On Wednesday, we ran Part 1 of Fr. Jim’s view of the first half of his semester abroad in Prague. Today, we have more reflections from Fr. Jim’s experience in Czech History class, touring churches, and getting to go to a hockey game – a real treat for our favorite Canadian priest and Mount hockey coach!
Fr. Jim detailed the group’s experience at the Klementinum as part of a field trip in their Czech History class:
“During our Czech History class, we toured the baroque library hall and the astronomical tower of the Klementinum University. This university was established by the Jesuits, who were tasked with the re-Catholization of the Czech lands after the Hussite Protestants were defeated at the Battle of White Mountain in 1620. The buildings contain a Baroque Library, which is the home of the Czech National Library, with 20,000 books from the early 17th century onwards, as well as historically important globes. Decorated with magnificent ceiling frescoes, the room remains unaltered since the 18th century.”
Part of the experience included climbing the astronomical tower to get a panoramic view of the city. Now we know how Fr. Jim was able to get in some of his 20,000+ steps!
“We also ascended the 172 steps that lead to the top of the tower for a 360° view over Prague. A lift operates only part of the way, and the steps are steep, so they are not for visitors with walking difficulties! The second floor of the tower houses Meridian Hall. Light streaming into the hall from the window determined high noon. At this moment, attendants would wave a large flag out the window facing toward the Prague Castle. This notification would trigger a cannon blast which was fires over the city to alert the city residents that it was noon.”
Another of Fr. Jim’s favorite experiences is touring various churches and cathedrals while abroad. Learning the history and how it applies to present day Czech culture has been a very rewarding experience. St. Vitus Cathedral is part of the palace complex at Prague Castle, one of the first landmarks the group visited as they first got oriented to the city.
“The cathedral is the third church consecrated to the same saint on the same site. Around the year 925, Prince Wenceslas (Václav in Czech) founded a Romanesque rotunda here, which after 1060 was converted into a basilica with three naves and two steeples. The importance of the church grew especially after the establishment of the Prague bishopric in 973 and the founding of the body of canons – the St. Vitus chapter, which later became an important cultural and administrative institution.
In 1344, Charles IV began the construction of a Gothic cathedral. Its first builders, Matthias of Arras and later Peter Parler, built the chancel with a ring of chapels, St. Wenceslas Chapel, the Golden Gate and the lower part of the Great South Tower. In 1419 the construction of the Cathedral stopped because of the Hussite Wars. In spite of the endeavors of some sovereigns to secure the continuation of the construction work, the Cathedral remained uncompleted for whole centuries.
It was not until the latter half of the 19th century that the Union for the Completion of the Cathedral began the repair of the original part and the completion of the Cathedral in Neo-Gothic style. The church was solemnly consecrated in 1929. Its interior was subjected to adaptations even in later years. The stain glass windows are absolutely stunning.
We were fortunate that it was a sunny day when we visited the cathedral because it made the stain glass windows even more beautiful with the sun shining through.”
The group studying in Prague this semester is one of the largest groups the Mount has sent to study abroad. Fr. Jim is accompanying 36 students who are each taking a variety of core courses and some electives (including writing for this blog). Getting around with such a large group has its challenges:
“We are a large group when we travel together—37 of us, plus whoever is guiding us—so we need to keep together and not lose anyone. Well, not lose anyone again, since we did lose a few people one day. We turned right and they turned left. No harm was done as we were in familiar surroundings and everyone was fine!
As you can see from these photos, I should try to get in the front and take some photos of people’s faces. I will try to do better!”
One of the highlights of the trip so far, though, was probably when the group got to go to a hockey game, courtesy of our travel partners, AIFS.
“We had tickets to a Czech hockey game at the O2 Arena in Prague. Those who know me, know that this was a great evening! I prepared the students with a mini teaching session on the basic rules, especially of icing and off sides. Nothing complicated!
The O2 Arena seats about 18,000 spectators for certain events. They are home to the Sparta Prague Hockey team. We watched and cheered for Sparta Prague against Hradrec Kralove. We wanted to cheer for the home team, and it was also much easier to pronounce than the opponents!
The arena was full and the crowd was really pumped. They have people who beats drums in the stands behind the net and the spectators in this area lead the cheers for the whole arena. You could see that everyone was very passionate for the home team.”
Did we mention that Fr. Jim has been named Delaware Valley Collegiate Hockey Conference Coach of the Year and has coached the Mount Ice Hockey team for over 20 years?
Next week our students return to class both in Prague and in Emmitsburg. The student bloggers will detail more of their adventures abroad with Jeremy up first on #KavaMonday.
Believe it or not, the group has a little over a month left in their semester before returning to the States just in time to celebrate Thanksgiving with their families.
Make sure to “Czech” back in November for more reflections of the second half of the semester abroad from Fr. Jim!