Convent of the Cistercian Monastery
1710 - 1740, new building; investor Eugen Tyttl, Abbot of Cistercian Monastery in Plasy
A few dozen kilometres north of Pilsen, the capital of West Bohemia, we can find the town of Plasy that is situated around a former Cistercian monastery. The monastery convent was founded on marshy ground in the mid-12th century and was later burnt by the Hussites. It subsequently survived and the architect J.B. Mathey started making major structural changes to the Plasy Monastery complex in 1685. The Abbot Eugen Tyttl invites Santini to Plasy in 1707 and is the first patron to pay him for his work. In 1710, a project of fundamental reconstruction of the entire monastery complex is designed and approved. It not only concerns the monastery, but also the monumental abbey of the convent, which had never been realized. Santini’s project was required to respect the historical tradition of the medieval convent founded on the floodplain of the river Strela. When Santini was taking measurements for the new massive building, he used the establishment of 5,100 piles that would carry the grate under foundations that consist of 500 longitudinal and 1,173 transverse beams. The entire wooden structure is permanently flooded with water from adits, which prevent the wood from rotting. The foundation of the convent is a regular square and besides being a convent for monks, the Chapels of St. Benedict and St. Bernard are located there. There are large indoor staircases in the convent complex that are unusually supported, as if they were floating above the water that glistens on the lower level of the foundations below them. As to the smaller spiral staircase, one can see that Santini’s design creates a clean form of a helical curve that winds upwards. This extraordinarily complicated technical task and its ingenious solution, which Santini carried out in Plasy, still mesmerizes people today. This solution should have been emphasized by the design of the monastery church, but as mentioned earlier, it was never realized. The length of more than ninety metres was supposed to be the length of the largest church building in the kingdom, and it was to be set on the swampy unstable subsoil in the same way as the huge convent building. Even though construction of a foundation on piles has been known since ancient times, it was Santini who applied this method on the monumental temple architecture and technically solved it to the smallest detail.