Thursday, June 18, 2009

Strahov Monastery

I've got to get through the things I want to say about Prague before a year has passed. And, we're encroaching upon a quarter of a year having passed since we were there. So, I better get another post up here about Prague!

Today's post is about the Strahov Monastery. (and another link here too)

This place was started in the 1100's. A few years ago. It is still a monastery, unlike many former monasteries in Europe. It is of the Premonstratensians order. Say that three times fast. Or even once.

It is located at the top of a pretty fierce hill overlooking Prague proper. We took the tram to the top of the hill and walked down, taking in many sites on the way. That photo up there - it was a moving beam that kept most auto traffic from entering the monastery grounds. But, when a delivery truck or something would come by, someone inside a little guard shack would push a button and it would go down electronically. I obviously thought this was cool.

The main church on the grounds.

It was closed for maintenance, but I snapped this photo of its lovely interior through the window. There was a lot of baroque influence in the rooms of the monastery that we saw.

We then headed over to the libraries. This area requires paid admission. And then more money if you want to take photos. No joke. So, I paid more money to share these photos with you. You better enjoy them! Ha!

This was the first of the two magnificent library rooms. I mean, seriously folks, isn't that a beautiful room? For some reason, I fully expected Professor Henry Higgins to show up from around the corner.

Can't you just hear "The rain in Spain falls safely on the plain." echoing against those walls? OK, maybe not. These libraries house lots of ancient texts and important volumes of historical church stuff. "Stuff." That's a technical term.

In this long hallway between the two monumental libraries are curios and displays full of interesting peculiarities. Many a stuffed beast (and their petrified eggs, too) rests here - including this here armadillo. In Prague.

I thought this woodcut was quite nice craftsmanship.

In this photo you can see the shelves and shelves of 18th century volumes of important church stuff - all bound in white leather. Also in this photo - S, checking out that steam engine.

He was clearly fascinated by it.

At least I think I remember it was a steam engine. S, help me out in the comments if I got this wrong.

Another interesting bookshelf.

These books, as you can sort of see in the photo, above, were hollow - inside were collections of flowers, insects, grasses, seeds and the like. From a long time ago. The "books" were made of wood.

No idea. I liked it enough to take the photo, though.

Doesn't look pleasant in the least, does it?
To sit on, that is.

A ship replica and some artillery.

I thought this pottery was pretty. I'm sad it's a bit blurry.

This bauble looks decidedly Catholic, no?

This ceiling was just outside the second library.

OK, so there it is, the second library.

Not exactly your garden variety library.

This medieval music manuscript caught my eye.

Gotta love the telephoto lens.

I think this music would have been after the use of the Gamma ut. Or, maybe at the same time. I vividly remember my Medieval/Renaissance music history teacher, Dr. Herbert Turrentine, God rest his soul, teaching us about the Guidonian hand. (I'm not going to explain it in detail here - just follow that link on gamma ut. It'll explain it in more detail than you ever care to know.)

He stood in front of the class, with his droll, low voice, raised his hand in Guidonian fashion and explained that this was where the phrase "running the gamut" came from. The hand represented three octaves of notes. So, the hand ran the entire span of musical possibilities, or Gamma ut. Therefore "running the gamut" means to include all the possibilities.

Modern solfege (think "Do, a deer" from Sound of Music) comes from this tradition of creating a system of relative pitches from which singers can sightread.

But, when he explained it, he tried to slowly run the words together so we'd "get" it - he said:

Gamma ut

Gammah uut




Get it? I'm sure you do. And so did we. Thank you Dr. Turrentine, God rest your soul. Anytime I hear that phrase or see any tiny bit of medieval writing of any kind, I think of your presentation of the Guidonian hand. And also your description of the "pumping bellows" of a portative organ. That too. OK, back to Prague.

This was on the far wall - a security camera looking at me and some art with a sprinkling of Latin. Interesting the art references those 18th century white leather volumes.

It was a lovely visit to the monastery.

If you go to Prague, you will want to go there too. But, hey, since you know I have photos, you can save the extra dough for the right to photograph. I'll hook you up. I'm good that way. I've got your back.

See you tomorrow.


  1. O.K. that does it.
    Gotta go to Prague.

  2. Wow, Amy- sounds like a beautiful trip! Would you believe, after all these years, that I still have a very vivid memory of your voice, so I can hear you in my head as I read. ;-) Also, not sure if you heard, but
    Dr. Mayer-Martin passed away recently. Thanks for paying the money to take the pics- they are gorgeous! ~Nat

  3. Thanks Nat - no, I had not heard about Dr. Mayer-Martin. And, I can't believe you can remember the sound of my voice. That's impressive.

    But, speaking of voices, Victor, whenever YOU comment, I do of course read your comments in my head in your distinctive voice. And yes, you need to go to Prague. You've got some time, now, right? ;-) Get packin! And hit Budapest while you're nearby!

  4. Amy, thanks for spending the money to take the fantastic pictures of the exquisite libraries and illuminated manuscripts -- I am agog! (you can use that word in hour blog if you like....)

    And I loved your trip in the country on the way to Grahn-veele. Thanks for taking us along. Karen


Please leave your name (first name only is fine) with your comment!