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8. Church of St. James

This attractive church built in the Baroque style was originally used as a Gothic presbytery of a Minorite monastery.  An order belonging to the Franciscans was invited to Prague by King Wenceslas I in the year 1232.  Prague Old Town was built at about the same time.  The church was first built in the Gothic style and became a funeral place for Czech kings.  After a terrible fire started by the French during their occupation of Prague in 1689, the church was rebuilt in the Baroque style by architect J. S. Panek.  At that time, over 20 side altars were installed and decorated with fine works of famous painters.  Contributing artists include Jiří Heinsch (1647–1712), Peter Brandl (1668-1735), and Václav Vavřinec Reiner (1689-1743).  There is a story related to the Virgin Mary statue at the main altar of this church.  It was believed to be a  miraculous statue and people donated gifts to the statue over time.  A thief once wanted to steal the gifts, but the statue grasped his hand and he couldn´t get out.  He was found there in the morning.  Nobody was able to disengage his hand, so it had to be cut off.  Then the statue dropped the hand spontaneously.  The Minorites hanged the hand on the wall as a warning and it can still be seen there, withered and blackened.  The most valuable work of art is the Baroque tombstone of the Supreme Bohemian Chancellor Jan Vaclav Vratislav of Mitrovice from 1714 – 1716, designed by Viennese architect J. B. Fischer of Erlach.  There is a horrifying story related to the tomb.  The chancellor wasn´t really dead when he was buried there and he awoke in a coffin.  People could hear him banging on the tombstone, but they thought it is some supernatural phenomenon and they just sprinkled the place with a holy water.  Nobody ever thought to open the crypt.  The chancellor died there several days later.  Another person was buried in the tomb after few years and when the monks opened it, they found the chancellor´s coffin wrecked and Jan V. V. of Mitrovice lying aside, with a look of horror on his face.  Due to the church's long nave, the acoustics are exquisite and many recitals and concerts are held here.  The magnificent organ dates from 1702.