Czech Museum of Music

Prague, Czech Republic | C.1708

Photo Credit: Krzys Koszewski

Occupied within the former Baroque church of St. Mary Magdalene in the Lesser side of Prague in the Czech Republic is the Czech Museum of Music. Boasting a large collection of ancient musical artifacts, this museum offers a full immersion into the distinguishing factors of musical genius.

Records dating back to 1329 show that the site of the museum was once a convent of Dominican nuns known as Magdalenites. In 1420 the convent was destroyed by the warring Hussites, and the newly conquered land was divided between the Hussite Burghers of Prague’s Lesser Town. The land was later restored to the Dominicans when the Metropolitan chapter in Prague purchased the property and in 1604 passed it onto the Dominicans.

Funding for the new church was a difficult feat, but the Dominicans found one in their neighbor Karel Alexander Michna who’s family had become wealthy as General Quartermasters and suppliers for armies during years of war. The family’s coat of arms is now displayed on the copula of the building in honor of their gracious donations.

The leading Prague architect of the time, Francesco Caratti was elected to design the building. Foundations were laid in 1654, and a structure emerged that was mixture of Czech and Italian architecture. The floor plan was organized in a unique layout that runs in the unusual direction of north to south. The construction was painstakingly long and was finally completed in 1709 and housed Prague’s largest organ.

Come 1855, the structure was converted to be used as Prague’s location for their police force. Concluding World War II the church was assigned a spot on the State Central Archives. It finally oversaw construction from 2002-2004 to become the Czech Museum of Music. Although the museum wasn’t opened until 2004, the collection of precious musical records and instruments had been building from 1818 even though the historical music collection wasn’t officially started until 1913.

The unusual symbiosis of the early Baroque church architecture with the classicist adjustment of usage and newly finished reconstruction of the Museum offers an impressive combination of monumentality. Within the redesign that occurred between 2001-2003 the dilapidated structure that once featured Baroque masterpieces was restored to become a suitable house for the history of music.

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