The convent in Na Františku Street, historically a highly valued monasterial edifice and one of the oldest Gothic structures in Prague, bears the name of its foundress, the Premyslid Princess St Agnes of Bohemia (canonized 1989). Agnes the Premyslid (probably 1211–1282) founded this convent/monastery of the Orders of Poor Clares and Friars Minor with the support of her royal family in the 1230s. It was not long before she entered it and became its Abbess.
The Convent in Na Františku Street was the first combined monastery-convent of Poor Clares and Friars Minor north of the Alps, but it was also built as a burial place for the Premyslid family. It became a site of royal coronations and burials – as well as the final resting place of St Agnes of Bohemia.
The convent’s significance did not diminish after Agnes’ death; the Luxembourg royal family revered it, too. The nuns inhabited it until the beginning of the Hussite wars in the 15th century and returned after the wars seeking to restore it. Its takeover by the Dominicans in the Rudolfine period (late 16th – early 17th century) was another era in the convent’s history – the male section of the Friars Minor ceased to exist and the convent’s lands were sold and gradually developed into a new urban quarter. The Dominicans eventually left the convent and the Poor Clares returned, but were unable to stop the convent’s decay. Emperor Josef II abolished the convent in 1782 and sold it at auction.
The dilapidated convent, which was leased for various purposes faced demolition. The sanitation plan for Prague in the late 19th century was the last to propose it, but as the convent was an important site, it escaped this fate. Starting in the early 20th century, the convent was gradually documented, researched and repaired. In spite of its troubled history, the core of its unique layout has been preserved. The Convent was proclaimed a national heritage site in the 1970s and, after a lengthy reconstruction, was opened to the public in the 1980s. The history of its individual structures can be seen on a self-guided interior and exterior tour.
The compound’s ground floor houses the self-guided tour of the history of the double convent and its founder. It also contains the lapidarium in the convent of Poor Clares (black kitchen and the refectory) and the convent of Friars Minor (cloister) which includes an important collection of architectural fragments from the monastery’s several building phases, as well as altar consecration plaques and tombstones. Both convent gardens with the exhibition routes through the convent’s architecture and sculptures by leading Czech artists are open to the public for free all year long.
- March–May & September–October: 10 AM – 6 PM
- June–August: 10 AM – 10 PM
- November–February: 10 AM – 4 PM
Almost twenty sculptures by contemporary Czech artists are installed in the convent gardens. The only exception is a major artwork by František Bílek, one of the sculptor’s first realized artworks called Golgotha (1892). Thanks to loans from the artists Michal Gabriel (Dancers), Čestmír Suška (Drum), Jaroslav Róna (Portrait with Skull), Pavel Opočenský (Washbasin, Confessional) and Stefan Milkov (Amorfoid), their artworks stand side by side with those of doyens of Czech sculpture such as Karel Malich (Energy, Tree, among others), Stanislav Kolíbal (Falling) and Aleš Veselý (Suspended Load, Cross Section of Oblique Axis), as well as the established sculptors of the Tvrdohlaví [Stubborn] group founded in 1987. František Skála designed two separate artworks specifically for the Convent of St Agnes space – Alcove and The Sun Cart