The eleventh edition of the Night of Open Churches gets underway across the Czech Republic on Friday. This year, more than 1,600 churches and other religious sites will be open to the public until the late night hours. Visitors will be also able to attend concerts, exhibitions, workshops and other programmes:
The Night of Open Churches was launched in the Czech Republic in 2009 with 25 churches opening their doors to the public. In the past decade, it has grown into one of the most popular events organised by churches. I asked Kristina Poláčková from the Prague Archdiocese, who is one of the organizers of the event, to tell me more about its history:
“It started in Vienna in 2005. A local priest in one of the churches left the church open for longer than usual one Friday and lit some candles and he was surprised by how many people came in. He shared his experience with others and that is how Church Night or Lange Nacht der Kirchen started.
“In the Czech Republic the event first took place in Brno and Plzen eleven years ago before gradually spreading to other towns and cities.”
In many cases, visitors to the Night of Open Churches get a rare opportunity to view church interiors that are inaccessible to the public throughout the year, explains Mrs Poláčková:
“This year, a church at the Strahov Monastery will open to the public for the first time, with a beautiful organ concert taking place on the occasion.
“People can also see the church of Mary Magdalena in Dolní Břežany, on the outskirt of Prague, which is part of a newly opened hotel of the Prague Archbishopric.
“I would also like to invite people to see the wooden church tower near the church of St. Michael with a bell made in 1482.”
Among the many churches outside Prague that are taking part in the event is the modern church of Saint Wenceslas in the South Moravian village of Sazovice, which was named one of the World’s 10 Best Buildings of 2017 by Azure Magazine.
One of the main ideas behind the Night of Open Churches is to open the churches to a large spectrum of people, who normally don’t attend mass. And it seems churches have more than succeeded in fulfilling this goal.
According to a recent survey carried out by the IBRS agency, it is one of the most attractive events organised by churches in this country. In recent years, it has attracted around half a million visitors annually.
Kristina Poláčková from the Prague Archdiocese once again:
“I think people know the event has been organised for them. In other cases, with the exception of Christmas or Easter Mass, they might not really feel welcome. So they regard the event as an invitation to see what happens behind church doors. This might be the reason why they find the event so attractive.”
The full programme of this year’s Night of Open Churches is available at nockostelu.cz.
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