Church of Our Lady Before Týn

Top choice in Staré Město

Its distinctive twin Gothic spires make the Týn Church an unmistakable Old Town landmark. Like something out of a 15th-century – and probably slightly cruel – fairy tale, they loom over Old Town Square, decorated with a golden image of the Virgin Mary made in the 1620s from the melted-down Hussite chalice that previously adorned the church.

It takes some imagination to visualise the original church in its entirety because it’s partly hidden behind the four-storey Týn School (not a Habsburg plot to obscure this former Hussite stronghold, but almost contemporaneous with it). The church’s name originates from the Týn Courtyard located behind it.

Though impressively Gothic on the outside, the church’s interior is smothered in heavy baroque. Two of the most interesting features are the main altar with its Virgin and the Holy Trinity by Baroque master Karel Škréta, and the tomb of Tycho Brahe, the Danish astronomer who was one of Rudolf II’s most illustrious court scientists (he died in 1601 of a burst bladder following a royal piss-up – he was apparently too polite to leave the table to relieve himself). On the inside of the southern wall of the church are two small windows – they are now blocked off, but once opened into the church from rooms in the neighbouring house at Celetná 3, where the teenage Franz Kafka once lived (from 1896 to 1907).

As for the exterior of the church, the north portal overlooking Týnská ulička is topped by a remarkable 14th-century tympanum that shows the Crucifixion and was carved by the workshop of Charles IV’s favourite architect, Peter Parler. Note that this is a copy; the original is in the Lapidárium.

The entrance to the church is along a passage from the square, through the third (from the left) of the Týn School’s four arches. The Týn Church is an occasional concert venue and has a very grand-sounding pipe organ.

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