The Way of the Cross on Holy Hill

national historic landmark

national historic landmark

The Way of the Cross on Holy Hill

The Way of the Cross on Holy Hill in Mikulov is one of the first places of pilgrimage in South Moravia and one of the oldest Ways of the Cross in the Czech Lands. The Way of the Cross as a whole is comprised of a total of seventeen buildings: 14 chapels on the Way of the Cross, Saint Sebastian’s Chapel, a bell tower and the Chapel of the Holy Sepulchre.

Svatý kopeček (Holy Hill)
Nature reserve Svatý kopeček (Holy Hill)
The educational trail “Holy Hill”

The Way of the Cross on Holy Hill

The Way of the Cross symbolises Jesus Christ’s final journey from Jerusalem to Mount Golgotha (Calvary) where he was crucified. The tradition of establishing Ways of the Cross dates back to the beginning of the 15th century. The number of stations varied considerably when Ways of the Cross first began to be established (from seven to as many as thirty-one stations). Ways of the Cross in today’s form with fourteen stations began in the 17th century in Spain, from where they spread to other countries.

The Way of the Cross on Tanzberg Hill in Mikulov (known from that time as Holy Hill) was established by Cardinal Franz von Dietrichstein (1570–1636), Bishop of Olomouc and owner of the Mikulov estate. The creation of the Way of the Cross was inspired, in part, by an endeavour to express gratitude to God for overcoming the plague epidemic of 1622. The first structure was evidently the chapel consecrated to Saint Sebastian, protector against infection with the plague. Its foundation stone was consecrated on 2 July 1623 and the building as a whole was completed in 1630. A Way of the Cross with seven chapels representing the seven passion stations had evidently already been built at that time. An exact reconstruction of the Way of the Cross in its original form is now extremely difficult. The chapels that have now been given serial numbers 1, 8, 10, 11, 12, 13 and 14 can be assumed to have formed part of it, in addition to Saint Sebastian’s Chapel, the bell tower and the Chapel of the Holy Sepulchre.

The appearance of Holy Hill then remained unchanged until the middle of the 18th century. Seven additional chapels were built in the years 1750–1776, bringing the number of chapels up to the then definitive figure of fourteen stations. The entire Way of the Cross in its new form was ceremonially consecrated on 1 September 1776. The Way of the Cross was now complete in its final form, and has comprised a total of seventeen brick structures since that time. The completed group of structures on Holy Hill was, unfortunately, to serve for just ten years. Saint Sebastian’s Chapel was deconsecrated during the reign of Emperor Joseph II in 1786, and the Way of the Cross also ceased serving the faithful. The entire group of buildings was destined for demolition, and was only saved from definitive destruction by the fact that it was the private property of the Dietrichstein family which decided to save the buildings and use them for private purposes. The buildings did, however, begin to fall into disrepair.

This place of pilgrimage was not to see a revival of its former glory until Augustin Bartenstein became Provost of Mikulov. The entire Way of the Cross, including Saint Sebastian’s Chapel and the bell tower, was repaired in the years 1862–1865. Saint Sebastian’s Chapel was again consecrated on the Feast of the Birth of the Virgin Mary (8 September). Two traditions – the Way of the Cross on Holy Hill and the pilgrimage to the Black Madonna of Loreto in Mikulov, whose statue was originally placed in the Loreto Chapel at Saint Anne’s Church (today’s Dietrichstein crypt) – have, therefore, been interlinked since 1865.

The tradition of Marian Pilgrimages that began in 1865, with the statue of the Mikulov Madonna being taken up Holy Hill, has been interrupted only once, in the years 1938–1945, when the pilgrimages were banned. The entire Way of the Cross suffered considerable damage towards the end of the Second World War, though work on its restoration began immediately following the end of the war, and the first post-war pilgrimage to Holy Hill was held in September 1946. The ownership rights to the pilgrimage site passed in the same year to the Collegiate Chapter at Saint Wenceslas’s in Mikulov, meaning that the church became both its spiritual and liable owner.

Chapels

Construction of the chapels took place, in all probability, in two stages. An engraving of the town from the year 1673 suggests that Chapels 1, 8, 10, 11, 12, 13 and 14 formed part of the original Way of the Cross of 1630. The six “rock” chapels that have now been given serial numbers 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7, and Chapel 9 a little way below the summit, were built in the years 1750–1776 with contributions from the pious citizens of Mikulov.

