Evangelical Church of Master Jan Hus
1924–1925

Němejcova 1722/2, (Borská 1722/39) (Plzeň) Plzeň Jižní Předměstí
GPS: 49.7396488N, 13.3664345E

In the mid-1920s, a beacon of the dynamic development of the part of today’s Jižní Předměstí (South Suburb) close to the railway line connecting Pilsen with Domažlice and Cheb was the tall steeple of the newly-built Church of Master Jan Hus. The church, the first of the three Protestant churches in the extended city centre, was erected due to the efforts of the Western Congregation of the Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren. The design for the church, which stands on the corner of the present day Němejcova and Borská Street, was created in 1922 by the architect Bohumil Chvojka, a member of the congregation, and represented one of his first important implementations in Pilsen. The architect was inspired in the basic layout of the interior as well as the design of the volumes by Rudolf Kříženecký’s 1905 Evangelical Church in Přelouč. The ground plan of the church was based on a regular square with one chamfered corner, above which rose the tall steeple. The composition of the masses does not deny the strong influence of Baroque architecture, although according to the plans the facades were meant to be ornamented with elaborate curved patterns derived from the National Style, which in the 1920s was characteristic of Chvojka’s designs.

Due to the economic situation and high unemployment in the whole country during the early years of the new Czechoslovak State, for a long time the congregation could not raise sufficient funds for building the church, despite arranging a public collection and applying to the state bank Zemská banka for a loan. In the spring of 1924, therefore, Bohumil Chvojka decided to modify his plans. He kept the ground plan layout unaltered, but greatly simplified the original elaborate, costly facade and steeple. In conjunction with these changes, he also made some smaller interior modifications, thus achieving significant savings. The foundation stone of the new church was ceremonially laid on 6 July 1924 (on the anniversary of the burning of Master Jan Hus). The Czech Brethren entrusted supervision of the construction work to the builder František Vachta. The church was opened exactly a year later, i.e. on the 510th anniversary of Hus' martyrdom.

The basement of the building contained a fully equipped one-room flat with a kitchen, consultation room with entrance hall, cellar spaces and a pair of staircases. In the narthex inside the main entrance, situated in the cuboid corner tower, were steps leading up to a vestibule, from which two side staircases led to a gallery and choir on the floor above (with access to a separate wooden staircase leading to the loft and the steeple, in which there was an office). The remainder of the ground floor was given over to the spacious, dignified main congregation hall, surmounted by a high cupola with a glazed roof. Symmetrically opposite the entrance, above which an organ was installed in the choir, Chvojka placed a simple pulpit. This interior layout of the church reflected the principle of the Czech Brethren that the Word of God was the centre of life of the congregation, and so the pulpit was also placed centrally. The tasteful painted ornamentation of the prayer hall and the cupola was executed in sober Decorativist style by Václav Šustr, who also collaborated with Chvojka on a number of other buildings. The walls are decorated with framed quotations from the Bible, the cupola with vines and the symbol of a lamb with a crosier, referring to the roots of the 20th century Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren in the older Unity of Brethren.

The dominant feature of the church is the aforementioned tall corner steeple and its majestic entrance portal. The socle and part of the parterre are clad in artificial stone with a banded bossage pattern. The street-side facades are symmetrically divided by prominent string courses and the surface expanses further enlivened by shallow avant-corps with adjacent windows set in three rows of four one above the other. A Hussite chalice is set above the bossaged entrance portal, which is framed on each side by a pair of separate side doors. Chvojka completed the outer shell of the building with a range of Cubist-like details.

In July 1944, the church was collaterally damaged by the Allied air raids on the Pilsen complex of Škoda Engineering Works. A bomb landed on the adjacent house in today’s Borská Street, the explosion resulted in the destruction of the skylight above the cupola, the shock wave broke most of the windows and shrapnel devastated the office in the steeple and seriously damaged the roof in several places. The building was repaired soon after, however, and after the war only minor modification and maintenance work was conducted. In 1956, the architect Chvojka again undertook collaboration with the Czech Brethren congregation, this time in the employ of the state construction firm Stavoprojekt, and designed expansion of the gallery for a new organ. Since 1994, the building has been listed as a cultural monument. It is in excellent condition largely due to the constant care of the parishioners.

 

AK
 

Investor

Českobratrský evangelický západní sbor v Plzni (Western Congregation of the Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren in Pilsen)

Sources

  • Archiv Odboru stavebně správního, Technický úřad Magistrátu města Plzně
  • Archiv sboru Českobratrské evangelické církve
  • Matěj Páral, Ústí nad Labem - Střekov, okres Ústí nad Labem, Ústecký kraj, jesle č. p. 1094, katalogový list objektu, Metainformační systém NPÚ 2007
 
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