Týn Church is the most important church in Prague’s Old Town. It is also one of the most photographed sights in all of Prague, thanks to its two iconic Gothic towers that feature countless spires with pinnacles that reach for the skies like long antennae.
The church towers over Old Town Square, despite the fact that its main facade is obscured by the arcaded building of the Týn School in front of the church. The only parts that are visible from the square are the two Gothic towers and the large triangular gable, which is decorated with a gilded statue of Mary surrounded by a halo.
A Romanesque church stood here as early as in the 11th century. It was built for German merchants who provided the funds for a basilica to serve as their main church, and overlooked Týn Courtyard. Construction of the current Gothic church started in the middle of the 14th century under Charles IV.
The west side was built first: the grand portal was completed as early as in 1390, but the west front wasn’t completed until 1463, during the reign of George of Poděbrady. The roof and northern tower were added shortly after. Construction ended in 1511 with the completion of the south tower.
The church features a three-aisled nave consisting of six bays. Each aisle features its own choir and leads to a chancel.
It is difficult to get a good view of the church, since it is hemmed in on all sides by buildings. On the south and west side, the neighboring buildings are even built right against the walls of the church. You can only get a clear view of the apse on the east side from Týnská street, which runs along the south side of the church. From the street on the north side, confusingly named Týnská, you can see the north portal with a sculpted tympanum that depicts the passion of the Lord and crucifixion.
The west front is characterized not just by its two towers, but also by the huge stained-glass window right below the gable. Its gothic tracery divides it into six sections and culminates at the top in a rose window.
While the exterior is Gothic, the interior on the other hand is Baroque. This is the result of a fire in 1679 which destroyed much of the original interior and the roof over the nave. Some items that survived the fire include a baldachin from the fifteenth century on the left side of the main aisle and, opposite, the stone pulpit, which is decorated with 19th-century icons.
Some highlights from the black-and-gold Baroque interior include the main altar from 1649, and the pipe organ, one of the oldest of its type in Prague.
Right next to a pillar on the right, near the chancel, is the tombstone of the Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe (†1601), who laid the groundwork of astronomy by observing the moon, planets, and stars with just the naked eye in the era before the invention of the telescope.
The main entrance to the Týn Church can be reached from the Old Town square by walking through an archway (the third arch from the left) that goes straight through the Týn School. The most remarkable aspect of this building – aside from the fact that it blocks the view on the front facade of the church – is its Gothic vaulting. The building was used as a school from the fourteenth to the nineteenth century, hence its name.