Kájov Pilgrimage Church

Kájov, Church of Pilgrimage, overview Location:
The Kájov pilgrimage church is located 4 km to the north of Český Krumlov.

Origin of the Name:
The name Kájov (in the German language Gojau) is probably derived from the Christian name Káj and it means courtyard that belongs to the person of that name. However, an older explanation originated from the word "do penance" and it meant a place where to do penance because according to a legend a hermit founded a wooden church on that place and many pilgrims came to there to do penance.

Description of the Place:
The place of pilgrimage is situated on a slow hill-top above a village. The place is made up of the church with the annexed little church of The Death of the Virgin surrounded by the walls of a former cemetery. The parish of the rector's with the built-in chapel of Saint Jan Nepomucký are situated on the north side of the church. The chapel of the cemetery is situated near the north side of the church.

The church built in the Late Gothic style has two naves with the elongated pentagonal end presbytery and the tower reconstructed in the Baroque style in the south-west corner of the nave.

Kájov, Church of Pilgrimage, interior, foto: Libor Sváček The open oblong antechamber with the cusped portal and the saddle door casing is situated on the north side of the nave, the partly preserved Late Gothic wall paintings decorate the walls of the antechamber. The old and new sacristy is situated by the north side of the presbytery and above them on the first floor is so-called treasury.

The presbytery, separated from the nave by lancet vault of triumph, is vaulted with the tracery vault of the early Hussite type. The remains of the ornamental paintings from the 17th century are on the vault. The nave is vaulted with the lancet star vault, two naves are supported with two pillars in its axle, the third pillar is situated asymmetrically in the south-west corner of the nave where supports the tower. The church-gallery with the Late Gothic stone parapet with tracery is placed on the north side of the nave. The Rococo carved grille is above that. The space under the church-gallery is vaulted with the lancet vault. The furnishings of the church are in the Baroque style and they are from the 18th century and partly also from the 19th and 20th centuries. The valuable sculpture of the Madonna Enthroned and the relief of The Death of the Virgin made on the occasions of the reconstruction of the church were preserved.

The little church of The Death of the Virgin is in the early Gothic style and it has the lancet vault and it is furnished with the Baroque furnishings. The chapel of Saint Jan Nepomucký is in the Baroque style and it is furnished with the old furnishings. The cemetery chapel of Saint Tereza is in the Baroque style and it is contemporarily furnished. The three-winged vicarage is with annexed out-buildings and a garden, the remains of the Baroque wall paintings are on the north facade of the vicarage. A passage led from the vicarage connects the vicarage and the church.

Kájov, Church of Pilgrimage, entrance portal with frescos, foto: Libor Sváček

Architectural and Historical Development:
The original early Gothic little church of The Death of the Virgin from the second half of the 13th century is the oldest preserved building in Kájov. During the 14th century the big church of Assumption of the Virgin was built by the north side of the little church. This church was damaged in the twenties of the 15th century by the Hussites. It was slowly reconstructed and later in 1471 - 1485 grandiosely rebuilt into its today's appearance of the two naves church. It was built in a building style very famous in this region. This style was used to reconstruct a number of churches in the Český Krumlov region in the second half of the 15th century. Kájov with its style purity and quality holds the first place among them. In connection with the reconstruction the new furnishings were given to the church. Some of them, the valuable sculpture of the Madonna Enthroned, the relief of The Death of the Virgin and the cycle of twelve panels with the theme of apostles were preserved. The above mentioned sculpture of Madonna became the subject of the awe of the pilgrims.

Church of Pilgrimage Kájov, crowning Madonna,1502 Kájov, Church of Pilgrimage, detail of main altar, statue of Virgin Mary with Jesus, foto: Libor Sváček

Other constructional activities in Kájov are connected with the Baroque period. The place of pilgrimage prospered at that time because of a growing for worship of the Holy Virgin. In 1630 a hospice for pilgrims, where a pub and school were established later, was built apposite of the church. The growing demands on the church administration evoked also often reconstruction of the vicarage, that was built on the place of the former demolished vicarage in 1661. In 1699 the chapel of Saint Jan Nepomucký was built-in the vicarage and it was used to confess the pilgrims.

