From the History of Art Collections

Similar to the book collections, we cannot speak of a continuous development of the art collections either. Just like the books, entire collections of paintings, sculptures, liturgical implements, and other decorative elements of the Strahov monastery were destroyed over the centuries by fires, wars, and looting. The roots of the local picture collection reach deep into the past, but due to the turbulent history of the monastery in the 15th and 16th centuries, the oldest layer of artistic production has almost not been preserved. It was not until the 17th and especially the 18th century that Strahov saw a boom in collections of various visual arts, particularly painting works, for which Abbot Jeroným Josef Zeidler had the famous gallery built in 1835-1836.

Sample of embroidery on a liturgical vestment (copes), which is stored in the collections of the Strahov Monastery

A Brief History of the Art Collections

Although objects of artistic value have served since ancient times primarily to furnish the liturgical or residential spaces of the monastery, they were gradually supplemented by targeted acquisitions, especially deepening during the 19th century. Besides the gallery's own spaces, located on the second floor of the cloister building, where over a thousand paintings were recorded in the mid-19th century, many other paintings were distributed in the convent building and the provisory. Another valuable collection, with more than one hundred and fifty paintings, was placed in the representative and private spaces of the abbey. It is worth mentioning that due to financial difficulties, the Czechoslovak state purchased the painting "The Feast of the Rosary" by A. Dürer in 1934, along with the mineralogical collection, which Abbot Václav Mayer had acquired for Strahov in 1793.

Shortly after the People's Militia units and State Security officers stormed the monastery in April 1950, practically all the paintings were taken down, sorted, and transported to various repositories. The restitutions after 1990 again made it possible to gather some of the picture collections back at Strahov. However, hundreds of paintings have not returned. Some were not found, and others were sold off by heritage authorities.

In 1993, a selection of the most valuable paintings was made accessible in the upper cloister areas in a new exhibition, and in 2006, the exhibition was reinstalled. Besides the collection of paintings, thanks to restitutions and new acquisitions, it was possible to assemble a small collection of sculptural works and a collection of applied arts, containing remarkable collections from various fields, predominantly of metal, textile, ceramics, and glass. The collections are still being expanded through donations and purchases, gradually professionally processed, and the collection items are loaned for exhibitions in the Czech Republic and abroad.