Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Wednesday Search Challenge: (Sept 28, 2011) What's with all the steeples?

It's been a busy couple of weeks.  I'm on a crazy / whacky travel schedule that has me visiting Boston, New York, Prague, Zurich, Hamburg, Warsaw, Dublin and London all in 2 weeks.  Why?  I'm teaching LOTS of classes and giving a fair number of press briefings. 

But I spent a day-and-a-half in Prague, which was intriguing.  It's a lovely city that seems drenched in its past, celebrating music, the arts and some remarkably inventive (and wonderful) cooking.  

On one of my runs through the city, I did an early morning jog past the Tyn Cathedral in the old town section of Prague.  It has a VERY distinctive pair of towers, each of which has a number of sub-towers, a kind of mini-steeple-ette off of the main body of the tower.  

The search question for this week:  Why so many steeples on each tower of the Tyn Church?  More specifically: Why did these 16th century builders want to make 9 steeples per tower?  Seems really difficult and expensive, so I'm willing to bet they had a reason.  Maybe it was symbolic (but symbolic of what?), maybe the architect was just really into steeples... 

Here's a close-up: 

Warning: this isn't easy.  I still don't know the answer (and I've spent at least 2 hours on this).  But maybe you'll have some insight that I haven't had yet.  If so, please write a comment in the comments below and let us all know! 

Search on! 


  1. Didn't find an answer yet either, but while searching I came up with a question about operators. I was searching in Books for [ +tyn gothic architecture steeples OR spires AROUND octagonal]. In that example does the search only look for spires around octagonal or does it search for both spires around octagonal and steeples around octagonal?

  2. That's a good question -- I'll have to go check to see what it *actually* does. But you should know that AROUND needs another argument: your query probably should be:
    [ +tyn gothic architecture steeples OR spires AROUND(5) octagonal ]

    Which means, search for co-occurence within a radio of 5 words.

  3. could it be that such towers are actually quite popular. Using image search I have found a number of buildings that have a large number of elaborate towers. Or was there something more specific in this church you were interested in? All the best, Andrew.

  4. All together the Tyn Cathedral has 18 steeples.
    Gaudi’s famous Sagrada Familia in Barcelona has also 18 steeples. It’s symbolic meaning: 12 for the apostles, four for the evangelists, one for Mary and one for Jesus.

    Maybe this is the answer?

  5. More info on the steeples of the Tyn Cathedral:

    - Two main steeples each have eight smaller steeples, that's a total of eighteen. The two steeples are not symmetrical. The left steeple is slightly more narrow than the right steeple. Apparently, this is characteristic of the Gothic architecture of the time and is a representation of both the masculine and feminine sides of the world.

    - At the beginning of the 15th century the church was only missing its steeples, gable and roof frame, in 1457 it was roofed, the gable of the main nave and the north steeple were completed during the reign of Jiří of Poděbrady and in 1511 the slightly leaner south steeple was built too. Both steeples, directing the west side of the church, are finished off by late Gothic hexagonal casques with an ambulatory and a decorative turret. After a fire in 1679 the main nave and presbytery were lowered a little bit and vaulted with a Baroque brick vault. The dimensions of the Týn church are impressive: it occupies a space of 52x28m, the height of the middle nave is 44m and 24m of the side naves, the steeples reach up to 80m.

    - The massive tower on the right (known as "Adam") shades the more slender tower ("Eve") from the sun in summer, thus reducing the building's interior temperature.