The artistic decoration of the individual chapels that has survived at least in part to the present day falls into four separate periods of time. The sculptural decoration in today’s Chapels 1 to 7 was created around the year 1700, the fresco on the wall of Chapel 8 probably dates back to the third quarter of the 18th century, the painting on wood in Chapel 9 comes from the years 1862–1865, while the wall fresco in Chapel 11 dates back to 1952.

Chapel 1 – Jesus takes leave of the Virgin Mary
One of the original seven stations on the Way of the Cross. The sculptural decoration was created around the year 1700 and represents Christ taking leave of his mother.

Chapel 2 – Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane
The first of the six “rock” chapels dug into the cliff and one of the younger chapels from 1776. The sculptural decoration comes from around 1700 and represents a scene of Christ praying in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Chapel 3 – The sleeping Disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane
Another of the “rock” chapels completed in 1776. The sculptural decoration comes from around 1700 and is, therefore, also older. The three recumbent statues represent the sleeping apostles who were meant to remain awake while Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Chapel 4 – Jesus is scourged
Another of the “rock” chapels of the same age and with similar sculptural decoration to the two preceding chapels. The sculptural group depicts the scourging of Jesus during his interrogation by Roman Governor Pilate.

Chapel 5 – Jesus crowned with thorns
The chapel and its sculptural decoration come from the same period as the three preceding chapels. The three statues represent the scene in which Jesus is crowned with a crown of thorns, dressed in a scarlet cloak, and a reed placed in his hand in place of a sceptre.

Chapel 6 – Jesus condemned and mocked
Another of the group of “rock” chapels completed at the same date with sculptural decoration from the same period. One of the sculptures depicts the tortured Jesus, the second an unknown kneeling figure mocking Jesus.

Chapel 7 – Jesus bears the cross
The final “rock” chapel completed in 1776. The statue created around 1700 depicts Jesus falling under the weight of the cross.

Chapel 8 – Jesus meets Veronica
This chapel is one of the group of chapels on the original Way of the Cross completed around 1630. New iconographic decoration – a wall fresco depicting Jesus meeting the women of Jerusalem – was added along with the completion of the entire Way of the Cross in 1776.

Chapel 9 – Jesus falls under the cross
This chapel dates back to the period between the years 1750 and 1776 and was decorated with a scene depicting the ninth station – Jesus falls under the cross for the third time. This motif was originally depicted by a wall painting, though this did not survive the long period during which the Way of the Cross fell into disrepair after its dissolution. A painting with the same motive painted on wood was placed in the chapel when the Way of the Cross was restored in 1865.

Chapel 10 – Jesus stripped of his vestments
One of the original buildings on the Way of Cross completed in 1630. Its original iconographic decoration has, unfortunately, not survived. Today it is decorated with a wall painting depicting Jesus being stripped of his vestments.

Chapel 11 – Jesus nailed to the cross
This chapel, standing just under the summit of Holy Hill, is part of the original group from 1630. The original decoration evidently met the same fate as that of Chapel 8. Today’s decoration is much younger, as it comes from 1952, and is the work of painter Rudolf Gajdoš, Member of the Academy.

Chapel 12 – The Station of Our Lady of Sorrows
One of the original buildings from 1630, used today for pilgrimage services in the open air. Its artistic decoration has not, however, been preserved.

Chapel 13 – The Descent from the Cross
A small chapel that is one of the original buildings on the Way of the Cross completed in 1630. The chapel is now decorated with a motif of the Descent from the Cross.

Chapel 14 – The Resurrection
This chapel is located behind the Chapel of the Holy Sepulchre as the last structure on the site. It is one of the original buildings on the Way of the Cross completed in 1630. Its original iconographic decoration has not survived and has been replaced with a wall painting featuring a motif of the Resurrection.

Saint Sebastian’s Chapel

This chapel on Holy Hill (originally Tanzberg Hill) is one of the landmarksof Mikulov that cannot be overlooked. Its foundation stone was consecrated on 2 July 1623, a year after a plague epidemic struck Mikulov and the surrounding area.

