The Cathedral of St. Vitus, St. Wenceslas, and St. Adalbert (St. Vitus Cathedral for short) located in the Prague Castle is the most important ecclesiastical building in the Czech Republic and former Bohemian kingdom.
Its construction started during the reign of Charles IV. Growing up in France, Charles was surrounded by magnificent French cathedrals and later decided to build one for his hometown of Prague. Two architects, Mathew of Arras and Peter Parler, worked on the construction under his rule, but with a new king, Charles's son Wenceslas IV, all plans had to be stopped.
Hussite War broke out in 1419, and the Cathedral stood unfinished for almost 600 years! Finally, in 1929 the cathedral was opened to the public and became not only a religious center, but also an important part of Czech national heritage. St. Vitus Cathedral is opened to the public with the exception of the masses.
Fun facts about St Vitus Cathedral:
- The Gargoyles of St. Vitus Cathedral were created by multiple sculptors, so you won't find two similar ones on the facade. Besides serving the practical purpose of rainwater drains, the gargoyles represent the many faces of the devil. Locals joke that their sculptors must have been inspired by their in-laws while creating the faces of the cathedral's monsters. Well, that's Czech humor for you!
- Even when it stood unfinished, the Prague Cathedral still held masses, funerals, and coronations. Since the building was only half of its current size, extra wooden balconies had to be built to seat all the spectators.
- The hardest thing to build in the Gothic part of the Cathedral was, without any doubt, the vaulting system. Ironically, its construction was one of the only things not documented in the Middle Ages.
- Legally, St. Vitus Cathedral belongs neither to Church nor to the State. After its construction was completed in the 1950s, both sides fought over the cathedral's ownership at court, which ended in a compromise: the most important church in Prague will belong to itself.
How to see the interiors of St. Vitus Cathedral?
There are two ways how you can see the interiors, for free or with a ticket. The free zone of the cathedral is limited to the four chapels on the entrance side. The rest of the cathedral (and its biggest part) is only accessible with a ticket. You can get the Prague Castle tickets in the information points of the castle complex, or skip the line with our tour and enjoy your visit to the Prague Castle hassle-free!
Most important things to see in the paid area of the St. Vitus Cathedral:
- Stain glass windows, notably one by Alfons Mucha located in the third chapel on the left-hand side.
- Silver sarcophagus of St. John of Nepomuk - the heaviest one in Czechia!
- Tomb of the legendary St. Wenceslas who you might know from a Christmas carol "Good King Wenceslas."
Our Local Guide Tip
- Make sure to check the opening hours of the St. Vitus Cathedral on the official website. They update their Religious Services schedule, so Prague travelers can plan their visit to the cathedral and not be caught off guard by unusual closing times.
- Do not go to the cathedral right after the main change of the Prague Castle Guards at 12 PM! The line will be very long and the interiors crowded. Try to make it 1,5h before, so you will have enough time to see the cathedral and go to the change, or one hour after the change of the guards.
- If you want to take photos of the interiors, visit the cathedral 1-2 hours before sunset. That way, the sun is going to be shining through the many stained glass windows on the southern side of the building creating the most magical rainbow light!
- Make sure to enter the cathedral 1 hour before its closing time, otherwise, you might not be let in.
See more of our Prague Travel Tips.
Author: Valeriia Zahradnikova and Vaclav Zahradnik, Prague guides certified by Prague City Tourism agency. Valeriia and Vaclav have worked in tourism for over 6 years and have guided thousands of Prague visitors.