Chapel of St. Wenceslas

Date 1929
Code Z8
Address Václavská, Zlín
Public transport Public transport: Kudlov, Výhledy (BUS 32, 410)
GPS 49.2038000N, 17.6838253E
Monument preservation Chapel of St. Wenceslas is a monument listed under the number ÚSKP 24342/7-1959
  • Petr Janáč, Kaple svatého Václava v Kudlově a F. L. Gahura (bakalářská diplomová práce), Brno 2010
  • Ladislava Horňáková, František Lýdie Gahura. Projekty, realizace a sochařské dílo (kat. výstavy), Krajská galerie výtvarného umění ve Zlíně 2006
  • Jindřich Chatrný, Dagmar Černoušková , Rudolf Sandalo 1899-1980. Vize modernosti, Brno 2019

The medium-sized village of Kudlov, perched in the hilly terrain south of the city of Zlín, traditionally belonged to the administrative district of the Zlín Roman Catholic parish. The idea of building a chapel was difficult to realise due to lack of funds in the village. It seemed a logical choice to address a local native František Lýdia Gahura, who designed the Church of St. Anthony of Padua in Míškovice in 1927.
The implementation of the plan was largely dependent on the generosity of donors. For a long time, financial collections took place in Kudlov and the surrounding municipalities, but the contribution of Mr. and Mrs. Procházka, who donated CZK 600 and also the land, was crucial. The bricks were donated by the Baťa company, the mayor of Prštný, Ignác Šťasta, provided sand, and the owners of the forests in the vicinity the lumber. František Lýdie Gahura was given free hand in designing the chapel, probably because he waived his right to a fee. The only significant limit was the need for maximum financial savings in implementation. Nevertheless, the construction required a total cost of CZK 30,000. In the context of Gahura's work for the Baťa company, the Chapel of St. Wenceslas represents an extraordinary work, in which he was able to express his opinion on contemporary architecture with an unprecedented level of freedom. In terms of shape and material, the chapel would not be out of place in any of the contemporary Baťa residential districts of Zlín. However, it works even more effectively in a conventional rural environment with the typical development of smaller farmsteads.
The church building on the plan in the shape of the Greek cross has a vertical treatment of the façades with three recessed narrow elongated window openings in a regular grid on all sides. Its exterior is closest in its form to the ceremonial hall by Bohuslav Fuchs in the Brno Central Cemetery (1925–1926). The choice of the shape and dimensions of the Kudlov chapel was influenced by a small, almost square plot in close proximity to the main road passing through the village. The only deviation from the overall external symmetry is the bell tower rising organically from the left corner. The second major vertical line is a stone cross with Christ, which was transferred to the chapel from another part of the village and is located in the northwest corner of the plot. The attribution of the cross to F. L. Gahura is probably mistaken.
The architect worked very creatively with the main building element of the chapel - face bricks, which also create the scale of the building and its elements, including the width of the window openings. The axially symmetrical entrance is covered by a projecting concrete awning mounted on metal columns. Only a metal fence separates the wide entrance staircase to the chapel from the road.
The dominant element of the interior is again the face bricks. The contrast between the dark red areas and the light transmitted through the slender window openings is thus emphasised. The Gothic feel of the chapel was underlined by a minimalist altar consisting of two stone slabs in the shape of a Greek cross (granite altar table and sandstone column in the middle). Above the table, in the column, a box of the tabernacle is inset, with a brass relief, on which a book with seals grows from a grain of corn, upon which stands the Lamb of God with a cross and a ribbon. A brass sculpture of Christ on a cross carved in the mass of stone is attached above the box.
The flat wooden ceiling of the chapel uses geometric patterns created through the use of variously placed lacquered and coloured planks separated by contrastingly coloured laths. Unfortunately, we do not know what colours Gahura worked with or whether the cast concrete floor was in a natural grey shade or in a different colour. The simple, even austere interior combined with the distinctive colours of the walls and ceiling creates an impressive and contemplative whole.
In Gahura's concept, the influences of the Dutch De Stijl movement, German expressionism, and training with Jan Kotěra meet well with the pragmatic Zlín approach. In all cases, face bricks proved to be an ideal material for its economic advantage and at the same time excellent variability in the modelling of buildings for various purposes. In addition, the construction of churches made of face bricks followed the tradition set deep in the middle ages.
Using a similar building principle, including the floor plan of the Greek cross, Gahura returned a little later in an unrealised project of a cemetery chapel for Louky-Prštné (1932). At the funeral chapel in Komárno (1936), the minimalism of the regular walls made of face bricks contrasts with the element of the protruding white cross on the corner.
The state of the interior of the Kudlov chapel today bears almost no relation to the original realisation. The altar table and the lower part are covered with fabric decoration, above Gahura's crucified Christ a statue of St. Wenceslas, originally placed on one of the side consoles, was added. The statue of the saint proposed by Gahura, whose shape we know from a photograph of the model, was not made.
The last modification of the interior of the chapel according to the design of Miroslav Kováč was carried out before 2020. The colours of the seats of the newly-installed wooden benches and carpets were unified, the walls were painted a neutral white colour, lamps were replaced, and a new altar and lectern made of tempered clear glass were installed. The most visible intervention in the architecture is the replacement of the window infills in the lower part behind the original altar with coloured stained glass.
To this day, the chapel maintains its contrast with the surroundings and continues to create a fundamental, albeit not big, dominant feature of the village. It still serves its original purpose and in the exterior it has retained its original expression thanks to sensitive repairs to the face brick façades.