Bishop of Olomouc Cardinal Franz von Dietrichstein decided to express his gratitude to God for overcoming the plague by building Saint Sebastian’s Chapel. Construction of the chapel continued until 1630, with the layout of its Renaissance architecture based on Saint Peter’s in Rome. A Way of the Cross comprised of seven chapels was also established on the top of Holy Hill at that time.

Saint Sebastian’s Chapel is now characterised by a central structure on the ground plan of a Greek cross. The building did not, however, gain its present appearance until 1714, with the addition of the Baroque sacristy to the eastern front of the chapel.

The chapel was deconsecrated in 1786 as a result of the Josephine Reforms, and its fittings and furnishings sold off at auction. Around 1802, the building was used as a military store and powder-house; pasturage for sheep was later established on the top of the hill, and the sheep found shelter in the chapel during bad weather. The chapel continued to fall into disrepair, and the last bits of the disintegrating roof were blown away in a gale in 1846.

Efforts to restore the former glory of the structures on Holy Hill only began to grow when Augustin Bartenstein became provost in 1861. Restoration work began the following year, and was completed with the ceremonial reconsecration of Saint Sebastian’s Chapel on 8 September 1865 in the presence of more than fifteen thousand believers. The new tradition of the Way of the Cross on Holy Hill, associated with the tradition of pilgrimages to Mikulov’s Black Madonna of Loreto, began the same year.

Essential repairs, such as repairs to compensate for the damage caused by numerous natural disasters (and by gales in particular), were performed every year. The last comprehensive renovation of the exterior and interior of Saint Sebastian’s Chapel was performed in the years 2014-2015.

Opening hours

July – mid-September
Saturday 10.00 a.m. – 4.00 p.m.
Sunday 10.00 a.m. – 2.00 p.m.

  • the first Sunday after 20 January – Winter pilgrimage to the patron of Saint Sebastian’s Chapel
  • the Friday before Easter Sunday – Ascent of Holy Hill with worship on the Way of the Cross
  • the Saturday before Pentecost – the fiftieth day after Easter Sunday – Evening service on Holy Hill
  • the first Sunday in September – Marian Pilgrimage
  • the second weekend in September – Ascent of Holy Hill – Pálava Wine Harvest

The Bell Tower

A free-standing bell-tower or campanile was built on the top of Holy Hill in 1632. The wonderful sound of the bells can be heard at a distance of twenty kilometres from Mikulov in good weather.

One large bell, known as Saint Sebastian, was originally hung in the bell tower, though another smaller bell, Saint Anne, was soon added. The bell tower was first damaged by fire in 1663, with repairs being performed in 1669. The bell tower was destroyed by fire again in 1767 after being hit by lightning, and both bells were melted by the fire. In 1768 the bell tower received an enormous new bell cast from the old melted-down bell. Its total weight is 4,360 kg, the diameter of the bell is 185 cm, its height 165 cm, and four bell-ringers are needed to ring it. This new bell survived all further damage and hardships suffered by the building and continues to be used to this day, most notably on ceremonial occasions.

Only the bell tower continued to serve its original purpose following the deconsecration of Saint Sebastian’s Chapel and the other chapels on the Way of the Cross in 1786. The bell tower was repaired in 1865 along with the renovation of the entire Way of the Cross. Interest in the Way of Cross began to fade after the Second World War, and the tower became a border guard post for many years until 1989.

The bell tower was last but one repaired in 1991, when a large part of the roofing was torn off by a spring gale. The same year a decision was taken to completely replace the roof, and advantage was also taken of the scaffolding to perform comprehensive repairs to the building’s exterior plastering. The last comprehensive renovation of the exterior and interior of  the bell tower was performed in the years 2014-2015.

Opening hours

July – mid-September
Saturday 10.00 a.m. – 4.00 p.m.
Sunday 10.00 a.m. – 2.00 p.m.

The Holy Sepulchre

The building here is an imitation of the original Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, where Jesus was interred following his death on the cross. Although opinion was divided for many years as to the age of this chapel, discoveries made in 2009–2010 have meant that it can now be dated to before the year 1644.

The chapel was part of the set of original structures from 1630, evidence of which is provided by both an engraving of the town from 1673 and, most importantly, an inscription discovered on a wall inside the chapel which was found during the last comprehensive renovation of the work and confirms that the chapel had been visited by pilgrims as early as 1644.

