Jan Blazej Santini-Aichel
Jan Blazej Santini-Aichel (3 February 1677, Prague - 7 December 1723, Prague) was a famous Czech architect with Italian ancestors who became famous for his unique style, called the Czech Baroque Gothic.
Birth and Studies
Jan Blazej Santini-Aichel, son of stonemason Santini-Aichel and Elizabeth née Thymova, was baptized on 4 February 1677 in St. Vitus Cathedral in Prague. Unfortunately, their oldest son was born with a physical handicap – paralyzed in part of his body and lame. This disability prevented him from continuing in his father‘s career and working in masonry. Fate, however, had something else in store for him.
In the studio of his teacher, French architect Jean Mathey, he learnt about Baroque principles. On his numerous trips, he absorbed the radicalism of Italian Baroque. The accumulation of all this information just clicked in his genius brain. Apparently, soon after Mathey left for France in the summer of 1695, his student set off on a journeyman trip heading south.
Italian Journey and First Contracts
The goal of Santini’s journey was most certainly Rome. During his time there, he was attracted to the work of the generation older, lonely genius of Roman Baroque, Francesco Borromini. Santini’s knowledge and deep understanding of Borromini’s architectural principles influenced the aesthetics of his buildings to the extent that he can be considered the only real successor to the great Roman master. It was in Italy where he added his father’s name Santini to his own name. His brother Frantisek did the same.
It is legally documented that by 1700, at the young age of twenty-three, Jan realized his first building and was receiving orders and income. The Cistercian Abbot Wolfgang Lochner entrusted him with a contract to build the monastery convent in Zbraslav. He was awarded for the completion of this project by a pair of horses worth 30 gold coins in 1704. And that was only the beginning, since already in 1702, 25 year old Santini was commissioned with the project and management of the building of the abbey church of Our Lady of the Assumption and St John the Baptist in Sedlec near Kutna Hora.
Santini was very well educated for his time. He spoke and wrote in Czech, German and Italian. He was probably well versed in Latin, as well. In addition to the stonework tradition of his ancestors, he was also educated in painting, architecture and other scientific disciplines. Among other things, he was known for his interest in the Christian Kabbalah.
Rich Santini, his wives and kids
In the studio of his teacher, French architect Jean Mathey, Santini learnt about Baroque principles. After Mathey’s death, Santini took over his work, finished some of his projects and shortly became a successful architect. In 1705, he paid in cash for Valkounsky house in today‘s Nerudova Street 211 that he bought for a relatively high price of 3,000 gold coins. Two years later, he bought also the neighboring house U zlaté číše (Nerudova Street 212) and connected both houses. For comparison– his father, who was a successful stonemason, owned a house worth „only“ 260 golden coins.
When Kristian Schröder died, Santini married his daughter Veronika Alzbeta. They had four kids but all three sons - Jan Norbert Lukas (* 1707), Josef Rudolf Felix Rehor (* 1708) and Frantisek Ignac (* 1710) died of of tuberculosis at a young age and only the daughter Anna Veronika (* 1713) lived into adulthood.
When his wife died in 1720, Santini married a South Bohemian woman – Antonia Chrepinska of Modliskovice. They had a daughter Jana Ludmila and a son Jan Ignacius who was born in the year of his father’s death. His marriage to this noblewoman, who came from a poor but old Czech family, provided Santini with a social status he always wanted. Indeed, the godparents and witnesses at the baptism of Santini’s children presented themselves almost entirely in the records as the artist’s noble employers and supporters. This suggests Santini’s interest in social prestige and status.