Last week I went for a wander around Týn Church (officially, the Church of Our Lady before Týn) in the Old Town. This was spurred on by some visitors going there a few weeks ago and telling me about it, with an assumption that I knew what on earth they were talking about. Embarrassingly, at that stage I had not actually visited, even though I pass by on the way to work and live within fifty feet. My resolution of being a tourist in my own city has obviously got off to a slow start…
Týn Church is the very impressive gothic building off the Old Town Square. It has been the main church in this part of Prague since the 14th century and is really striking. It’s particularly magnificent at night when it’s two towers are lit up with orange light shining through the windows. It can look quite eerie though and a bit like the Eye of Sauron should be suspended in between.
Actually getting into Týn Church proved to be somewhat trickier than expected. Somehow I ended up walking around the whole building three and a half times, before I finally found the door (which, for future reference is located in a tiny little courtyard just off the Old Town Square). I felt a bit stupid, and wondered whether I’d forgotten to put my contact lenses in (I hadn’t, just apparently not very observant). I was comforted by the fact that a number of other tourists appeared to have the same problem, and we all followed each other around the building like lemmings. I assume they were all English too: we were all too polite to comment on the lemming-ing to each other, acted like our behaviour was completely normal, and as if we had wondered about for 15 minutes intentionally rather than being totally lost.
If you can find the door the church is worth a visit inside, where it is just as splendid as the view from the Square. It is also much bigger than you would imagine from the outside (like a tardis), where it is penned in by other buildings. Last week it was absolutely filled with flowers and candles – a very fragrant tardis.
The church contains the tomb of early Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe, who sounds like a pretty colourful character. When he first came to Prague Brahe was wearing a fake nose made of gold and silver, having lost the original in a dual. Some historians have speculated that he wore a number of different prosthetics for different occasions (apparently a copper nose would have been more comfortable for ‘everyday’ wear). Michael Jackson and Tara Palmer-Tomkinson are mere amateurs in comparison.
Brahe died in 1601 due to a burst bladder (or a urinary infection, depending on who you listen to, but either one sounds like a pretty rank way to go) sustained through a drinking binge with Petr Vok of the aristocratic Rosenberg family. Czechs now have a saying translating roughly as “I don’t want to end up like Tycho Brahe” to excuse themselves if they need to leave the table to go to the bathroom.
Anyone who went to university where formal dinners involved plenty of drinking games and a ‘no leaving the table’ rule will probably have some sympathy with Brahe – society clearly hasn’t changed much over the last 400 years.