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Our Lady Monastery

The Abbey of Nová Říše in Moravia was founded by the military leader Markvard of Hrádek and his wife Vojslava as a monastery of sisters subordinate to the Abbey of Zábrdovice (nowadays one of Brno quarters) in 1211. The church was dedicated originally to Our Lady. The provosts of Nová Říše were taken from among the priests of the founding abbey. Thanks to corporate endeavor of all those spiritual people the monastery soon became the light of faith spreading to the surroundings and in spite of ill fortune it has continued their mission with the help of God till today.

Zakladatelé kláštera Markvard z Hrádku s ženou Vojslavou
The founders of monastery – Markvard of Hrádek and his wife Vojslava

The streamers of mercy emanating from this sacred place were interrupted by the ravages of the Hussite wars (1419-1431), when the monastery was burned to the ground several times. St. Anne Statue, which dates back to the second half of the 14th century, is the only thing which commemorates the medieval era.

Even though the imminent military threat had passed, difficult conditions in the religious and politically divided country brought a negative impact upon the monastery. Several attempts had been made to revive the monastery of sisters but in 1596 the Order superiors came to a decision that the prioress Anna Černická of Kačov had to leave for Chotěšov in Bohemia and after that the community of sisters died out.

That did not entail the end of monastery, though. In 1598 the first two Zábrdovice Premonstratensians took the Order´s vows for Nová Říše Abbey. The provost Adam Skotnický (1605-1631) improved the monastery spiritually and also economically despite the hostile attacks of Protestant inhabitants and prepared its conversion into the monastery of brethren. His successor Vavřinec Plocar installed seven Premonstratensians from Zábrdovice in 1641. A sign of positive monastery development was the fact that the Pope Inocenc X granted the pontifical right in 1654.


In 1733 the monastery was promoted to the abbey. Its cultural development, which continued during the time of the abbot Jan Nepomuk Pelikán who had a grammar school established in the monastery buildings, was slowed down by the destructive fire in 1813 which destroyed the newly-built section of prelate building. Yet the monastery fulfilled its spiritual vocation between the second half of the 19th and the first half of the 20th centuries.

A new series of unfortunate events and disasters hit the monastery in 1942, when SS units invaded the abbey in May after the assassination of the protector of the German Reich Heydrich and converted the premises into the centre of Hitlerjugend organization. The Premonstratensians were transported to Kounic Hall of Residence in Brno, then to Osvětim where they were killed in gas chambers with the exception of three novices. Shortly after WW2 the newly re-built monastery became a thorn in communist regime side. In February 1950 the monks were arrested, put on a show trial, and given a prison sentence of many years or sent to labor camps. The monastery buildings served as a military storage for forty years. The ruined buildings were given back to the Order in 1991.

The Library

The foundations for a present library were laid after the conversion into the monastery of brethren. Its significance dates back to the second half of the 18th century at the time of the abbot Josef Bernard Pelikán when it was made up regularly and systematically. During the time of Josef II secularizations the number and quality of books grew up rapidly owing to getting many books from dissolved monasteries (in 1773, about 600 volumes from Telč Jesuit library, from Znojmo Franciscan library, Jihlava Dominican and Capuchin libraries, about 100 volumes from Žďár nad Sázavou Cistercian library, the most valuable volumes were from Louka Premonstratensian library).

The Library

In 1770 the abbot had the big hall on the first floor adapted for a library and in 1774 it was decorated with fresco. There were about 3 700 catalogue works which corresponds to 5000-6000 volumes in 1800. The 1813 fire completely destroyed a lower library where 3000 volumes burned away. The fire also threatened the main library hall – even the door caught fire – fortunately it was put out on time.

The library was renewed after the fire and installed only in the main hall until 1861, then it was extended to other two rooms. There are over 20 000 catalogue volumes now, 630 volumes got lost after the monastery dissolving in 1950. About the three-fifth of books were printed before 1800, there are 88 manuscripts and 55 incunabulums. The library looks like a castle library rather than a monastery library, as a lot of science, medicine, philology, geography, history works are included. About one fourth belongs to theology literature.

St Peter and Paul Church

A connecting hall leads from the monastery buildings to St Peter and Paul Church. A master-builder Pavel Weinberger started to build it in 1676 at the place where used to be the old church from 1504. Another master-builder Bartoloměj Hassler finished building in 1683 after a devastating fire. The church is a baroque building with two side chapels and two quadratic towers. It is 12 metres long, 12 metres wide in the nave and 9 metres in the presbytery.

St Peter and Paul Church

The painting of St Peter and Paul above the main altar belongs to the most valuable pieces from the time of church completion. It was painted by a Venetian painter Adam Enz in 1705. Other precious pieces include the pews from 1696 and the pulpit which dates back to 1700 and overflows with splendors and a great variety of figurative and floral decoration. Its elaboration almost exceeds the possibilities of material which was used. The best ever is the eternal painting of Our Lady, in the southern side chapel, which was found miraculously unscathed after the 1683 fire. During the times of the abbot Josef Bernard Pelikán, who was a native of Nová Říše, between 1766 and 1767 a member of Vienna academy Johann Lukas Kracker decorated the ceiling and the walls with frescos and also extended the interior with other paintings. The vault of presbytery is covered with the scenery where Jesus Christ is giving St Peter the keys from the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 16:18-19). The fresco on the nave vault shows an astounding spiritual conversion of man Saul of Tarsus on his journey to Damascus (Acts 9:1-18). Four figurative allegories above the pillars of presbytery represent at that time known four continents where Gospel had been spread. Those works show the experienced touch of a master and the spirit of a last colossal surge of baroque illusionism.

Other valuable pieces also include the organ made by Bedřich Semrád of Nová Říše from 1764-1765 and the side chapel with the relics of St Kandida. This chapel used to be a meditative place of a poet and local teacher Otokar Březina. At the end we should not omit the Stations of the Cross by František Bílek and Viktor Foerstr.

© 2007 Lukáš a Vojtěch Krajíčkovi