St. Vitus Cathedral, St. Wenceslas and St. Adalbert, Prague, Czech Republic

St. Vitus Cathedral, St. Wenceslas and St. Adalbert is located in Prague, the Czech Republic and is the seat of the archbishop of the city. It is the biggest and most important church in the country, located within the Prague Castle. Henry the Fowler offered to the Duke Wenceslas 1 a relic of Saint Vit around the year 925 and to house it, the Duke Wenceslas built a church on a place of pagan site dedicated to the goddess of mythology Slavic life (Siwa). In 973 the church was chosen as the seat of bishopric and in 1060, a Roman basilica is raised instead. Through the centuries, the original church took the form of what is now a mainly Gothic church. St. Wenceslas Chapel contains the tomb of the saint, it is adorned with murals on the top, representing the saint’s life and in the lower part there are semiprecious stones. The crown jewels are locked in the chapel. There is also the burial crypt of Czech kings, which contains the tombs of Charles IV, Wenceslas IV and Rodolphe II. St. John of Nepomuk has a tomb in silver. The windows date mostly from XX century. Zygmunt Bell (the biggest Czech bell, 1548) is in the south tower. There is also a carved monumental cross, in wood, dating from 1899.

Tips

Do not leave without climbing the south tower from where you can have a beautiful panoramic view of the city. Guided tours in the cathedral are organized by the Administration of Prague Castle but you can not just buy the visit to the Cathedral, this visit will be included by purchasing one of two tours offered. Tickets are on sale in the Information Center. There are discounts for children and adolescents under 16, seniors 65 and over and families.

Carmen Convent, Padron, La Coruna, Spain

The Carmen Convent is located in Padron, La Coruna, Spain, on the way to Santiago de Compostela, 22 km from the city of Santiago. The building was built between 1717 and 1752 with a neoclassical style on a promontory next to the river Sar, under the leadership of the Discalced Carmelites Brother Peter of the Mother of God. Alonso de la Peña y Montenegro, Bishop of Quito, had donated a sum of money for its construction. The convent was opened in 1752, belonging to the religious community of the Discalced Carmelites, but in the twentieth century, the building was taken over by the Dominicans who occupied it until the early 80s of this century, but as the building was in very poor condition and the community did not have enough resources to repair it, they had to move. Only a Dominican remains on site to direct and supervise the restoration work carried out by trade schools, with the provision of various public institutions, the students here found their center of learning and work. Carpenters, masons, locksmiths, in fact, young people around the city who are learning a trade, are part of this great work.

Tips

You can reach the monastery by bus, train, car or simply on foot.
The only Dominican who lives in the monastery continues to give the mass in the usual schedule.
On the convent site, you can get great photos of the place.

 

Basilica of the Nativity, Bethlehem, West Bank, Palestine

The Basilica of the Nativity in Bethlehem, West Bank, Palestine, built in the fourth century (327-333) by the Roman Emperor Constantine 1st, is one of the oldest churches in the world, built on the presumed site of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth. The current basilica was rebuilt in its present form in 565 by Emperor Justinian who erected a larger building by extending the nave and adding transepts. It suffered several conservation issues and changes through the years and also many restorations but its current state needs immediate handling and catering. Currently, it is administered jointly by the Orthodox Church of Jerusalem (which has the main part of the basilica and also the altar of the Nativity in the cave), the Catholic Church and the Armenian Apostolic Church (who owns the silver star beneath the altar of the Nativity). The fanatical rivalry on the spatial and temporal control of the sanctuary because of the conflicts erupt in the most serious solemn ceremonies involving the simultaneous participation of several churches. In the Place of the Nativity, you find the bell tower of the Armenian monastery in the foreground and the bell tower of the Greek Orthodox monastery in the background. The basilica is part of a large monumental complex that covers almost 12,000 square feet which includes the Latin monasteries (north), Greek Orthodox (southeast, the cemetery along the south aisle of the basilica), Armenian (south- west) and St. Catherine of Alexandria Catholic church with chapels and hotels nearby to accommodate the pilgrims. The current basilica architectural ensemble is a combination of two churches and a crypt – the grotto of the Nativity – where Jesus was born, according to tradition. It includes just a gateway, the Door of Humility, which originally was much larger but it has been reduced along the years. The key to the door is in the hands of the Orthodox that open at dawn and close twenty minutes before sunset. The church plan is that of a classical Roman basilica. Inside there are pink limestone of Bethlehem, white marble, many frescoes, Byzantine mosaics, eternal hanging lamps, details that also show various different religions and cultures that have passed through the years. The stairs on either side of the sanctuary provide access to the Grotto by irregular steps.

 
Tips

Believers gather on Christmas Eve in Manger Square to sing Christmas carols until midnight mass but it takes place at different dates according to the beliefs.
In one of the columns inside, you’ll find four holes in a cross where visitors have the habit of placing their fingers because according to the belief, Mary laid her hand so the wishes from their prayers to the Virgin, could be realized.