Unique in sacred buildings. Unique and well-preserved cubist interior. This is the Church of Bethlehem. Not the ones in Prague’s old town, but hidden in one of Zhikov’s courtyards. It was created much earlier than the famous church of the same name. It is associated with the Vavk family, who hid the paratroopers, as well as the secret troupe The Plastic People of the Universe.
We visited the hidden Church of Bethlehem in Zhijkov | Video: Michaela Lychkova, Jacob Zuzanik
The construction of the Bethlehem Church in Zhikov began in November 1913. It was created because evangelicals, who were growing in Chekhov at that time, wanted their own church. “There was no longer any land near the square, so they bought General Zack’s house and built a chapel in his yard. The first church mass was held here on Sunday, June 28, 1914, when the Emperor was assassinated in Sarajevo,” described Pavel Kalos, parish priest of the Beth Church Meat in Zhizhkov.
At that time, it was the only Bethlehem church in Prague. The building in the old town, built at the end of the 14th century and in which Jan Hus was preaching, fell into disrepair and was demolished at the end of the 18th century. “On its site in the Old City, at the time when the Bethlehem Church in Zhijkov was built, there were only four apartment buildings. It was not until the 1950s that the communist minister Zdenek Negedli bought the buildings for the state and the building was built according to the historical picture of the church in it The time, where Jan Hus preached, ”added Pavel Kalos.
But the Bethlehem Church in the Old City was never re-consecrated. It belongs to CTU, which mainly uses it as a ballroom and concert hall. “About 10 years ago, when I started Google Maps and entered Bethlehem Church, I showed this church for the first time. It used to happen that the village families would show up here with baskets of flowers and see when they would open for the graduation ceremony,” the parish priest said, always explaining to the families where They should go to the proper Bethlehem Church.
Unique in sacred buildings
The Bethlehem Church in تižkov was built by the firm of Karlin’s Matej Bleichi, for whom Art Nouveau and Cubist architect Emil Kralicic worked. He designed, for example, the Diamant House in the New Town of Prague or the famous Cubist lamp on Jungmann Square. The application of cubist elements in sacred construction is unique in a global context. “That’s why people from Japan, Poland and other countries come to see us in the church,” Pavel Kalos explained.
Cubist elements immediately appear when you approach the church from the outside. But the unique interior design of the church has been preserved. The parish priest of Bethlehem in Chekhov added: “His bell tower was the last one added to the church in 1938 according to the project of architect Bohumel Cusack. The bell was donated by Swiss evangelicals.”
Paratroopers’ bunker and plastic testing room
The Vavk family is also associated with the Bethlehem Church in Zhijkov, which is also commemorated with a commemorative plaque that hangs at the entrance to the church. “The family was at the center of the resistance and supported the paratroopers who were going to assassinate Reinhard Heydrich. Jabczyk and Kubis stayed with them. The family also thought of the basement of our chapel as a paratrooper shelter. On Reslova Street.”
Under communism, the chapel, like most of the Chekhovs, was threatened with extinction in the 1960s due to local sanitation. “A third of the church was supposed to be a two-lane avenue from Florence,” said Pavel Kalos. “In the 1970s the demolition slowed down and the local priest was able to save the church by declaring it a cultural monument.”
According to legend, The Plastic People of the Universe was supposed to rehearse in the church. “Drummer Jerry Shula belonged in the choir and played drums in the practice room at the back here. Once the head of Milan ‘Mila’ Hlavsa came to listen to him. But Blasti didn’t play or practice here, so the legend was born from this one visit”, Betlimska Priestly Church concluded with the fact that the church is now used for religious services and various meetings, but also for concerts and exhibitions. In summer, it is also open during churches night.