Kájov, Church of Pilgrimage, organ, foto: Libor Sváček But the church itself was not really reconstructed in the Baroque style. Only in the nineties of the 17th century the so-called new sacristy was built and also the tower was Baroquised, because it was damaged by lightning. That reconstruction was made by the builder Giovanni Canevalle. In 1667 the construction of fifteen granite pillars with the pictures of the rosary secrets lining the road from Český Krumlov to Kájov became the sign of the Baroque devotion.

In 1769 the passage between the church and vicarage was built, so the priests had much easier access to the sacristy even during the big pilgrimages. At that time the Gothic church, through which the passage went, was divided into two parts and two chapels were made from that church. It was the chapel of The Death of the Virgin and the chapel of Saint Linhart. During the 18th century the new furnishings included the great portal altar decorated with the sculpture of the merciful Holy Virgin of Kájov were given to the church.

During the second half of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century several reconstruction of the Kájov church were made and the church was partly furnished with the new Neo-Gothic furniture. When the German inhabitants were evacuated in 1945 the significance of the place of pilgrimage slowly diminished. Although the church and its buildings were used for the benefit of the church it was necessary to do enormous reconstruction. It happened after 1989 and it was supported by Austria and Germany. The reconstruction of the church and the chapel of Saint Jan Nepomucký was already finished and the reconstruction of another buildings still goes on. The artistic value of the Late Gothic church in Kájov is so high that it was pronounced for national treasure in 1995.

Friedrich Bernard Werner, vista of Kájov, mid 18th century

Significant Architectural Features:
The lancet vault in the presbytery and in the nave, the stone parapet of the church-gallery, the Gothic baptistery in the nave, the paintings in the north church antechamber, the fragments of the Baroque paintings on the facade, the Late Gothic saddle portals with profiled jamb-stone are the most significant architectonic details of that place.

History of the Place of Pilgrimage:
Kájov is one of the oldest Marian places of pilgrimage in Bohemia. The first historical evidence of it is dated 1263 when the Czech king Přemysl Otakar II gave Kájov to the newly established Cistercian Zlatá Koruna monastery. The Cistercians supported the Marian cult in the region. The church was at the same time the parish church and it helped to get many indulgences. That was a reason why the church appealed to so many pilgrims. In the twenties of the 15th century the church was spoiled by the Hussites but the pilgrimages went on and that place of pilgrimage went through a time of great progress in the second half of that century. The progress was connected with the humanistic priest Michal Pils and with the fact that the church was in the region with a Catholic tradition.

Kájov, Church of Pilgrimage, presbytary with main altar, foto: Libor Sváček The most important period came with the Baroque style. In 1656 the Cistercian Matěj Aleš Ungar who was later promoted to the abbot of Zlatá Koruna monastery, became the priest in Kájov. He uplifted that place of pilgrimage in the material and also spiritual meaning of that word. Kájov became the place of great church celebrations that were visited by many pilgrims from the far neighbourhood. The Eggenbergs were very fond of Kájov and later on also the Schwarzenbergs who gave lots of finances as well as donations. Many donations were given to the church by its Marian followers of all sections of population who were there looking for help from the Wonder-worker of the place in many matters.

