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Sunday, May 20, 2018

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Prague Christian History

by Dan Drápal

The city of Prague grew gradually. First mentioned in the 10th century, its development during the Middle Ages was different on the left and right sides of the Vltava River. On the left side, now called the Lesser Side, there was the castle and its suburbs. The town on the right emerged in the 11th and 12th centuries and gradually surpassed the Lesser Side in significance.

In the middle of the 14th century Charles IV, who was king of Bohemia and Holy Roman Emperor, founded the so-called New Town of Prague. This New Town was built on the pattern of the Jerusalem of Crusader times - it had the same number of gates (with the same names) and the streets mirrored the streets of Jerusalem. Even today St. Stephen's street has not only the same name, but also the same length as St. Stephen's street in Old Town Jerusalem.

For a long time Prague was actually an agglomeration of three municipalities - the Lesser Side, Old Town and New Town. There was often rivalry between these townships and in times of political turmoil they sometimes opposed each other - as in some stages of the Hussite wars in the first part of the 15th century. Maybe the spiritual division of today has some connection with this political division in times past.

The Habsburg Emperor Rudolf II made Prague a capital of the occult at the end of the 16th century. He invited dozens of astrologers and alchemists who were seeking the "philosopher's stone" and the "elixir of life" to come to Prague. Soon after that the Thirty Years' war started in Prague and it spread to most of Europe.

After the Thirty Years' War (1618-1648) Prague lost most of its significance. The Habsburgs reigned on the Bohemian throne, and made Vienna their capital. Prague became more or less a provincial town.

The Baroque culture prevailed in Prague during the violent re-catholization in the Thirty Years' War and afterwards. There is in Prague an idol well known in Latin America - the so-called El Nińo de Praga. This idol (a statue of baby Jesus) is located in one of the churches in the Lesser Side.

After the creation of Czechoslovakia in 1918 a Pillar of Mary which stood in the Old Town Square was destroyed as a symbol of the ancient regime. Recently there have been attempts made to rebuild it. Still today, there is a statue of Jan Hus in the Old Town Square. Jan Hus, a great Czech church reformer, was burnt to death after his trial at the church council in Konstanz in 1415. His martyr death started the Hussite religious wars. Another well-known person of the Czech spiritual history Jan Amos Comenius, the last bishop of the original Moravian church, was forced to exile after the re-catholization of the Czech lands.

Non-Catholic churches were illegal until 1781. In that year the so-called Tolerance Edict was issued which legalized the Reformed, the Lutheran and the Greek-Orthodox Churches in the lands belonging to the Hapsburg Empire. The Prague Lutheran congregation (at the Salvator church in Old Town) and the Reformed congregation (at the Kliment church in New town) did not play any significant role in the sea of Roman Catholicism.

At present, about 20% of Prague's 1.2 million inhabitants would declare themselves Roman Catholic, but only a fraction of them is really practicing. The total of Bible-believing Christians is about 4000.

Apart from the Roman Catholic parishes there are scores of Protestant and Hussite churches in Prague. These congregations are mostly liberal and do not lead people to salvation.

There are several congregations of the evangelical Church of Brethren, one bigger Baptist church, a Word of Life church, two small Pentecostal churches, the Christian Fellowship (evangelistic charismatic) with a structure of nine congregations and several smaller independent charismatic churches. Christian presence is very weak in the city and there is a lot of occult involvement and sexual impurity.

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