Even the most inexperienced sightseer on the planet would be hard pressed to miss this almighty attraction in Kutná Hora – a hugely significant historical town located a pleasant drive to the south-east of the Czech Republic’s highly praised capital.
From its elevated position, the Church of Santa Barbara beams down on its subjects, its spires so pointedly piercing the sky it’s a wonder they don’t puncture the heavens themselves. Constructed (for the most part) in the Gothic style, its intricacies are immeasurable. But even those who don’t know their medieval lancets from their equilateral arches are likely to notice changes in the architectural tact of the building whilst circumnavigating the stone-statue lined pathways. The reason for these unusual alterations undoubtedly rest in the fact the church took no less than 500 years to complete, paused as it was at various points in time, when issues such as war inconsiderately got in the way.
It’s hard to know whether inside or outside is where Santa Barbara shines most. While the exterior offers so much more of an experience than most of its ilk, those willing to pay the nominal entrance fee (60 Kč – about £1.50 – at the time of writing) should prepare to be left breathless all over again, once they discover what lies in its upper echelons. From the dancing lights cast by the stained glass windows to the fantastical flora and fauna depicted on the ceiling-skimming frescoes, Santa Barbara just keeps on surprising.
Named for the patron saint of miners, when the excavation of silver saw the town’s fortunes soar, Santa Barbara not only provided a place of religious respite for the workers and wealthy alike, but also a symbol to be proud of. Even today, long since any iridescent ingots have been plucked from the ground, it’s held in the highest esteem, even earning world heritage status alongside its sinister skull-filled neighbour, the Sedlec Ossuary. While tourists fresh from pounding Prague’s beautiful streets may feel a little fatigued by the many houses of worship on offer in the city, here the star gets ample room to stand out. But even if anything dared try to muscle in on its spotlight, Santa Barbara would no doubt send it packing.
Where the church in its full magnificence will leave you in no doubt as to where to point your camera, our favourite feature is actually very easy to overlook. But cast a glance up towards the left entrance and you may suddenly wonder if you should be averting your eyes altogether. Over the door, a tiny carved figure of a miner unabashedly presenting his posterior to the outside world sits as a miniscule reminder of the revolution that was once taken up against a greedy king. Best bring those binoculars if you want to walk away with the best eyeful in the entire Czech Republic.