Rajhrad Monastery  

Giovanni Santini Aichl (John Blaise Santini Aichl) was probably born on the 3rd of February in 1677, on the day of St. Blaise. On the next day, the 4th of February, he was baptized. He got his second name after St. Blaise, although this was rarely used. Santini was the oldest son of Santini Aichla, a master of stonecutting, born in Prague in 1652. The grandfather of Santini, Antonín Aichl came from Italy, from the town of Roveredo. He came to Prague in the early 1630s. Here he was married in 1635. His wife was Kristýna Ostová of Pilsen. Antonín Aichl worked as a bricklayer in Malá strana in Prague. Roughly in the mid  17th century, he moved to the Old Town in Prague.

John's father Santini Aichl was  born in the Old Town of Prague. His godfather was the famous Italian architect Carlo Luragho. He was apprenticed in stonecutting and in 1675 married  a Prague woman, Elizabeth Thim. As a skilful stonecutter he obtained the work at Hradčany and after receiving  citizen rights in Malá strana, he bought a house At Three Stars in Pohořelec. That was in 1658. During a period of increased construction activity in Prague, Santini Aichl was to die prematurely in his 50s in 1692. He left, leavinghis oldest son John Blaise, a daughter Elizabeth and another son František. In Prague, Santini Aichl chiselled the stone architectural parts for the St. František Cross Church , the eastern wing of the Strahov monastery and the archbishop’s seminary. He also worked on the construction of the Czernin Palace, he created the epitaph for Earl Humprecht John Czernin (Jan Černín) of Chudenice at the Chapel of St. Sigmund in  St. Vitus Cathedral. In 1696, he created the baptistery for the church in Kosmonice.

John Santini Aichl was a member of the third generation of  Italian stonecutters and bricklayers in Prague. Together with his brother František, they took their father's name Santini .  John’s physical disability (as noted by some written sources) meant that he did not follow his father's example, though he was apprenticed as a painter, probably at Kristián Schröder's. His daughter, Veronica Elizabeth, became John's wife in 1707. From 1700, John Santini was to design individually and in his activity he followed the work of the architect J. B. Mathey, who was also beginning his work as a painter. John took over and finished some of Mathey's projects. After 1705, John Santini was so wealthy that he  bought two houses in present-day Neruda Street (Valkounsky House and the House under the Golden Goblet).  

His family life was to be less successful when compared with his creative achievements. His three sons died at an early age, as did his wife in 1720. Only his daughter Anna Veronica remained.  Briefly thereafter, he obtained social elevation to aristocratic status through  his marriage to Antonia Ignatia Chřapická of Mohlíškovice. This fact was to ensure  John Santini many notable commissions. In his second marriage, his daughter Jane Ludmila was born in 1721, and two years later, his son John Ignac Rochus. Santini's personality was very popular and highly respected. His great creative plans came to nothing  with his early death on the 7th of December in 1723, less than two months before reaching the age of forty-seven. Santini had less than a quarter century of creative work. During this time, he was cruelly hounded by destiny. From this point of view, his work is extraordinary and truly unique.

The efforts of the provostship of Rajhrad to be promoted to the ranking of abbey date to the middle of the 17th century. Santini's work began at the time when there was a chance for Rajhrad to be independent. In 1718, provost Pirmus established contacts with Santini and he authorized him to carry out  all the design works. The whole of Santini’s architectural conception  is provided for us by captured copies of plans from the bricklayer's master Mathyas Rosy from the year 1775. Santini took on this generously conceived project. The Convention Temple is surrounded by four quadrangles, there is a prelature in front of the western frontage, in the south there is a convent and on the opposite side  are two agricultural courtyards. Santini's urban solution is based on two mutually perpendicular axes of symmetry. The arranged late-17th-cenhtury western towers  were  incorporated into the new church building. The temple was integrated into the original monastic quadrangles.

Santini's plans were, originally, supposed to be realized by the architect Moritz Grim of Brno. This architect was rejected, because he asked for the drainage of the marshy grounds. Eventually, František Benedict Klíčník was summoned and he was willing to realize the construction according to Santini's designs. But his attempts failed so after the inspection of the construction site, Santini himself had to decide. He realized the construction on stilts and bases ''for better security and for saving  expenses.'' The construction was started in 1728 with the demolition of the presbytery of the old church. In the autumn of the same year, the carpenter John Ebenberger of Brno started  binding  the roof frame and a year afterwards, the rough construction was  roofed. A pair of two western towers was reinforced in 1728. The reinforcement was designed to prevent possible sliding. Bishop Johann I of Liechtenstein consecrated the finished temple in 1739.

After the artist's death, the construction of the monastery in Rajhrad was undertaken by the Viennese architecture Ch. A. Oestl. He adjusted the temple’s western frontage  in a way whereby  he disrupted the verticality through the gothic principle of decreasing  the material in the upwards direction and the composition on the main axis. Santini's principle being not really understood by the Viennese architect. Oestl's adjustments had an impact on the northern frontage too. If we compare the extant plans with the reality, we will find  that the Viennese architect's decorative shaping of the windows suppressed Santini’s gothic elements Santini. In this connection, we may recall that Santini’s impact was visible even on the Parish church of St. Cross in Rajhrad, on the Granary in Rajhradice, on the Church of St. John Baptist in Telnice and the church and the residence at Ostrovačice.

In the temple’s interior, Santini worked with those elements  he had employed in his earlier buildings. These elements are in fact again adopted from the gothic style. The matter concerns the multiple triumphal arches which recur lengthwise and so  enhance the depth, rhythm and monumentality of the place. The window pairs created by lower windows with their curtain-like arc and oval windows above them provide the complete look of monumentality. The main altar and the organ in the chancel loft are in relation to the window segments. As we pass through the monastic temple of Rajhrad, we can see that Santini applied all   elements known to him in Rajhrad – bundles of pilasters, half-columns, multiple triumphal arches framing the peepholes to subsequent areas and through the gothic manner they are vertically and horizontally arranged  within the space in a recurring pattern. 

In his arrangement of the monastic temple, Santini was conclusively inspired by Guarini's unrealized plan for the church of the Virgin Mary of Eting in Prague of 1679. From this and other points of view, the monastic temple is a significant place in the flow of so-called Post-Guarini Architecture. In the 1770s ,  alleys were laid and planted around the monastery. The gardens form a part of the monastery. The so-called atrial quad stands out in the centre of the quadrangle.