The building is in the shape of a polygon, its interior divided into two parts – an entry space and the Holy Sepulchre itself, in which a statute of the recumbent Jesus Christ is placed.

The entry staircase leading to the gallery in front of the chapel is made up of thirty three steps, symbolising the length of Jesus Christ’s life. The present sandstone steps date back to 1908, when the staircase was reconstructed at the cost of the princely family.

The last large-scale restoration work to the chapel was performed in 1951 following damage sustained during the Second World War. Overall repairs were begun in the second half of 2009 in view of the fact that unfavourable climatic conditions and the work of vandals had again brought the building into a dismal state. This work was completed in the spring of 2010, and the building was reconsecrated in August 2010.

The chapel is not open to the public, though the interior of the building can be seen through the restored Baroque grating.

The Way of the Cross on Holy Hill in Mikulov is one of the oldest surviving Ways of the Cross in the Czech Lands. The buildings on the summit of Holy Hill are highly exposed to unfavourable climatic conditions which results in frequent damage. The buildings have had to be repaired repeatedly over the course of the centuries.

As around twenty years have already passed since the last renovation of the buildings on the Way of Cross in the years 1989–1997, their structural condition has again necessitated restoration work. In view of the demanding nature of repairs to this unique monument and its importance in shaping the image the town presents to the world, the Town of Mikulov has become involved in the preparations for the restoration of the Way of the Cross and decided to take the individual buildings into temporary loan from the church for the purpose of their repair.

The first project for the overall renovation of the Way of the Cross was drawn up in 2009. The aim of the project was not merely the structural renovation of all the buildings on the Way of the Cross, but also the restoration and renewal of their interior decoration. A number of individual activities have had to be initiated separately, however, as it did not prove possible to obtain a grant to renovate the Way of the Cross in its entirety. These activities have, thankfully, made it possible to repair the entire Way of the Cross.

Renovation of the Chapel of the Holy Sepulchre

The first activity commencing the renovation of the Way of the Cross was the restoration of the Chapel of the Holy Sepulchre. The owner of the building – the Roman Catholic Parish of Saint Wenceslas in Mikulov – repaired the chapel from August 2009 to May 2010 with the help of a financial subsidy from the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development as part of the measure Implementation of the Local Development Strategy of the Mikulov Area Local Action Group. The total volume of financing for the project amounted to around 1.1 million crowns. The project encompassed the repair of the entire exterior wall of the chapel, the repair of interior plastering and the floor, renovation of the entry grating and restoration of the statue of Jesus Christ.

Restoration of the chapel of St. Sebastian and the bell tower

Donor SMS test messages

The general public was also engaged in the project to rescue the chapels on Holy Hill. The public could make contributions to the renovation in the form of donor SMS text messages. The Association of Friends of Mikulov worked with the Town of Mikulov on the organisation of this collection which took place from April 2012 to September 2014. More than 130,000 CZK was donated into its account during this time. The restoration of the statue of Christ in Chapel 7 was paid for from these means in 2013. The work was performed by students from the Faculty of Restoration at the University of Pardubice. The restoration work cost 81,000 CZK. A new metal grating for Chapel 12 was made by Kovářství Duben (Duben Smithery) in Horní Věstonice in 2014 with the remaining financial means.

A grant from ROP SOUTH-EAST

The Town of Mikulov managed to obtain an 85 % subsidy within the framework of the project “Renovation and Use of the Cultural and Historical Landscape in the Holy Hill Locality in Mikulov” from the Regional Operational Programme South-East. The total costs of the project amounted to 7.7 million CZK. The project, which was implemented from September 2013 to June 2015, aimed to perform the complete repair of the exterior walls of Saint Sebastian’s Chapel and the bell tower. The interiors of the bell tower, in which a new permanent exhibition on the history of the Way of the Cross was established, were also repaired. The project also took in repairs to the entry stairway to the Chapel of the Holy Sepulchre, which was in a catastrophic condition, and the creation of the educational footpath Holy Hill in Mikulov, including rest areas.

