by captain oddsocks
June 6, 2005
The Dominican order built a simple Gothic single-nave church on St. Michael’s hill in the 13th century, but after the Thirty Years War, the church was completely reconstructed in the baroque style. Only the perimeter masonry and small sections of vaulting remain from the earlier Gothic building. The rebuilt baroque church was consecrated in 1703 but a fire in 1709 prolonged the reconstruction for several years. When the Dominicans moved to the Bernadictine monastery in 1784, St Michaels became a parish church. The front of the church is decorated by sculptures of Christ the Saviour and the Virgin Mary, but perhaps more intriguing are the smaller statues along the side of the church, which were moved from the Tabulovy Vrch Calvary in 1904, when that village became a suburb of Olomouc.
The interior is incredibly richly decorated in the baroque style. Particular highlights are the painted ceilings of the three domes and the extremely rare painting of the ‘pregnant’ Virgin Mary. The church organ formerly belonged to the Premonasterian monastery at Hradisko but was moved when that order was abolished in 1706.
Beside the allegedly pregnant Virgin Mary is the entrance to the former Dominican monastery. Each wing of its cloister holds something of interest to visitors. The entrance to the cloister is watched over by plaster replicas of statues of St Wenceslas and St Methodius created to assist in the renovation of the Holy Trinity Column. The first hall to the left holds the entrance to the St Alexis chapel, which was used for preaching sermons in Czech, during the years that the Czech lands belonged to the Austrian empire and the use of German predominated. The next hall has a small dark staircase leading down to the fresh water spring which is said to be the reason for Olomouc’s existence. Legions of Roman soldiers are said to have camped on the hill for its combination of water and a clear view of the surrounding plains. The hill was known as Julius’ Hill (after the Caesar), which in Latin is Uilio Munsis, and became throughout the centuries, Olomontium, Olmutz (in German), and Olomouc. Also from the cloister can be entered the Gothic bell tower.
The tower is not prettied up for tourists at all, and it’s necessary to climb through the framework of the bellroom to reach the windows for the splendid views of the city and its other towers. There are also signs (Czech only) warning visitors of the low ceiling in the spiral staircase and requesting that the lights be turned of when the last person leaves.
Entry to the church, cloister and tower is free, but there are several places to leave donations to assist with the ongoing repair and maintenance of this most diverse of Olomouc’s religious monuments.
From journal 900 Years of Religious History in One Small City