Franciscan Monastery at Hajek, Czech Republic
Posted by: Anneke
N 50° 04.143 E 014° 11.165
33U E 441752 N 5546625
Quick Description: A franciscan monastery near Prague, coming back to life after years of abandonement.
Location: Stredocesky kraj, Czech Republic
Date Posted: 6/24/2009 6:20:11 AM
Waymark Code: WM6N4V
The monastery is located by the road from Prague to Unhošt, near the village of Cervený Újezd. Its church was founded in 1623 by count Florián Jetrich Ždárský, who had visited Loreto in Italy the previous year and decided to build a chapel of this type in Bohemia. It was one of the first copies of the Casa Sancta, believed to be the home of Virgin Mary in Nazareth, which had been transfered to Italy by angels after the victory of Islam in the Holy Land. The count had also brought a Virgin Mary statue consecrated by the touch with the original Loreto statue. The foundation stone for the chapel was laid on June 12, 1623 in a grove near Cervený Újezd, called Hájek. The construction of the chapel took two years and it was consecrated on June 2, 1625 by the Prague archbishop.
For 35 years, the chapel was looked after by a hermit living in a adjacent house. In 1659, Florián Jetrich's son František Adam Eusebius founded a monastery for 12 Franciscan brothers. He employed Italian architects Carlo Lurago and Giovanni Domenico Orsi, the construction works however took a long time. A kitchen, a refectory and a dispensatory were constructed. The count also had rooms where he could contemplate built in the convent. František Adam Eusebius died in 1670 without any male descendants, his body was buried in a Franciscan habit in the St. Vitus Cathedral and his heart under the first altar step in the Loreto chapel. A marmor plaque with a sign was placed there in 1716.
One of the consequent owners was archduchess Marie Anna Františka Toskánská, who bought the estate in 1732. She had a new altar dedicated to Virgin Mary of Passau built in the church. She also donated relics of St. Justin.
In 1671 a sacristy and a choir were added. Until 1673 when a new building with 17 cells was built, the monks lived in the former hermitage. A crypt was built in 1675 and the monastery was completed after 1681, when the roof was reconstructed, the whole monastery enlarged, the premises enclosed by a wall and a newly planted wood. An inn and a garden (later with a chapel of the Holy Cross) were also founded. The monastery had good supplies of water from two springs. One of them spurted north of the chapel on September 8, 1662 (the birthday of Virgin Mary) and later proved to be remedial. It was dedicated to Virgin Mary of Loreto, whereas the other in the grove to St. Anthony of Padua.
Hájek soon became a favorite pilgrimage site. Approximately 60000 pilgrims a year came there in the first half of the 18th century. One of the main reasons attracting the people were numerous miracles: during a drought in 1718, farmers from nearby villages obtained rain from Virgin Mary; many blind people began to see and the ill were cured. In 1735, Katerina Veronika Doležalová from Prague appeared dead after giving birth to her twins, her husband prayed to Virgin Mary and she woke up. She had seen a black Madonna by her bed and after she recovered, she undertook a pilgrimage to Hajek. There she recognized her saver in the Black Madonna of Hájek. In 1740, Anna Dorota Bergerová regained her health in Hájek after being ill for more than six months and having bits of meat cut from her back. She had seen Virgin Mary in a dream and promised to go on a pilgrimage. She also recognized the Madonna on her arrival. In 1743, Horovice burgher Kokeš fell off a scared horse. He prayed to Virgin Mary and the horse calmed down and Kokeš could mount again. All these grateful people donated an item, usually a painting, to the monastery.
The Loreto treasure originated from these gifts. It was originally deposited in the main Franciscan monastery by the church of Our Lady of the Snow in Prague and later it was transferred to Hájek. There were strict rules regarding the treasure - it was well guarded and it was not allowed to talk about it. It was destroyed during the Napoleonic Wars.
The most famous events in the history of the place were the anniversary pilgrimages. A hundred year anniversary of founding the chapel was celebrated in 1723 and even the emperor Karel VI attended. A three hundred year jubilee was celebrated on September 12, 1926; the pilgrimage was also a meeting of the Catholic youth. Approximately 6000 people attended and bishop Jan Sedlák celebrated an open-air mass.
The Franciscans were persecuted, although not banned like other orders, during the Nazi occupation in WW2. However, there were worse things to come after the communist coup in 1948. On the night of April 14, 1950, all male monasteries in Czechoslovakia were raided by the secret police. All inventory was was recorded and the monks taken to concentration camps. Hájek became a concentration camp for young clerics from different orders. In 1951 they were taken elsewhere and priests who had previously been jailed at Želiv monastery, came to Hájek. The Hájek imprisonment was said to be less harsh than other places; the commander of the camp was a nice man whose wife sympathised with the priests. The food was good and the priests were allowed to celebrate mass every day. They worked in the fields, at the sawmill, at the hogpen or in the monastery itself. The concentration camp ceased to exist on April 20, 1953 and Hájek became a military depository.
The monastery has been being renovated since the 1990s and pilgrimages were revived. The place is being administered by the Franciscan monastery by the church of Our Lady of the Snow.
Full name of the abbey/monastery/convent: Františkánský klášter v Hájku
Červený Újezd - pošta Unhošť
Unhošť, Czech Republic
Religious affiliation: Franciscan
Date founded/constructed: 1659
Web Site: [Web Link]
Status of Use: Acitvely Used
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