A grant from the Small Projects Fund

The Town of Mikulov implemented a project entitled “Saving the Chapels on Holy Hill” from November 2011 to December 2012, during which the statues in Chapels 1, 4 and 5 were restored. The restoration work consisted of the restoration of the stone and polychromy of a total of eight statues located in these chapels. The Austrian town of Falkenstein acted as foreign partner to the project which was financed from the Small Projects Fund of South Moravia–Lower Austria and whose total financial volume amounted to around 600,000 CZK.
A description of the work performed and some photographs can be found in the section below – see Chapels 1, 4 and 5.

Building renovation of the chapels on Holy Hill in Mikulov

Chapel 1

Adopted by: Aleš Strobl, Mikulov
Exterior renovation: March–May 2011 the surrounding area cleared of self-seeded vegetation, renovation of the roof and front of the chapel. September 2012 renovation of interior plastering performed. Three sides of the exterior wall still await renovation.
Renovation of interior decoration: August 2012 restoration of stone and polychromy on both statues and renovation of grating performed, co-financed by the European Union from the European Regional Development Fund with the participation of the Town of Mikulov – see above.

Chapel 2

Adopted by: Vojtěch Vymyslický, s.r.o., Brno
Exterior renovation: June 2012 completion of clearance of self-seeded vegetation from the surrounding area, repair of the roof and interior and exterior plastering and overall repairs to the brick entry stairway.
Renovation of interior decoration: the company S:LUKAS, s.r.o., Brno donated restoration work on the sculptural decoration – November 2011 cleaning of the statue performed, September 2012 reinforcement and renewal of stone on the statue, November 2012 completion of restoration of colour polychromy on the statue.

Chapel 3

Adopted by: Jana Pirogovová, Mikulov
Exterior renovation: December 2013 removal of crumbling plastering and fixation of repaired grating. May 2014 repair of exterior plastering completed.
Renovation of interior decoration: July–November 2013 restoration of stone and polychromy performed on all three statues. Overall restoration of statues performed with the help of financial assistance from the Ministry of Culture, the South Moravian Region and the Town of Mikulov. A protective canopy fitted temporarily above the statues to protect them from rainwater dripping from cracks in the rock.

Chapel 4

Adopted by: Pavel Šuba – roofer, Mikulov
Exterior renovation: November 2011 surrounding area and chapel roof cleared of self-seeded vegetation, removal of crumbling plaster and loose parts of chapel roof. April 2012 repairs to the roof. June 2012 repairs to exterior plastering and entry stairs. August 2012 painting of plasterwork and cleaning of floor. November 2012 fitting of repaired entry grating and gratings on side windows.
Renovation of interior decoration: October 2012 restoration of stone on all three statues performed, including renewal of missing parts. This repair work was co-financed by the European Union from the European Regional Development Fund with the participation of the Town of Mikulov – see above. August–November 2013 stage two performed – the restoration of polychromy on all three statutes + renewal of missing scourges on bailiffs. This work was performed with the financial assistance of the Ministry of Culture, the South Moravian Region and the Town of Mikulov.
The chapel has now been completely repaired.

Chapel 5

Adopted by: Michal Marcinčák, Mikulov
Exterior renovation: May 2012 area surrounding chapel cleared of self-seeded vegetation. July 2012 repairs performed to roof and exterior and interior plastering. September 2012 repaired grating fitted and plastering painted. The repeat repair of damaged exterior plastering remains to be performed.
Renovation of interior decoration: August 2012 restoration of stone and polychromy on all three statues performed, co-financed by the European Union from the European Regional Development Fund with the participation of the Town of Mikulov – see above.

Chapel 6

Adopted by: Radovan Král, Mikulov
Exterior renovation: June 2012 overall renovation performed to the chapel including clearance of the surrounding area, repairs to the roof and interior and exterior plastering, including painting, and repair to entry grating.
Renovation of interior decoration: June–October 2011 stage one performed – restoration of stone on both statues. August 2012 stage two performed – restoration of polychromy on both statues. Overall restoration of the statues was performed with the financial assistance of the Ministry of Culture with the participation of the Town of Mikulov.
The chapel has now been completely repaired.

Chapel 7

Adopted by: Ivo Hrdlička, Mikulov
Exterior renovation: November 2011 surrounding area and chapel roof cleared of self-seeded vegetation, removal of exterior and interior plastering. August 2012 repairs performed to roof and exterior and interior plastering. November 2012 repaired entry grating fitted. All that remains to be done is to re-lay the full-brick paving.
Renovation of interior decoration: November 2013 overall restoration of statue completed – project financed from the proceeds of donor SMS text messages – see above.

