Church of St. James

Tucked away behind Ungelt and Týn Church, the soaring Baroque towers, one of which leans slightly, complements one of Prague’s most spectacular churches – St James.

One of the most striking things about the church is its dimensions – the tall, relatively narrow nave is the second longest in Prague after St Vitus Cathedral, making it a favourite concert venue. Famous singers who have performed here include Placido Domingo, who sang at St James in 1990.

The building was originally Gothic but was given a Baroque overhaul after a fire that swept through the Old Town in 1689. The result is a highly theatrical space, with huge pilasters, eyecatching frescoes and a series of side altars. The most famous is the tomb of the Count of Mitrovice, which can be found in the north aisle and is the work of Johann Fischer von Erlach and Ferdinand Maximilián Brokoff.

The church is traditionally associated with Prague’s butchers, who were given a chapel at St James in thanks for their help defending the city in 1611 and 1648. On the right, as you enter you’ll see the shrivelled remains of a human forearm, hanging high above the entrance. It has hung there for around 400 years, and the story goes that a thief tried to steal the jewels of the Madonna from the high altar, but the Virgin grabbed his arm and refused to let go. The butchers had to step in and cut the man’s arm off, and it has been hanging in the church ever since, as a warning.

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