Marianum House of the Congregation of the Sisters of Mercy of the Third Order of St. Francis in Opava

Date 1937–1938
Architect Miroslav Lorenc
Code Z8
Address Divadelní 3242, Zlín
Public transport Public transport: Školní (TROL 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 9, 11, 12, 13, BUS 31, 32, 33, 35, 36, 38, 53, 70, 90) Divadlo (BUS 31, 70)
GPS 49.2243628N, 17.6698578E
  • Miroslav Lorenc. Jaromír Krejcar. Zlínská moderní architektura a pražská avantgarda. Moderne Architektur in Zlín und die Prager Avantgarde
  • Dušan Foltýn, Encyklopedie moravských a slezských klášterů, Praha 2005
  • Petr Tesař, S. Antonína Kuřínová, Kongregace Milosrdných sester III. řádu sv. Františka v Opavě (tzv. opavské františkánky), Ženské řehole za komunismu 1948-1989, Olomoc 2005, s. 185-195
  • Petr Tesař, Soupis stavebních plánů kongregace milosrdných sester III. řádu sv. Ftantiška, Časopis Slezského zemského muzea, série B, 50, 2001, s. 162-183
  • Pavel Novák, Zlínská architektura 1950–2000, Zlín 2008

The Marianum House of the Congregation of the Sisters of Mercy of the Third Order of St. Francis in Opava, still called the "monastery", occupies a specific position in the local context. The social area in Zlín in the 1930s concentrated on the construction of accommodation, sports, and cultural facilities, in accordance with the company's interest in efficient employees, and the city thus lacked qualified care for excluded groups - orphans, the elderly, and the infirm. It was precisely on these areas that the Sisters of Mercy of the Third Order of St. Francis in Opava focused its attention since its establishment in the second half of the 19th century. Two areas were of special interest – nursing, and education and upbringing.
The catalyst for the establishment of a shelter for orphans and elderly women was a gift from the Pardubice Dominican P. Verberger, who donated his house in Zlín for this purpose. The sale of his house and other real estate by a native of Zlín, the head of the Olomouc monastery, Sister Domitilla M. Karlíková, created capital gradually expanded by donations from the Baťa company, the city of Zlín, and a number of small donors.
For the new construction, a plot of land with a difficult configuration was acquired on Divadelní Street (called Hřbitovní at the time of construction) - near the Church of St. Philip and St. James and what was then the rectory buildings. The monastery gained a place in an area which, in the context of the city, has always played the role of a spiritual and social centre. The construction of a house called Marianum, in honour of Marie Baťová, according to the design of the architect Miroslav Lorenc (1896–1943) corresponds to the period zoning of the town. On one side, the swelling ring of buildings connected with industrial production, on the other, the original core of a naturally-grown historic town retaining the traditional functions serving all citizens (municipal, spiritual, and social care).
The foundation stone, in which the commemorative document was placed, was laid on Sunday, August 26, 1937. The ceremonial consecration of the finished building took place on December 11, 1938. The total cost was 2 million crowns.
The construction of the building referred to in the project documentation as a "shelter for orphans and the elderly" was divided into two stages. Due to lack of funds, only the first took place in the end. The design shows Lorenc's efforts to connect Hřbitovní and Štefánikova streets with a long building, which would have created a significant dominant feature of this part of the city.
In the first stage, a building in the shape of the letter Z was carried out. In the second stage, according to Lorenc's design, the south wing extending to Štefánikova Street was to be added. A new chapel open to the public, and spaces for a girls’ school were to be located in this part of the plan.
The neighbouring security house (fire station), which is now connected to the theatre building, was originally planned as a pair of buildings perpendicular to each other. Thus, a smaller, almost square piazza was to be created between the Marianum House and the security House. However, these plans did not materialise.
The existing building of the shelter in the shape of the letter Z is formed by a strict and elaborate morphology based on simple surfaces, whose composition is intentionally disturbed. The middle wing significantly exceeds the two adjacent tracts. In addition, the verticality of the middle part is supported by a strip of glass blocks, which illuminate the corridor with the staircase. The northern wing of the shelter is located on the edge of a plateau, while the southern wing, on the other hand, is set on the terrain and descends along the slope.
The topology of the plot gave rise to two underground floors; the south wing was two-storey and the middle part was three-storey when the construction was completed. The rhythm of the south-facing courtyard façade is defined with subtle balconies for two rooms each. The formal treatment of the accommodation part of the house recalls the aesthetics of the German Bauhaus. Another element disrupting the strict division of the building is the teardrop-shaped avant-corps protruding from the middle part of the south wing. It illuminates the common corridor in front of the chapel on the first floor and was part of the original entrance, when the first floor was connected to the ground level by an outdoor staircase.
The first floor was used by nuns - in the north wing there was a chapel and the middle part served as a cloister. The rest of the building (basement, ground floor and first floor) served public functions - accommodation for older, socially deprived women, care for orphans, but also for children of employed parents who could use the shelter as a kindergarten. On the ground floor, in addition to the rooms, there was also a stage, and a large room for children. Part of the space was intended for young girls coming to Zlín to look for a job in the households.
At the end of World War II, the function of the house was extended to an old people's home with 30 beds, and nuns operated a public soup kitchen and a laundry repair shop. In 1949, the town's old people's home was moved into the Marianum house, but at the beginning of January 1951 it moved to Lukov. The nuns had to leave Gottwaldov involuntarily on April 10, 1951, and the building became state property.
From 1956, the building served the district military headquarters. From this time came the biggest change that affected the appearance of the monastery. In 1958, the building was extended according to the plans of the Gottwaldov State Design Institute. Each wing was raised by one floor and a number of architectural elements (protruding arch in the northern wing, courtyard wing with the avant-corps) were completely changed in terms of composition. Lorenc's exact proportions were disturbed, although from today's point of view the superstructure can be considered as considerate.
Another intervention in the surrounding environment of the monastery was the construction of a new four-storey building of the regional military headquarters (now student accommodation), which stands perpendicular to the south wing. In 1962, the two buildings were connected by a neck, which cancelled the entrance via an open staircase in the south wing.
At the end of the 1960s, today's Divadelní Street also underwent a significant transformation. The rectory building was demolished without any compensation (1967) and the rest of the low-rise buildings on the opposite corner were also pulled down in connection with the construction of the theatre. The former security house became an integral part of the theatre complex.
As part of the restitution, the Marianum House was returned to the Congregation of the Sisters of Mercy of the Third Order of St. Francis in Opava and, after the necessary modifications, has since served mainly social and community purposes. In 1995, a new chapel was established on the second floor of the north wing, the author of the arrangement and design of the furniture was the architect Josef Barták. The exterior lost Lorenc's carefully composed functionalist forms. Nevertheless, the building retains its original purist expression. However, the interiors of the monastery are strongly eroded by the changing functions that the building had to absorb during the 20th century. One of the last original spaces is a corridor with a staircase and glass-block windows.