Sázava Monastery

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Tower of the unfinished Gothic abbey church dedicated to St. Mary and John the Baptist
Aerial view of the monastery complex

The Sázava monastery (German Sasau) is a former Benedictine abbey in Černé Budy (German: monastery village ), a district of the town of Sázava in okres Benešov , Czech Republic . The hermit and later Saint Procopius founded it in 1032 .


In the 11th century the monastery was a center of Old Church Slavonic writing. After the expulsion of the Slavic monks in 1096, it continued to exist as an abbey with a Roman rite until 1785. Because of its Romanesque, Gothic and Baroque buildings, the Sázava Monastery has had the status of a National Cultural Monument since 1962 .



Sázava is the fourth oldest monastery in Bohemia . The first three monastic communities were directly connected to the center of power in Prague : Around 973, Mlada , sister of Prince Boleslav I , founded the St. Georg women's monastery in Prague Castle , and in 993 Bishop Adalbert founded the Břevnov monastery , with monks from the Bavarian monastery Niederaltaich was settled, and in 999 donated Boleslav III. the Ostrov monastery . Sázava, on the other hand, had only received the approval of the highest dignitaries afterwards. Around 1009, the former priest Prokop settled as a hermit in the woods on the Sázava River . An informal settlement of his followers and students arose near the hermitage, which after a while gave itself a rule. The oldest tradition put the actual founding of the monastery in 1032. At the same time, it was said that Prince Břetislav I had confirmed the foundation and appointed Prokop as the first abbot - a contradiction, since Břetislav had only taken over the rule in 1035. The chronicle from 1170 in the monastery therefore stated that Prince Oldřich had already met the hermit while hunting in the woods and offered him the abbotship. Prokop had refused the title, but took the opportunity to turn a bowl of water into wine in order to properly entertain the prince - a widespread legend and possibly an attempt to provide the monastery property with a subsequent basis of legitimation.

Slavic liturgy and literature

The monks accepted the Benedictine rule and celebrated the liturgy according to the Roman rite , but in the Slavic language. The Slavic worship was practiced in early medieval Bohemia by secular priests ; Saint Procopius is said to have been one of them before he became a monk. It is believed that pupils of the Slav apostles Cyril and Methodius introduced the liturgical language to Bohemia as early as the end of the 9th century , and some literary monuments have survived from the 10th century. The extent to which the clergy used Old Church Slavonic is controversial, but the Prague diocese let Pope John XIII. after all, only on the express condition that it should be in Latin. Sázava was the only one among the Bohemian monastic communities of the 10th and 11th centuries who used the Slavic language in worship.

The monastery also owned and produced Slavic books. Two manuscripts have survived that are said to have originated here. The older part of the Reims Gospel is a 16-page manuscript in Cyrillic script that Emperor Charles IV gave to the Emmaus Monastery in Prague as an alleged autograph of Saint Prokop. It came to Reims in the 16th century as part of a lavishly decorated Gospel book; the last French kings used the book in their coronation ceremonies. The second manuscript, the so-called “Prague Glagolitic Fragments”, contains passion chants and hymns. There are copies of other Church Slavic texts of Bohemian origin from the Kievan Rus ; These include the legends of St. Wenceslas , Ludmilla and Vitus , Gospels, prayers and confessional books. Whether these works were actually written in Sázava is uncertain in detail. The oldest Prokop legend, the so-called "Vita Minor", certainly comes from here; however, the Slavic original is lost and the legend is now only in the Latin translation.

Slavic monks after Prokop's death

Foundations of the Holy Cross Church in the north garden, consecrated around 1070 during the term of office of Abbot Veit

Abbot Prokop died in 1053, he was succeeded by his nephew Veit. Prince Spytihněv II (1055-1061), unlike his predecessor, did not tolerate the Slavic monks. The influence of the Roman Curia and the separation of the Eastern and Western Churches in 1054 may have played a role in his decision to drive the monks out of Sázava. In 1056 they had to leave the monastery and went into exile in Hungary , where Spytihněv's brother Vratislav II had also withdrawn. When he took power in Bohemia in 1061, he immediately recalled Abbot Veit and his brothers. The Slavic monastery in Sázava could continue to exist for another 35 years. In Hungary, the community had made contact with Kiev: They brought relics of the first Russian saints Boris and Gleb to Bohemia. The monks had also given up the Roman rite and turned to the Byzantine rite , which they adhered to even after their return to Bohemia.

The Church Slavonic tradition was still alive in Bohemia in the second half of the 11th century outside of the Sázava monastery, but could not hold its own against the influence of Rome. In 1080 , Pope Gregory VII rejected an application by Prince Vratislav II for the approval of Slavic church services in the Prague diocese . In 1096 the monastic community in Sázava had to finally give up the monastery at the behest of Prince Břetislav II . From January 3, 1097, Latin monks from Břevnov took over the abbey. According to the chronicler Cosmas of Prague , Abbot Diedhard found “no other books besides Slavic books” - they were all destroyed or scattered. The community of Slavic monks dissolved. Some of the expellees are said to have returned to Sázava after wandering around the country for a long time and submitted to the Latin abbot. However, since they were unsuitable for the new monastery, they finally committed suicide.

Latin time

Gothic ceiling paintings in the chapter house

The Latin monastery continued the literary tradition: in the second half of the 12th century, an unknown monk wrote a continuation of the Cosmas Chronicle here . Above all, the new abbots consolidated the economic base. From the 12th to the beginning of the 15th century the property gradually increased and finally included lands from the Vltava to south of Ledeč nad Sázavou . Thus Sázava had a comparatively small manor . However, after Prokop was canonized in 1204, the place became a pilgrimage destination , which was accompanied by extensive renovations and extensions of the monastery area.