Chapel 8

Adopted by: Keltex, s.r.o., Brno
Exterior renovation: May 2012 overall renovation of chapel performed, including repairs to the roof and interior and exterior plastering, including painting, repairs to full-brick floor, repairs to grating and entry stairs. December 2013 masonry on west side of chapel front treated for damp – financed by the Town of Mikulov.
Renovation of interior decoration: November 2013 restoration of wall painting “Jesus Meets Veronica” completed – financed by the Town of Mikulov.

Chapel 9

Adopted by: Petr Marcinčák, Mikulov
Exterior renovation: May 2012 area around the chapel cleared of self-seeded vegetation and crumbling plaster removed. October 2012 renovation work completed – repairs to the roof and exterior and interior plastering, brick floor replaced and entry grating painted.
Renovation of interior decoration: November 2013 replica of the painting on wood “Jesus Falls under the Cross” completed – financed by the Town of Mikulov.
The chapel has now been completely repaired.

Chapel 10

Adopted by: Rotary Club, Uherský Brod
Exterior renovation: September 2011 overall renovation of the chapel performed, including repairs to exterior and interior plastering, including painting, repairs to brick floor and entry stairs and production of a new grating closing the entryway. December 2013 masonry on north side of chapel front treated for damp – financed by the Town of Mikulov.
Renovation of interior decoration: November 2013 a new wall painting “Jesus Stripped of His Vestments” completed – financed by the Town of Mikulov.

Chapel 11

Adopted by: The Galant Winery and Hotel, Mikulov
Exterior renovation: April 2012 overall renovation of the chapel performed, including repairs to the roof and interior and exterior plastering, including painting, repairs to full-brick floor and entry stairway. December 2013 new entry grating fitted – its renovation donated by the company KOVO PROKEŠ, Mikulov.
Renovation of interior decoration: November 2013 restoration of the fresco by Rudolf Gajdoš completed – financed by the Town of Mikulov.
The chapel has now been completely repaired.

Chapel 12
Adopted by: IMAGO v.o.s., Brno
Exterior renovation: August 2012 overall restoration of the chapel performed, taking in repairs to the roof and interior and exterior plastering, including painting, and repairs to the full-brick floor. December 2012 new forged entry grating fitted – the project was financed from the proceeds of donor SMS text messages and by the Town of Mikulov.

Chapel 13

Adopted by: Miroslav Zvonek, Věra Karpíšková, Mikulov
Exterior renovation: July 2012 overall renovation of the chapel performed, taking in repairs to the roof and interior and exterior plastering, including painting, repairs to full-brick floor and entry grating.
The interior of the chapel was newly decorated in 2015 with a motif of The Descent from the Cross.

Chapel 14

Adopted by: Mr and Mrs Leskovjan, Mikulov
Exterior renovation: Repairs to the roof cladding performed in 2013 with a final layer made of soap-block concrete, removal of old interior and exterior plastering and application of new plaster base. July 2015 renewal of interior and exterior plastering completed and restored entry grating fitted.
The interior of the chapel was newly decorated in 2015 with a motif of The Resurrection.

Other activities

Sponsorship of the renovation of the chapels – the company KEIM s.r.o. and the company Krkonošské vápenky Kunčice, a.s. supplied their products at sponsored prices – high-quality paint materials and plaster mixes designed for the renovation of listed buildings. These materials were used for the renovation of the great majority of the chapels.

Charity event – a picture by the painter and graphic designer Jánuš Kubíček from Brno entitled A View of Mikulov was auctioned here in June 2011. The picture was donated by the painter’s son Adam Kubíček. Part of the proceeds from the auction were used by the town to cover its participation in the subsidy from the Ministry of Culture which was provided for the performance of stage one of the restoration of two statues in Chapel 6.

In 2012, the Town of Mikulov received a gift from a private individual amounting to one million CZK for the repair of buildings on the Way of the Cross on Holy Hill. This money will be used in 2014 to co-finance repairs to Saint Sebastian’s Chapel, the bell tower and the stairs to the Chapel of the Holy Sepulchre.

location on the map