Unfortunately, during the baroque reconstruction in the 17th and 18th centuries when a story was added above the sacristy door to facilitate access to the oratories facing the sanctuary of the Church much of the original late fourteenth century gothic frescoes were severely damage when not obliterated. Over the Chapel of Jakub Curtius, the personal physician of Emperor Rudolph II, there are some mediocre renaissance frescoes representing the four evangelists painted in the vaults. The image of “the Gracious Madonna” of gilded wood dates from the late fifteenth century.

The sacristy is interesting both from the extensive wooden cabinets lining three sides of this large stone paved gothic salle supported by an central octogonal pillar and the frescoes on the north and south wallswhose groined ceilings are gracefully supported by the central octagonal pillar. The cabinets are of oak wood dating from 1622. The first portrait on the south wall is a lovely depiction of the “Passau” or “gracious” Madonna. The second to the right of the door is that of Saint Nicholas of Tolentine. Amid a profusion of arcanthus on the west wall are the oval panels of two great benefactors, Jaroslav Borita z Martinic, an imperial army leader, best remembered for his undignified defenestration on May 23, 1618 that eventually led to the Thirty Years War. The second portrait is that of his wife, Helena Barbara Martinic (+1589), who generously provided for the construction of the Main Altar. On the north wall continuing from left to right are: St. Clare of Montefalco, Blessed Frederick of Ratsibon, St. Augustine, St. Thomas of Villanova and St. Monica. Below the window is a 17th century “Ecce Homo” by an unknown artist. Above the cabinets on the west wall is the valuable Presentation of Mary painted by Karel Skreta in 1645. There is also a copy of The Conversation of Saint Augustine and over the door of the sacristy hangs an eighteenth century votive portrait of the Kolowrat family that is of no particular value. The sole altar in the sacristy is that of St. Catherine and St. William donated by the Spanish ambassador, Don Guillen de S. Clemente, shortly before his death in 1608. This Catalonian grandee had fought in the famous battle of Lepanto (1571) and served his Catholic Majesty as ambassador successively to Flanders, Germany and Prague where he endlessly busied himself with local and international affairs- including his unwelcome appearance at the royal Polish election of 1587. He was buried at first near the door of the Church. Later his body was exhumed and reinterred in the Dominican monastery of Barcelona, Spain. The inscription on the base of the predella reads:

D. O. M (To the Greatest and the Best Lord). Don Guillelmus de S. Clemente, a Knight of the Order of Saint James de Spada, Legate of the Catholic King Philip III to the Emperor Rudolph II had this monument of piety placed here in the year of Christ 1608.

The frescoes are most interesting. Since 1968 extensive investigation of this precious artwork has revealed that on the southern wall of the sacristy is depicted a kneeling Peter Jelito, bishop of Litomysl (1368–1371), a great benefactor of the Church, with, probably, the prior of the monastery. The central figure now obliterated was that of St. Catherine of Alexandria, patroness of studies and favored saint of Emperor Charles IV during whose reign this fresco was executed (ca. 1370). On the north wall of the sacristy is preserved a remarkable portrait of the Silesian Saint Hedvig under a baldachin showing some Italian influences holding in her left hand an image of the Virgin and Child. In her right hand she holds a fragment of a rosary. Why this Silesian Saint? On 27 May 1353 Emperor Charles IV – twice a widower – married as his third wife, Anna, princess of Swidnice, where the memory of this holy woman was quite strong. In fact, the new Empress was even related to Hedvig. Premysl Ottakar II, the forebear of the Emperor, had assisted at the canonization of Hedvig and went on pilgrimage to her tomb in Trebnice in 1267. The connection between the imperial family and the Saint is obvious. Jan Stredy like the above-mentioned Peter Jelito, a bishop of Litomysl (1353–1364), was a great benefactor of the Augustinians. It would have been natural for the friars to commemorate his patroness in their Church.