Brandýs nad Labem - Stará Boleslav

Brandýs nad Labem - Stará Boleslav

These two ancient towns on the river Elbe (lying at 169 metres above sea level, with about 15,000 inhabitants) merged in one municipality in 1960. However, each of these towns has its own rich historical past and abundance of historical sights.

The history of Stará Boleslav stretches deep into the Czech past. The three-nave Romanesque basilica dates back to the 1030’s. Before that, at the beginning of the 10th century there used to be a little Church of St. Cosmas and St. Damian at the same place. Czech prince Wenceslas is believed to be assassinated there on the 28th September 935 at the impulse of his own brother Boleslav. Prince Wenceslas was later canonized and became the patron saint of the Czech Lands. During the centuries, the Basilica of St. Wenceslas and the crypt were being rebuilt (the Baroque alterations were finished in the middle of the 18th century) and now it is one of the most significant Catholic places of pilgrimage in our country.

On the main altar in the pilgrimage Church of Our Lady in Stará Boleslav, we can find the relief of Madonna, so-called palladium (which is supposed to protect Bohemia). This relief dates back to about the year 1500.

Brandýs nad Labem on the left bank of the Elbe originally used to be a market settlement. This little town originated in the 14th century by merging the village of Hrádek attached to the Church of St. Peter and the village attached to the Church of St. Lawrence. In the 16th century when this region was ruled by the family of Krajířs of Krajek, there was a very strong community of the Unity of Brethren. The Catholic Church of the Conversion of St. Paul originally belonged to them.

The old bridge stronghold was gradually rebuilt into a large Renaissance chateau. The steeple dates back to the end of the 16th century. The Thirty Years’ War didn’t stay away from Brandýs nad Labem; during the war the Renaissance chateau garden was completely ruined and the pernicious fire in the year 1828 destroyed the Jewish synagogue. But the Jewish cemetery from the year 1568, one of the oldest in Bohemia, has remained. It might be interesting to look at destinies of other town’s churches: the Gothic Church of St. Lawrence with preserved frescos from the 14th century is used by the Czechoslovak Hussite Church (CHC), and originally Gothic Church of St. Peter, rebuilt in a Baroque style, is used by the Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren (ECCB) Brandýs congregation.

In the year 1813 the chateau in Brandýs was a meeting place of the Emperor Francis I of Austria, king Frederick William III of Prussia and czar Alexander I of Russia where they were planning an attack strategy against Napoleon.

As the town developed, at the turn of the 19th and the20th centuries the first Protestants came to both Brandýs nad Labem and Stará Boleslav. Due to the conversion movement (the possibility of conversion from Catholicism to non Catholic denominations), after the establishment of Czechoslovakia the number of the Protestants grew and in the year 1922 the Protestant community was designated as a preaching station (a quasi-congregation without a resident minister) and in 1930 an independent congregation of the Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren was established there.

In just a few months a church building was built which was inaugurated on the 14th December 1930 with a ceremonial service. There the Protestants survived the 2nd World War but not the normalization period of the communist regime. In the year 1978 both the church and the rectory had to make way for a housing estate so both buildings were pulled down. Although the congregation could use the Church of St. Peter at Hrádek for free (the church mentioned above, from the year 1304, originally Gothic, later rebuilt in a Baroque style, dissolved by Joseph II and almost pulled down), in the year 1980 they bought a villa on the edge of the town and rebuilt it into a congregation house and a rectory.

In the end, however, everything turned up unexpectedly. The Church of St. Peter at Vyšší Hrádek, a one-nave building with a pentagonal presbytarium and a small vestry, was later restored at a high cost. During the restoration not only Gothic tiles but also a tomb stone from the year 1622 were discovered in this ancient church which became a property of the congregation in the year 1999.

When the town rented them the site close to the church, and a new rectory including an apartment and rooms needed for the activities of the modern church grew up on the site, all the buildings created a beautiful complex attractively interweaving the charm of the ancient church with a modern congregation house.