Město Polička

1. St. James’s Church

About the trail. The travellers - both local and coming from afar – are welcomed by the slightly informative trail ‘Around the Town Walls in Polička’. This trail should present important monuments and attractions of our town. The trail is conceived alternatively – it is both artistically bold and textually concise and – hopefully – fresh. Since the panels could not provide all information, there are supplementary texts under these QR codes. The panels of the trail from the year 2020 were financed by the Town of Polička, its artistic presentation was prepared by the team of the local company REK plus Polička Ltd and the texts were written in collaboration with the Polička Municipal Museum.

Brief history of the church. The dowry town of Polička was founded in 1265 and the appearance of the oldest church is unknown. The new church was probably built from the last quarter of the 14th century, i.e. in the era of the fourth wife of Charles IV – Elizabeth of Pomerania. The Czech queens exercised the right of patronage which obliged them to take care of the construction of the church. Therefore, a connection with the royal building company and the Prague environment cannot be ruled out. Also interesting is the striking similarity to the simultaneously built Episcopal Church of the Raising of the Holy Cross in neighbouring Litomyšl. In Polička, the church was a three-nave basilica with the only tower in the western façade which was drawn into the main building – an analogy can hardly be found for this solution at that time, and thus it is one of the peculiarities of this building.         

In 1421, the Hussite commander Jan Žižka marched up his army to Polička and the town joined the Hussites. The Polička parish was administered by the priests of the Evangelical faith until the Thirty Years’ War. A bell with an inscription in Czech from 1511 has been preserved to this day.    

In 1845, the whole city burned down, including the church with rich Baroque sculptural decoration (the Way of the Cross with 47 life-size figures). The original intention of the municipality was to restore the church, but the removal of damaged masonry led to the demolition of almost the entire building and to the construction of a new church based on a project by Antonín Vach and František Schmoranz (consecrated in 1865). The Neo-Gothic building was conceived as a hall (vaults of all the naves are on the same level), with the insertion of the galleries into the side naves. The most significant monument is the marble statue on the altar by Václav Levý, which was brought in from Rome.       

Recently an extensive reconstruction has been completed which solved the technical problems and gave the church its original dignity (more on www.farnostpolicka.cz). The church is managed by the Roman Catholic parish of the Polička deanery.

The church is a national cultural monument - there are more than 40,000 protected immovable cultural monuments in the Czech Republic, less than 400 of which are declared national cultural monuments. One of them is the St. James’s Church in Polička with the birthplace of the composer Bohuslav Martinů.     

The church is dedicated to St. James the Great - St. James (the patron saint of pilgrims) was one of the 12 apostles and is referred to as the Great or the Elder. His name day is celebrated on July 25. Famous are the pilgrimages to Santiago de Compostela, Spain, where the saint is buried.  

The composer Bohuslav Martinů (1890-1959) was born in the tower in a room of the sexton, when the bells were ringing, and the midwife said: A famous man was born as he is welcomed with glorious ringing. After worldwide success, he died as an exile and a politically undesirable person in Switzerland. His remains were transferred to Polička only 20 years after his death, at the request of his wife. You can learn more about the composer in the Municipal Museum – Bohuslav Martinů Center. His birthplace in the tower can be visited with a museum guide. www.cbmpolicka.cz .   

Recommended publications (can be bought in the Museum and the Information Center on the square): Polička – St. James’s Church, Pavel Borský 2005; Martinů – the fate of the composer, Jaroslav Mihule 2017.

(picture captions) image sources: Polička Museum

  • The floor plan of the church in the Gothic period (red) 
  • The floor plan of the church in 1865
  • The cross-section of the church – Gothic basilica with lower side naves 
  • The cross-section of the church – Neo-Gothic hall (triple nave with equally high vaults)
  • The statue of St. James by Václav Levý (1864)
  • The interior of B. Martinů’s birthplace in the church tower
  • The view of the church