Svatý Jan pod Skalou – Unique Cave Church under a Cliff

Svatý Jan pod Skalou cliff

Are you looking for a tip on a great half-day trip out of Prague? Discover Svatý Jan pod Skalou, a place hidden in a rocky valley in the middle of beautiful forests! Climb up a cliff with an impressive view and peek into a church built inside of a cave!

Why should you visit Svatý Jan pod Skalou?

Svatý Jan pod Skalou (Saint John under the Cliff) is a picturesque little village in Bohemian Karst, approximately 20 km SW of Prague. It lies under a scenic rock face with a small cross on its top.

But the amazing landscape is not the only reason why you should pay a visit. This place has an interesting history, too. Its story begins in the 9th century, at the times of the first Christians in Czechia! According to a legend, the first Czech Christian hermit named Ivan used to live in the local cave at that time.

Svatý Jan pod Skalou monastery
Former monastery under the cliff

Who was Ivan?

The legend has it, Ivan was a son of a foreign duke. He turned away from secular life and decided on a life in solitude. He left for Bohemia and settled down in the cave under the cliff in the middle of nowhere.

Like other hermits, he lived an ascetic life. He lived for 42 years in this silent landscape without being seen by anyone 😮!

Once, the Czech duke was hunting bears in the surrounding forest. By accident, he shot a doe that provided Ivan with milk. The poor wounded animal brought the duke to Ivan’s cave and died.

The duke was sorry for killing the doe and invited Ivan to live in his nearby castle. Ivan refused, but these two men became friends.

When Ivan died, he was buried in his cave. Nearby the grave of the holy man, the duke built a chapel dedicated to St. John the Baptist. Hence the name of the settlement. Later, Benedictine monks built a monastery here and turned Ivan’s cave into a pilgrimage place.

Hermit Ivan

Visit the unique cave church

Don’t miss the opportunity to look inside the cave! It’s open for visitors from April to October (10 am-1 pm, 2 pm-5 pm) on weekends only. In July and August, it’s open daily except for Mondays.

To get to the cave, enter the Baroque church. There is no entrance fee, but you can donate a little amount into a box. In the center of the church, you’ll see a tombstone with Ivan’s relics. Walk through the next door. Several stairs will lead you down to Ivan’s Cave.

You will see a stone Ivan (allegedly) used to sleep on. There is also another stone with two dents. They’re believed to be the footprints of the kneeling hermit.

In the rear part of the cave, you’ll find yourself in an underground chapel. The monks hollowed out this cavity. There is also a crypt, in which remains of about 150 Benedictines are still buried.

Spring of healing water

Outside the church, behind the corner, you’ll find a spring Ivan used to drink from.

It has been considered curative because of its high mineral content. It’s not recommended to drink it, though. But it’s great for washing off the sweat from your face. Especially after the hike to the top of the cliff!

View from the cliff

For some people, the visit to the cave is the highlight of this trip. But most of them come here because of the gorgeous view from the cliff above the monastery!

Its summit with a cross rises 150 m (500 ft) above the bottom of the valley. The path is quite steep, and the 40-minutes hike might be challenging for some people. But don’t give up! Bring plenty of water and some snacks to keep you energized. It’s worth the effort!

At the top, sit down on a rock, and chill 😀. Enjoy the beautiful view of the monastery and surrounding hills of Bohemian Karst. When standing at the edge of the cliff, watch your steps, and stay at a safe distance – there is no barrier!

How to get to Svatý Jan pod Skalou

You have more options on how to reach Svatý Jan pod Skalou. The most convenient way is to take the direct bus number 384 that runs on weekends from Zličín, the terminal station of the Prague B-line metro. On weekdays, there are several bus connections, but you’ll have to change in Loděnice.

You can also extend your trip and walk to Svatý Jan along the red route from the train station in Beroun (5 km, 1:40). Another and shorter yellow-colored path starts at the train station in Vráž (3 km, 0:50). Zoom-out the map above!

The route from Svatý Jan to the top of the cliff is marked with red signs. After you come to a small crossing, follow the red shape triangles to the summit.

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