The downfall began with the conquest by the Hussites in 1421, from which the monastery never fully recovered. It lost almost all property and therefore remained dependent on the "mother house" Břevnov, whose superiors appointed administrators and sometimes abbots in Sázava. In 1588 Archbishop Martin Medek von Müglitz had the relics of Prokops collected from the dilapidated monastery church and transferred to Prague, which also eliminated the reason for the pilgrimages.

The house experienced a second heyday at the end of the 17th century. In 1663–1667 the abbots of Břevnov bought the former property of the Sázava Abbey, and in 1669 the Prague archbishop returned some of the relics. The monastery buildings were restored in baroque style, the pilgrimages were renewed. The upswing lasted around a hundred years: in the course of the Josephine reforms , the abbey was finally dissolved in 1785. The new owners converted the monastery into a castle. It remained in private ownership until 1951. In 1962, the monastery area received the status of a national cultural monument.

Building history and structures

Church of St. Prokop, baroque altar

The oldest church and the quarters of the first monks were made of wood. They have been archaeologically proven on the monastery grounds. The first stone building was built in the Slavic period around 1070: the Holy Cross Church was intended for an adjoining lay settlement. The foundations of the tetraconchal central building in the form of a Greek cross were exposed and preserved in the monastery garden.

During the tenure of the last Slavic abbot Božetěch, the construction of a Romanesque basilica began , but it was not finished until the second half of the 12th century. During this time, the Latin abbots also had the wooden residential and farm buildings replaced by stone buildings. The monastery-owned construction hut was also active in the surrounding villages. Several Romanesque churches in the area bear their signature, such as St. Prokop in Záboří nad Labem , St. Jacob in Stříbrná Skalice , St. Peter and Paul in Poříčí nad Sázavou , St. Wenceslas in Hrusice and the Annunciation in Plaňany .

The Gothic buildings in Sázava date from around 1250 until the monastery was sacked by the Hussites in 1421. The older Gothic works are attributed to the Augustinian building works from Roudnice nad Labem . The chapter house was built around 1340, the walls of which were decorated with murals around 1370 by unknown artists from the circle of Emperor Charles IV . Among them are rare depictions of Mary such as a Madonna gravida (Mary in hope) and a Madonna rebuking the baby Jesus. From around 1360 Matthias von Arras , the builder of St. Vitus Cathedral in Prague, took over the construction management. The monastery church was to be redesigned into a cathedral according to his plans . The monumental building made of red sandstone , consecrated to St. Mary and John the Baptist, remained unfinished: the 56-meter-high tower is connected to arcades of the three-aisled hall, which has been exposed to the weather since the 14th century. The torso has been restored since 1997.

After the Hussite storm, construction came to a complete standstill, the monastery fell into disrepair and in the middle of the 16th century even the church choir and the ceiling of the crypt collapsed. Restoration was not carried out until after the Thirty Years' War: the Church of St. Procopius was redesigned in the early Baroque style in 1663–1687. Its interior dates from the 18th century, such as the altarpiece by Johann Peter Molitor (1702–1756) and works by the sculptor Richard Prachner (1705–1782). After a major fire in 1746, Abbot Anastasius Slančovský appointed the builder Kilian Ignaz Dientzenhofer . The late baroque reconstruction included the facade of the church and the refectory , which were given their shape that has been preserved to this day.

The last major change in its appearance saw the former monastery around 1870, when Baron Jan F. von Neuburg had the enclosure converted into a representative residential building. The building received a new facade and a tower. Since 2007 the white paint inside the convent has been examined. The underlying baroque wall decorations have already been exposed again, but the finds also include Gothic wall paintings from the time of Emperor Charles IV.


  • Used literature:
    • A thousand years of Benedictines in the monasteries of Břevnov, Braunau and Rohr . EOS Verlag Erzabtei St. Ottilien 1993, ISSN  0303-4224 . In this:
      • Jaroslav Kadlec: The Monastery of St. Prokop on the Sasau. Pp. 297-307.
      • Jaroslav Kadlec: St. Procopius. Pp. 309-324.
  • Further reading:
    • Jan Petr, Sáva Šabouk: Z tradic slovanské kultury v Čechách. Sázava a Emauzy v dějinách české kultury. Universita Karlova, Praha 1975, 270 pages.
    • Květa Reichertová: Sázava. Památník staroslověnské kultury v Čechách. In: Edice Památky. 38. Odeon, Praha 1988, 450 pages.
    • Petr Sommer: Sázavský klášter. Nakl. Unicornis, Praha 1996, ISBN 80-9012585-9 , 62 pages.

Web links

Commons : Sázava Monastery  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Sázavský klášter ÚSKP 11746 / 2-1163 in the monument catalog pamatkovykatalog.cz (Czech).
  2. ^ Petr Sommer: Svatý Prokop. Dissertation, Prague 2008 ( Defense of the dissertation and bibliography  ( page no longer available , search in web archivesInfo: The link was automatically marked as defective. Please check the link according to the instructions and then remove this note. ).@1@ 2Template: Dead Link / www.cas.cz  
  3. Monachi Sazaviensis continuatio cosmae. Section De exordio Zazavensis monasterii.
  4. Monachi Sazaviensis continuatio cosmae. E-text according to Josef Emler. In: Fontes rerum Bohemicarum. Tom. II / 1, Pragae 1874, pp. 238-269.

Coordinates: 49 ° 52 ′ 39 ″  N , 14 ° 53 ′ 52 ″  E