My friend and colleague, Rosemary Sands, is the director of the Center for Norbertine Studies at St. Norbert College. Today, she provided a historical overview of one of the most significant stops on our tour – Strahov Abbey. This is the location of St. Norbert’s remains. Not only that, Strahov also runs a brewery, restaurant, and museum/art gallery that was so fascinating, they basically had to kick us out or there. Check out the photo gallery for a more detailed look at this sacred place, and Rosemary’s helpful summary is below:
Strahov Abbey, founded in 1140, is located on a hill overlooking the city of Prague. In 1258 the monastery was heavily damaged by fire. It was restored and continued to flourish, both materially and spiritually until 1420, when it was attacked and plundered by the citizens of Prague. Strahov struggled from then until 1586. Under the direction of a strong abbot, Jan Lohelius, the monastery was reconstructed and renewed, and he regained many of the lost monastery estates.
The world-renowned Strahov library was completed in 1679, and is now referred to as the Theological Hall. After the assault of French and Bavarian troops on Prague in 1742, the monastery had to be rebuilt. In 1779 another library was built in the Classical style and today it is called the Philosophical Hall.
The monastery was taken over by the communists in 1950, after which the religious were interned and placed in civil employment. During this time the monastery was transformed into the Museum of National Literature. With the fall of Communism in 1989, the monastery was returned to the Premonstratensians, who once again had to undertake a rebuilding campaign.
Strahov, however, is perhaps best known because it houses the remains of St. Norbert. St. Norbert was named archbishop of Magdeburg (Germany) in 1126. He died and was buried in the Church of Our Lady in 1134. During the Thirty Years War, Magdeburg alternated between being Protestant and Catholic, and the Church of Our Lady eventually became a Lutheran Church. Naturally, the Order wanted his remains to be in a Catholic Church, and that explains why his body was exhumed in November of 1626. His remains eventually arrived in Prague in May of 1627 with much pomp and fanfare, including an eight-day celebration.
After a personal abbey tour with Brother Stephen, he joined us for lunch at Strahov’s brewery. We’re getting used to these extended lunches with the choice of wine or beer (or both!) every day! Then, we had the option to ride the bus or walk back to the hotel. Since it was a sunny, warm day (and the route was entirely downhill), Rosemary and I paired up for a leisurely stroll through the cobblestone streets. Along with some natural vitamin D, I also picked up a few gifts for family on the way. Those Praguers know how to sell to Americans – that was clear when I found Green Bay Packers nesting dolls with actual player names and numbers.
That evening we were treated to a group dinner and performance in traditional Czech style. The “wine shooter” ensured our glasses were never empty while the musicians and dancers encouraged (i.e. forced) on-stage participation for some members of our group. Na zdravi!
Quote of the Day – “St. Norbert’s bones just turned over in his relics box.” – Jenny Minten Fostner