27 April 2023

Morning prayers in Easter
with USPG: (19) 27 April 2023

The Church of Our Lady Sub Catena is the oldest church in Mala Strana, the Lesser Quarter in Prague (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Patrick Comerford

We are still in the season of Easter, and this is the Third Week of Easter. LToday, the Calendar of the Church of England in Common Worship commemorates the poet Christina Rossetti, who died in 1894.

Later today, I hope to take part in a dat-long meeting of clergy in the Milton Keynes area. But, before this day gets busy, I am taking some time this morning for prayer and reflection. Following our visit to Prague earlier this month, I am reflecting each morning this week in these ways:

1, Short reflections on a church in Prague;

2, the Gospel reading of the day in the Church of England lectionary;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.

The baroque interior of the Church of Our Lady Sub Catena in Prague (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

The Church of Our Lady Sub Catena, Prague:

The Church of Our Lady Sub Catena is the oldest church in Mala Strana, the Lesser Quarter in Prague, and it has a certain quiet charm not found in some of the churches in Prague that attract tourists in larger numbers.

The name of the church is something of a mystery. One theory says it was named after an old statue of the Virgin Mary, another suggests that a chain was used either to seal the gate of the commandry, and the more popular explanation says it was named after a chain that was stretched across the Vltava River to prevent ships from passing through without paying a toll to the knights. Some say the chain stretched from this site in the Lesser Town all the way across the Vltava River, along the tower gate of the former Judith Bridge, to the Old Town.

The entrance to the church in Mala Strana leads to a quaint, enchanting courtyard, which in turn leads to the church with a grand Baroque interior.

The Church of Our Lady Sub Catena or the Church of Our Lady Under the Chain is a hewn-stone, mediaeval Romanesque basilica, founded in the 12th century by the Knights Hospitaller or Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, often known today as the Knights of Malta.

The Knights Hospitaller received land south of the bishop’s court, below the castle and near the former Judith Bridge in 1156-1159. They built their first church on the site built after 1158, and the three-aisle Romanesque basilica was completed in 1182.

After 1314, when the Order of Saint John of Jerusalem obtained funds by selling off the property of the suppressed Knights Templar, the Romanesque church was knocked down and work began on a grand Gothic three-aisle basilica, built probably by Peter Parler’s workshop.

Remnants of the older building have been preserved on the right-hand side of what is now the courtyard. From the original plans, only the choir and sacristy were built; the western prism tower was started but never completed.

The church was destroyed by fire in 1420 during the Hussite Wars, and was ruined yet again in 1503. It took on its present mixed Baroque-Gothic appearance with renovations in the 17th century, when the church was rebuilt in Baroque style.

Most work of the work in this phase was carried out by the Italian architect Carlo Lurago and stone mason Giovanni Battista Spinetti. The Gothic steeples were cut down to 32 meters high, a shadow of their former selves, and the appearance of the church has remained the same since.

A Baroque painting by Karel Škréta above the High Altar depicts the Madonna blessing the Knights of Malta at the Battle of Lepanto (ca 1651). Another painting by Škréta of the Beheading of Saint Barbara is at the south altar (1674). Most of the sculptures in the church are the work of Jan Petr Wenda.

The church belongs to the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta and is administered by the Grand Priory of Bohemia of the order of Malta as a monastery church.

The church is open for Mass on Sundays at 10:00 and on Tuesdays at 17:30. Outside those times, visitors can see the garden courtyard, and peer through the grille into the church.

A painting by Karel Škréta above the High A;tar depicts the Madonna blessing the Knights of Malta at the Battle of Lepanto (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

John 6: 44-51 (NRSVA):

[Jesus said:] 44 ‘No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me; and I will raise that person up on the last day. 45 It is written in the prophets, “And they shall all be taught by God.” Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me. 46 Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father. 47 Very truly, I tell you, whoever believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live for ever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.’

The quaint, enchanting courtyard and the entrance to the church in Mala Strana (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Today’s Prayer:

The theme this week in the prayer diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) is ‘Praying for Peace.’ This theme was introduced on Sunday by the Anglican Chaplain in Warsaw, Poland, the Revd David Brown, who reflected on peace in the light of the International Day of Multilateralism and Diplomacy for Peace last Monday.

The USPG Prayer invites us to pray this morning (27 April 2023, South Africa Freedom Day):

Let us pray for all who are oppressed. May the remembrance of South Africa’s first post-apartheid elections inspire us to work for the self-determination of every nation and person.


Almighty Father,
who in your great mercy gladdened the disciples
with the sight of the risen Lord:
give us such knowledge of his presence with us,
that we may be strengthened and sustained by his risen life
and serve you continually in righteousness and truth;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Post Communion:

Living God,
your Son made himself known to his disciples
in the breaking of bread:
open the eyes of our faith,
that we may see him in all his redeeming work;
who is alive and reigns, now and for ever.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

The church took on its present mixed Baroque-Gothic appearance during renovations in the 17th century (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

Inside the entrance porch to the courtyard and the church in Mala Strana (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

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