A probable portrait of Benedikt Rejt, detail of the painting Danish king Eric comes to see St. Wenceslas church in the St. Wenceslas Chapel of St. Vitus Cathedral, Prague
|Died||between 1531 and 1536|
|Notable work||Vladislav Hall in Prague,
St. Barbara's Church in Kutná Hora,
St. Anne's Church in Annaberg,
St. Nicolas Church in Louny
|Movement||Late Gothic style, sometimes with Renaissance elements (so called Jagiellonian Gothic)|
Benedikt Rejt (often spelled Benedikt Ried, also known as Benedikt Rieth, Benedikt Reyd, or Benedict Reijt; in Czech he often has the epithet "of Pístov" [a village in the Czech Republic or on the Piesting?] or "of Louny"; c. 1450 – between 1531 and 1536) was a leading medieval architect in Bohemia, today's Czech Republic. He built Vladislav Hall (1497–1500) in Prague Castle, St. Barbara's Church, Kutna Hora, (c. 1482) and other buildings in Late Gothic and early Renaissance style.
- 1 Historical context
- 2 Life
- 3 Work (with his important participation)
- 4 Work of more disputable authorship
- 5 Beneš of Louny
- 6 Legacy
- 7 Gallery of selected works
- 8 References
Bohemia became the cultural center of Central Europe when Charles IV brought the Holy Roman Emperor's court to Prague in the 14th century. The Royal Court Workshop under the guidance of Peter Parler was one of the highlights of Gothic architecture in the Holy Roman Empire. The Hussite Wars then stopped all plans for cultural development in the region for many decades. When Bohemia was again open to Europe after 1480, during the reign of Vladislav Jagellonský, good architects were in great demand and the king as well as Bohemian noblemen (the House of Rosenberg being among the richest) searched the surrounding workshops especially in Danubian countries for a master-builder to realize their projects. The king had a great challenge in the court of Meissen where Albert III, Duke of Saxony started building Albrechtsburg in 1471.
There is little information about Benedikt Rejt from historical sources. The dates of birth and death are unclear as well as the place of origin or early life activity (Mencl guesses the river Inn, probably Burghausen). All the knowledge of his life comes from a few documents, especially those of a judicial character. From these sources it is obvious that Benedikt Rejt was a renowned architect and baumeister (Latin: magister operis, "master builder") whose opinion was highly valued at court where he was called to review work of other contemporary architects. As early as 1489 (when he was asked to review the work of Matěj Rejsek) he was thus considered an authority in the field of architecture which supports the surmise that he had created some of the masterpieces which had been built before that year with unclear authorship. In addition, Prague, Most, Kutná Hora and Annaberg (the latter two then silver-mining centres) were among the richest cities of Central Europe and it is likely that only the best architects were invited to work there. After 1500 he was often referred to as Master Benedikt and a Prague architect and stonemason hired by the Crown. There is also a theory that Benedikt Rejt can be identified with Benedykt Sandomierski who rebuilt Piotrków Trybunalski Castle (1519) and other buildings in Poland (Borowska 2004).
In 1518 Benedikt Rejt was a chairman and key participant at the congress of architects and stonemasons from all of Central Europe in Annaberg, Saxony. Many hints in historical sources are disputable. According to some of them Benedikt came to Prague as a military engineer to rebuild the Prague Castle fortification (he may have built the walls of the castles Rabí and Švihov as well). He then became famous especially for his skills in the art of Late Gothic vaults in which he reached one of the peaks in all medieval architecture. Earlier he was considered an inventor of the tent roof of cathedrals (now typical for churches in Kutná Hora and Louny), but it has been discovered from medieval pictures that their use was more common, and Rejt was probably not an exclusive builder of them. His direct pupil was Jacob Haylmann von Schweinfurt who worked with him in Kutná Hora and Annaberg.
Work (with his important participation)
Vladislav Hall, the largest medieval vaulted secular room in Europe, completed in 1500
Ludvík Wing (Louis Palace), considered the first Renaissance building in Bohemia (with examples in Italy), later the place of the Second Defenestration of Prague
Knight's Stairway with an original vault arrangement
Fortification with the towers of Mihulka and Daliborka (the jail of Bedřich Smetana's opera Dalibor)
Plans for completing St. Vitus Cathedral, begun but discontinued
St. Barbara's Church in Kutná Hora, from 1512 onward on the aisle and vault supervised by Jacob Haylmann von Schweinfurt and a Hans, after Rejt's death by Master Mikuláš and Jan Vlach, tent roof realized by Master Vaněk; restored in 1884–93 by Josef Mocker and Ludvík Lábler
St. Nicolas Church in Louny, from 1519 supervised by Pavel of Pardubice and Filip of Wimpfen, probably Rejt's disciples; restored in 1885–92 by Josef Mocker and 1898–1902 by Kamil Hilbert
Church of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary in Most, mentions of Jörg of Maulbronn; restored in 1882; moved 841m to make room for the expanding lignite mines in 1975
Villa in Stromovka (Bubeneč)
Buildings usually assigned to Johannes Spiess (Hans, Hanuš)
Property of Půta Švihovský z Riesenburka
Property of Zdeněk Lev z Rožmitálu
Virgin Mary Chapel (donated by Viktorin Špulíř) in the Church of the Assumption in Jindřichův Hradec, completed in 1506
Virgin Mary Chapel on Náměť in Kutná Hora, the burial place of Petr Brandl – assigned to Master Blažek from Kutná Hora
The vault of the Church of the Assumption in Ústí nad Labem, damaged in WWII
The castle in Březnice, fortification after 1531
Beneš of Louny
In the 19th century Czech patriots made efforts to claim that Benedikt Rejt had Czech or Bohemian origin. In many sources from that time he is referred to under the name Beneš z Loun (Beneš of Louny) – e.g. in the Hall of Fame in the 1891 building of National Museum in Prague. According to tradition he was buried in St. Nicolas Church in Louny. In 1906 Zikmund Winter concluded the discussion with convincing evidence that Benedikt was of German origin and learnt Czech as fluently as German, as he could be considered Czech (his offspring identified with Czech nationality).
A gallery and a square are named after the architect in Louny. There is also a 20th-century statue of Benedikt Rejt holding a plumb line.
Gallery of selected works
Vladislav Hall at Prague Castle
- Václav Mencl: Architektura, in: Pozdně gotické uměnív Čechách, Odeon Prague 1978 (Czech)
- Pavel Kalina: Benedikt Ried a počátky zaalpské renesance, Academia Prague 2009, ISBN 978-80-200-1744-4 (Czech)
- ed. Emanuel Poche: Umělecké památky Čech 2, Academia Prague 1978
- ed. Emanuel Poche: Umělecké památky Čech 4, Academia Prague 1982
- ed. Emanuel Poche: Umělecké památky Čech 3, Academia Prague 1980
- ed. Zdeněk Wirth: Dějepis výtvarného umění v Čechách, I. díl Středověk, Prague 1931
- Pavel Kalina: European Diplomacy, Family Strategies, and the Origins of Renaissance Architecture in Central and Eastern Europe.Artibus et Historiae. Vol. 30, No. 60 (2009), pp. 173–190