Jan Blažej Santini-Aichel (February 3, 1677 – December 7, 1723).

Osobnosti SantiniThe oldest son of master stonecutter Santiniho Aichel, Jan Blažej, was born in Prague on 3 February 1677. At that time, the first-born was quite probably expected to follow in the steps of their father and grandfather but physical handicap did not allow the boy to comply with the task. As the future showed, the boy had in fact exceeded the hope others had in him, though it did not concern the stone cutting art. The son probably proved to be a skilled painter because the father decided to have him educated in painting and architecture. The teacher of young Jan Blažej is subject to speculation, but the fact that Jan Blažej was a properly educated painter as well as an architect points to the possibility that Jean Baptista Mathey might have been the teacher. Moreover, after Mathey had died, Jan Blažej gained most of the customers for whom he then designed projects. As a fresh graduate, Santini started to travel in 1696, which was usual for journeymen; the journey took over three years.
Although Jan Blažej designed buildings and built independently from 1700, we can only examine his later work dating roughly to the turn of 1702 - 1703. The fact that he met with Wolfgang Lochner, an abbot in Zbraslav, was a very important step for all his further life; Lochner is considered his first major and very important customer. Santini met with other representatives of religious houses (Cistercian and Benedictine ones in particular) thanks to Lochner. The abbots of these monasteries were Jan´s most important customers for the rest of his short life. Thus Santini started to work for Jindřich Snopek, an abbot in Sedlec, in 1703, and for Václav Vejmluva, an abbot in Žďár, in 1706; Plasy follow in 1707 (abbot Evžen Tyttl), Kladruby in 1710 (abbot Maur Fintzguth) etc. It is obvious that the atmosphere of originally medieval monasteries and the abbots who were universally educated and goalseeking persons, were the most inspiring and favourable environment for Santini and his work. Secular persons can also be found among Santini´s customers but the number is undoubtedly far smaller. As for his long-term cooperation, we only have documents concerning Norbert Leopold, Count Kolowrat-Libsteinský .
Although Santini built in a period not so remote in terms of history, today it is not possible to clearly identify the exact number of buildings he built during his life. The current invitation contains approximately sixty buildings which can be assigned to Santini on the basis of written documents. Universally, they are above-average quality buildings and about ten of them are considered an absolute peak of European architecture in that time.
If we browse through the lists of buildings produced by the architect, let´s mention at least several buildings which have been preserved up to these days. The monastery Church of the Assumption of Virgin Mary and St. John the Baptist (kostel Nanebevzetí P. Marie a sv. Jana Křitele) in Sedlec at Kutná Hora is a very known one; Santini radically rebuilt the original Gothic cathedral there (1703 - 1708). Unfortunately, the monumental building is partially surrounded by several industrial buildings today and the visual impact has been extremely affected by changes of terrain heights around. The monastery Church of the Assumption of Virgin Mary (kostel Nanebevzetí P. Marie) in Kladruby at Stříbro, radically rebuilt according to Santini´s design in 1712 - 1726, is breathtaking architecture even today and does not need any commentary. Original Santini´s design of the pilgrimage Church of the Birth of Virgin Mary (kostel Narození P. Marie) in Křtiny has not been fully implemented (moreover, the architect was already dead when they started to build the church); nevertheless, the monumental appearance of the area, well-hidden in a valley near Brno, charms visitors even today. As for secular buildings, let´s mention the new building of chateau Karlova koruna in Chlumec nad Cidlinou. The chateau located on a small hillock is a dynamic building with a central area, and attracts a lot of attention. The basic layout has been designed by Santini again and F. M. Kaňka is the author of the details. The Church of St. John of Nepomuk at Zelená hora in Žďár nad Sázavou is a building which contradicts all common ideas about religious architecture and today is a recognized gem of the World Cultural Heritage of mankind.
Santini´s family life has been mapped to a substantially lesser extent than his professional activities. He bought a house of his own in Prague in 1705 and became a Little Quarter citizen. He soon bought a house neighbouring to that of his and joined them together. However, he could not carry business in Prague because he was not a member of the Guild of Bricklayers in Prague. Nobility and religious institutions could be his only customers in Prague because the measures of the Guild did not concern them. Jan Blažej married Veronika Alžběta Schröderová, a daughter of painter Krystián Schröder, in 1707. He became the father of four children but all three sons (Jan Norbert Lukáš, Josef Rudolf Felix Řehoř and František Ignác) died of childhood tuberculosis. Just daughter Anna Veronika survived, born as the fourth one. First Santini´s marriage lasted thirteen years: his wife Veronika Alžběta died in 1720. Santini and his then seven-year-old daughter did not stay alone for a long time. Antonie Ignatie Chřepická of Modliškovice became his second wife. This noblewoman from South Bohemia gave two more children to Santini, daughter Johanna Ludmila and son Johann Ignatius Roch who was born in August 1723.
The date of 5 December 1723 can be found in the last will of the great architect. Young as he was, Santini died two days later at 46 years of age. He had not chosen any spectacular building as the place of his final rest but a modest Church of St. John (kostel sv. Jana) in Obora in Prague. The fate did not wish him to rest in peace, though. The operation of the church was discontinued in 1784 due to Joseph´s decrees and the church was closed two years later. The church as well as a part of the cemetery became private property in 1791. The church building was reconstructed into a dwelling house, the crypt was turned into a cellar and the cemetery was changed into a garden; today, the existence of the cemetery is only suggested by the cross and the memorial tablet on the former wall of the cemetery. We do know know what happened with Santini´s remains. Although there are a lot of buildings all over the country which were projected by Santini which can be considered the memorials of his life in a way, Santini does not have any memorial of his own, there is nowhere to come. There is nowhere to put a flower...

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The Pilgrimage Church of St John of Nepomuk at Zelená hora
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