History of the building

The Arts and Theatre Institute is based in the Manhart house in Celetná street in Prague. Celetná Street, which was part of the Royal Road, has been a busy Old Town router since the Middle Ages. In 1796, a Prague topographer named Jaroslav Schaller wrote that it got its name from the word ‘clo’ (customs), which were collected here back in the 15th century. Nowadays, most linguists agree on a different explanation. The name is derived from ‘calty’, Zelten in German, meaning buns and later also cakes and pancakes. In the first half of the 20th century, a tram ran down this quite narrow street, while streetwalkers worked in the area near the Powder Tower, which did not do much for the neighbourhood’s reputation.

The building of the Manhart (or Menhart) house has an early Baroque two-tone façade. When you enter through the left portal, you reach a courtyard decorated with a Baroque sculpture. An 18th-century wood sculpture of Hercules and the Lion is located beneath the stairs. It was probably made by the sculptor and woodcutter Lazar Widmann in the late Baroque period.

The complicated structural history of the building has left Gothic and Renaissance traces. The courtyard originated when the houses on Celetná and Štupartská Street were joined. It was adapted into the Baroque form it has today by a father and son surnamed Kaňka around 1700, and F.M. Kaňka did some further adaptations in the first half of the 18th century.

In 1706, the house became the property of Count Jan Bedřich Manhart, from there the house gets its name; Manhart was an assessor for the feudal and crown court. Manhart reserved some rooms for public balls and events. He died several years later and his widow started to let the room in the floor of the western part of the object to itinerant acting ensembles.

In 1717, people attended performances by Johann France Seppe’s group here. One year later, Mr. Bonne and his flying men, and Italian and English ropewalkers also performed here. German performers led by Heinrich Brunius stayed performed here for a time, followed in 1723 by the commedia dell’ arte of Tommaso Ristori and the German Mark Maldtmann. Another ensemble head, F. A. Defrain, and his group of German performers staged ‘The Most Honourable Life History and Famous Martyr’s Death of Saint Wenceslas’ six years later.

Theatre performances, events and concerts were staged until 1736. Six years earlier the widow Manhart sold the house for twenty thousand to František Mikuláš, a free man from Klarstein and Horka. After a while he got rid of the theatre companies. Mikuláš commissioned murals from the famous Prague fresco painter Jan Petr Molitor, who lived in this house with his family after 1730. The Piarists obtained the house in 1752 and opened their Prague college here, headed by Gelasius Dobner, a Czech scholar and revival historian with the title of ‘praefekt’.

The Piarists sold Manhart house to the silk merchant Jan Václav Sacher in 1780. The new owner set up a manufactory of silk fabric in the house. He created a connecting passage on the first and second floor, and thus made some of the rooms smaller. He also had a shop with trade goods on the ground floor. The house temporarily acquired a new from its new owner – Sacher House.

The building underwent vast reconstruction at the end of the 1970s and it was renovated mainly for the purposes of the Theatre Institute, which is still based here today, and thus picks up on the house’s theatrical tradition. Manhart House is a historic landmark that has been listed in the national list of monuments since 1958.


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