Located just below the Krušné Mountains, Osek Monastery boasts both Gothic and Baroque architectural styles. The Cistercian monastery traces its roots back to the 13th century. The Church of Our Lady was originally Romanesque, and it was the biggest monasterial church in Bohemia during that era with a length of 76 meters. The Hussites, who loathed the Cistercians due to their wealth, did not spare the monastery during the 15th century Hussite wars. To make matters worse, the Thirty Years’ War was far from kind to the holy edifice, either.
Drastic changes came about in the early 18th century, when Abbot Benedict Littweig commissioned a Baroque makeover. The façade, the two cupolas, the main altar and sculptural adornment all appear gushingly Baroque.
German monks took up residence there. They were sent to Germany for a while during 1945 and 1946. In 1961, they were ordered back to Germany again. From 1950 through the Velvet Revolution of 1989, the monastery experienced hard times. From 1950 to 1953, the place served as a detention center for priests. Later, it was used as a detention center for nuns. It was not until 1991 that the property was returned to the Cistercians. They lived there until 2010, when long-time Abbot Bernard Thebej passed.
The Baroque façade is truly stunning and boasts a fine portico. Sculptural renditions of saints look down on visitors. The interior is fascinating, with Baroque choir benches created with the intarsia technique. The main altar features sculptures of the four apostles and angels. The painting, called “The Assumption of Our Lady,” was created by well-known Baroque artist Jan Krištof Liška. The ceiling paintings in the main nave and chancel depict scenes from the life of Christ and the Old Testament. Two Baroque cupolas also amaze. Look for the painted windows on one of them. The two organs also have Baroque elements.
The picturesque cloister includes 18th century paintings about the history of the Cistercians. Look closely at the entrance portal leading from the church to the cloister, and you will see Romanesque characteristics.
The Well Chapel is decorated with fine sculptures. The Gothic Chapter Hall, built between 1225 to 1250, holds the distinction of being one of the first Gothic buildings constructed in the Czech lands. A Gothic statue of the Madonna dates from 1430. The top of a Gothic reader’s lectern can move from side to side due to an ingenious Gothic mechanism. Wall paintings from the mid-18th century depict the history of the order that had inhabited the place for so many decades. Be sure to look down at the entranceway to the chapel. You will see a dog’s paw print.
The Gothic and Baroque styles in this complex are stunning. The ornamentation astounds. The cupolas, the organs, the choir benches, the chapels, the main altar and the ceiling paintings make up a superb architectural sight that is sure to leave visitors in awe.