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Preservation of the Church of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary in Konojedy

Dept 58 - International Relations
Dept 58 - International Relations

Published

In the Ústí nad Labem Region, there is the village of Konojedy near the town Úštěk. This village, where only about a hundred residents live, hides an unexpected architectural and historical gem. The  Church of the Assumption of the  Virgin Mary rises monumentally above the village on a hill. It is part of the fromer Sevite Convent. This baroque monument was built by Francis Charles Swéerts-Sporck in gratitude for triple healing of his only son in 1748-52. During the second half of the 20th century the church was insensitively used by the army and repeated blasts in a nearby quarry caused a harm of statics. Since the 1980s the church was repeatedly robbed and has gradually deteriorated.

Only thanks to the activity of the Society for the Restoration of Monuments in the Úštěk Region was possible to get sufficient funds for its preservation and necessary reconstruction. The EEA Grants contributed almost CZK 30 million to the preservation of this unique monument. Let us briefly introduce this successful beneficiary from the Ústí Region. Founded in 2005, this civic association consists of a few individuals who are not indifferent to the fate of monuments. Often neglected monuments but they form an integral part of the history and face of the region. The company strives to preserve the monuments so they can be preserved for future generations. Local children and young people are also involved in these activities so they are learning to have a positive attitude to cultural and natural heritage.

Every visitor of the village Konojedy will be impressed by the church on a first view just because of its size not expected in such a small village. Another surprises are hidden inside the church. The vaults of the church gained original beauty rise high above the heads of visitors. The main baroque altar impresses by its marble decoration, as well as the marble tiles in the presbytery and the coat-of-arms on the walls. Marble used for church decoration was imported from Austria and Italy and is really unique in its color scheme. Another interesting feature are the restored original wooden benches registered movable cultural monument or stone floor. The original wooden doors with fittings and the forged railing of the staircase leading to the oratory were also restored in big detail.
But let's go back to the project. Within 14 months the facade was repaired including the restoration of all architectural elements. The building was statically secured because part of the church stands on a muddy ground. It was also necessary to install all new window and new facades were made. The interior was completely renovated as well: the interior was replastered, the stucco decorations were renewed, the marble parts of all the altars were cleaned and completed, the furniture was refurbished in restorers´ workshops (church pews, doors, parquets), and new lighting was installed. The altar picture of the main altar was restored to its rightful place.

The Norwegian partner - ARFO forlag for arkitektur og kunst- also took part in the project. His contribution consisted mainly in high-quality photo documentation and promotion of the project and the church to the public and also in the sharing of experience with a suitable form of presentation of cultural monuments, especially churches.

Thanks to their involvement in the project the students of the Department of History of the Faculty of Arts of Jan Evangelista Purkyně University could test their knowledge in practice and thus increase their expertise. Under pedagogical supervision all artistic elements and details have been documented and digitized through modern technology. The University included the project activities in its educational plan in the form of student internships, excursions and partial qualifications.

And how does Mr. Tomáš Hlaváček, the main project coordinator, evaluate the whole project?
“It has been fourteen very difficult months indeed. The actual implementation was preceded by complicated negotiations and administrative work aimed at successfully fulfilling of all criteria of the grant program. It was necessary to arrange cooperation with individual partners and to ensure selection procedures. During the actual renovation of the building we worked closely with conservationists. It was necessary to ensure the high standards of both construction and restoration works.

The running of restoration was complicated by the extent of static masonry accidents that had to be resolved operatively. On the other hand, it was beautiful to see how the former devastated church awakened to a new life week after week and regained much of its original beauty. A return for us is a great interest in visiting the church from the public or in classical music concerts occasionally held in the church when the church is recharged with strong spiritual energy. ”

Although the Church of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary in Konojedy is located off the main tourist tracks, it is visited by more than a hundred people during a weekend. Probably it is also due to the success in the national competition of restored monuments, where the church took second place and in 2017 won the Patrimonium pro Futuro (Heritage for Futureú of the National Heritage Institute, who every year evaluates unique achievements in the field of monument preservation. In January 2019, the renovation was awarded in the framework of the ongoing Czech Architecture Week 2019 by the award of the Regional council President of Ústí region. This all only demonstrates the uniqueness of the whole project.

The church is currently opened to the public and is due to its excellent acoustic properties and extraordinary interior sought as a place for holding concerts and other cultural events.  We recommend you to visit this unique cultural monument.