The life of the place of pilgrimage was interrupted by the reforms of emperor Josef II. Within those reforms the Zlatá Koruna Monastery was closed in 1785. Zlatá Koruna had the rights of patronage over Kájov and that was why the church administration was hold by the Cistercians. After the monastery was closed the rights of patronage were passed over to the Schwarzenbergs and the church administration was held by the secular priests. The church also was affected with an interdiction on the pilgrimages and two requisitions of valuables (1793, 1809). These requisitions for a benefit of the state caused the loss of many objects of worship and votive donations (the jewels, the silver dress of the merciful sculpture, etc.). But even at those times the pilgrimages went on and survived until today. In the thirties of the 20th century Kájov was given to the priests called "obláti" who cared for the place until 1945 when the German inhabitants were evacuated. After that the church administration was passed again over to the secular priests. Today the Kájov vicarage is not occupied and it is administrated from Český Krumlov.

Tales and legends :
A monk, who believed that only Saint Holy Virgin of Kájov could grant mercy and dispensation for him, was killed on his pilgrimage and his killers cut his head off. The monk's head rolled away, sighed and screamed that it wanted the priest and confess its sins. The poor head, covered with blood and mud did not stop screaming and crying before it came to the pilgrimage church and the priest heard its wish and gave it an absolution. Then the blooded shouting mouth silenced and eyes closed. The monk's head and body that the pilgrims brought, were buried on the cemetery in Kájov.

Kájov, Church of Pilgrimage, side altar of St. Jan Nepomuk, foto: Libor Sváček Kájov, Church of Pilgrimage, carved altar with statues of the apostles and Virgin Mary, foto: Libor Sváček

A miserly farmer was dying in a outlying village not far from Kájov. His heirs promised to put a pillow, on which he was lying, under his head in the coffin. When they began to look for their inheritance and could not find it they thought the dead man took it with him. They dug up the coffin and opened it. The dead man laid on his tummy in it hugging the pillow full of money so tightly that the relatives had to close the coffin and bury the miserly man with his money again.

A coach used to be seen pulled by horses bellowing fire at nights by the ruins of Kájov. A lady dressed in black with a gold key in her hand was sitting in the coach. From time to time a vine cellar full of barrels of vine was opened under the ruins. But the entrance was watched by a mad black dog. Once a poor woman happily took a full apron of ducats from that place, but she noticed a grey little man shouting after her that she carried only chicken's droppings. Indeed! She did not have anything else in her apron. She threw everything away but at home she found one gold ducat hidden behind the ribbon. Another day a little boy brought four yellow rings that he found under the ruins and when he showed them at home they were gold ducats. A very unpleasant thing happened to a young farm servant who sang a song on that place - an invisible hand smacked him heavily and he had to run away from a dog with blazing eyes.

Kájov - property map from the beginning of the 18th century

The church was heavily damaged during the fire of the Kájov vicarage and school. The new church began to be built on the same place where the Corpus Christi chapel is until today. The work went on quickly but at night a strange noise could be heard. In the morning they found the construction in ruins. The stones were moved to another place. It happened for three nights so at the end they decided to build the church on the same place where the stones were moved. Other legend says about a roofer who fell down from the roof before the church was finished. People around were horrified with what happened but the workman got up unharmed, took his tools and went on in his work again.

Miraculous water was in the stone well near the church. Many people came to the well to drink that water. One of them was the mayor from near-by village Záhorkov.

Kájov, sundial on the tower of the Church of Pilgrimage, foto: Libor Sváček He was paralysed in both legs and he suffered very much as he had to stay in bed all day. One night he had a life-like dream - he saw a sculpture of the merciful Holy Virgin of Kájov who talked to him and called him to wash himself in the miraculous water from the Kájov well. The man did as she said because he admired her very much. She was said to shine with the light of heaven surrounded by singing angels. A farm servant brought water from the well and the mayor washed himself. He fell asleep and when he woke up he found out that he was healthy and could walk again.

Present use:
Sunday masses are in the church which is now also a parish church. The great pilgrimage is held on the second Sunday in October usually with the presence of the Papal-nuncio and many Czech as well as German and Austrian pilgrims.

Further information:
Places of Pilgrimage in the Český Krumlov Region
Ecclesiastical History in the Český Krumlov Region
School in Kájov