EU funds help: The church in the birthplace of Bohuslav Martinů is as good as new (VIDEO)
26. 7. 2023
Probably the only church in the world, in whose tower a world-famous composer was born. That is the church of St. James The Greater in Polička, which was breathed into life by Ottokar II of Bohemia., and which practically ceased to exist in the middle of the 19th century. The church experienced a glorious resurrection in 1865. And at the beginning of the 21st century, thanks to extensive reconstruction, it has blossomed into beauty once again. The national cultural monument underwent a complete restoration from 2017 to 2021, thanks to a 60-million grant from European funds.
Polička - The grant beneficiary was the Roman Catholic Parish - Deanery of Polička. However, the successful revitalization of the Church of St. James also required important collaboration between the parish and the town of Polička, which contributed both through the willingness of municipal workers and financially as well.
"Almost fifteen years ago, together with the former Bishop of the Hradec Králové Diocese, Dominik Duka, and the parish priest of Polička, Jaroslav Sedlák, we visited the former Minister of Culture Václav Jehlička with a big request for financial help to start the restoration of the Church of St. James. The minister complied with our request, and since 2010, the Department of Culture has started to release funds in the amount of approximately CZK 1 million every year," recalls the mayor of Polička, Jaroslav Martinů.
The Pardubice Region also contributed an annual sum of CZK 300 to 500 thousand. Since 2010, the town of Polička has also contributed approximately the same amount to the restoration. Thus, it was possible to collect CZK 1.5 to 2 million annually. Reconstruction began and progressed in stages each year.
FUNDING HAS ACCELERATED EVERYTHING
However, without the financial support from the European funds, the complete renovation of the church would not have been possible. "This went on until six years ago when the Polička parish succeeded with its application for a grant for the total restoration of the church," continues Jaroslav Martinů.
The project entitled Revitalization of the Church of St. James the Greater in Polička with the birthplace of Bohuslav Martinů, which included the complete restoration of the exterior cladding, structure and elements of stone, stained glass, interior restoration, plaster, new paint job, new lighting and also the restoration of furniture, was financed by the European Union. The budgeted costs of the project, excluding the previously repaired tower, amounted to CZK 71 million, while the share of the subsidy recipient's own resources was CZK 3.5 million.
"This almost unbelievable success was conditioned by the beyond-regional significance of the Polička church as a national cultural monument, which entails prestige, but also the difficult obligation to take proper care of the cultural monument, including promotion and making it more accessible to the wider public. Personally, I consider the restoration to be historic both for the parish of Polička and for our town. I am very proud that the representatives of our town have always been willing to financially support the restoration of the church in the Polička budget over the years. The town has already contributed more than CZK 6 million to the project," adds the mayor of Polička.
The main incentive behind the request for a grant from the European Union was the collapse of section of the church's stone elements and the dismal state of the tower walkway. "Since it was an emergency situation, a project to construction repair the tower was created first," When at the end of the repair of the tower, we knew that we could not finance the restoration of the entire church in the foreseeable future using only national funds. In such a case, the restoration would take us 15 to 20 years," explains Jiří Kovář, an expert in the restoration of church buildings. Fortunately, in 2017 came the great news that the project had been selected.
The fact that the church of St. James has been a national cultural monument since 2010 also contributed to the allocation of the European grant. "Two main reasons led to its inclusion among the national cultural monuments - the composer Bohuslav Martinů, whose importance for modern Czech culture is undeniable, was born in the parlor room of the church tower, and the second was the quality of the neo-Gothic building with its unique sculptural decoration by Václav Levý - the marble statue of St.James was considered unique at the time of its creation," said David Junek, former director of the Town Museum and Gallery in Polička.
According to David Junko, the multi-million-dollar reconstruction would not have been possible without the restoration being preceded by a declaration of a national cultural monument. "The current restoration of the church resulted from a large grant from the Integrated Regional Operational Program, to which only national cultural monuments could be applied. So, it's clear that the declaration as a national cultural monument was not just a formality, and it even adds greater prestige," reminds the art historian.
Photo: jiří Šmeral