St. Barbara

Feet, stand and be still, for wherever you walk is sacred ground…
The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.
This was the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes.

The first known manmade construction on this site is, in all likelihood, a rock formation from Celtic times. The site is located above a massive confluence of underground springs, according to a water-management study in the 1980s.

During the 13th century, Witigonen, the famous early-Czech noble family, invited members of the Knights of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem to South Bohemia to help manage the beautiful yet inhospitable land of rocks and marshes. Gradually, they brought in people from the neighbouring predominantly German-speaking lands. One of the Order's members was probably the first hermit to establish himself around what is today the site of St. Barbara.

An early hermit's chapel was replaced by today's late-Gothic church by Sir Henry of Hradec in 1503. That same year, Cardinal Peter granted the church indulgences for the days of St. Christopher, Barbara, Anna and Apollonia, and the church became an official pilgrimage site. Between 1549 and 1782, the site was under the management of hermits subordinated to Jesuits from Hradec. The vaulted ceilings in the presbytery and the nave were installed from 1654 to 1657. In the Baroque period, processions came three times a year from Jindrichuv Hradec and four times a year from Kardašova Řečice. One spring emerges from a spot about 300 meters from the church, and has a small chapel built over it.

In 1789, during the reign of Joseph II, the church was closed and was sold to the Lords of Hradec to be used for strictly secular purposes. Furnishings were dismantled and sold. A nearby house, which had originally served as a hermitage, was demolished in 1888 and replaced by a Swiss style chalet.

In 1895, the Countess Josefina Czernin had the church repaired, and the site once again became a pilgrimage and a place for national celebrations. After the nationalization of Czernin property in 1945, the property was the responsibility of State Forests, Jindrichuv Hradec.

Beginning around 1948, the church deteriorated alarmingly, and in 1969 was already in disastrous shape. Its floors torn out and windows smashed, the church was turned into a warehouse with the addition of interior separation walls. In 1975, the church, the surrounding buildings and land were sold, once again, into private hands. đËe new owners used the church as a shed and the buildings fell into further disrepair.

In 2008, the present owner, a Czech-Canadian, determined to save the church and the adjacent buildings and return them to their original beauty, acquired the property as a meeting place for family and friends. Using 100% private funds, the reconstruction was carried out almost exclusively by local skilled craňUsmen and artists. đËanks to the quality of the materials used, the level of craňUsmanship and attention to detail, the buildings are now in better shape than when they were originally built.

Today, Saint Barbara stands as a monument and memorial not only to the region's history, culture and sophisticated craftsmanship, but also to the deeply religious life of our ancestors. Through this place, their legacy continues to speak to those prepared to listen. May we all prove worthy of following in their footsteps.

Before and After the Reconstruciton

© Jan Mrázek 2011