After the end of the Thirty Years‘ War and the conclusion of the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, the position of the Catholic Church became significantly stronger in the lands of the Bohemian Kingdom. This resulted, among other things, in the restoration of the old church orders, and especially in the emergence of new orders. This was especially evident in the capital.  During the period following the Battle of White Mountain in the first half of the 17th century, Servites, Carmelites, Canons Regular of the Penitence of the Blessed Martyrs and Poor Clares returned to Prague. The Brothers of Charity, Discalced Augustinians, Discalced Carmelites, Minims, Barnabites, Irish Franciscans and also the Benedictines of Montserrat appeared for the very first time in this country. In one exceptional case, the Jesuits also expanded their residence here by building two dormitories and a House of the Professed. In the 1950s, two new orders arrived in the land. These were the distinctly contemplative order of the Discalced Carmelites, as well as an order of nuns dedicated to the upbringing of girls.

In 1655, the Carmelites, aided by the Emperor himself, Ferdinand III of Habsburg, acquired the former Wallenstein house near the Augustinian monastery and the relatively large related plots of land to the east of the mediaeval fortifications, which were made part of the city after the expansion of the Malá Strana fortifications.

The construction of the new Carmelite convent began with the laying of the foundation stone in 1661, following plans designed by architect Carlo Lurago. The new buildings were not occupied until 1671, while the construction of St. Joseph’s Church was delayed due to various disputes and probably also due to funding issues. Although the foundation stone was laid in 1673, with the ceremony attended by Emperor Leopold I, the church was not actually built until 1689-92. The church has a remarkable slender facade featuring bossed columns and a central layout on an oval ground plan, which was most unusual for that time. 

At the same time that the convent was built, a garden was evidently created in the second half of the 17th century, covering an exceptionally large area of roughly 2.2 ha. The neighbouring Wallenstein Garden, which was built in the first half of the 17th century by one of the richest people in Europe, Albrecht of Wallenstein, is „just“ 1.7 ha in size. The garden was certainly soon surrounded by a massive wall some 9 m high, which still gives the sense of a somewhat protected and intimate space. Apparently, at the time the wall was erected, a high niche chapel was built, purposefully facing the main axis of the garden, towards the convent. The statue of St. John of Nepomuk was placed there later.

One of the oldest buildings in this extensive complex is the highly unusual garden chapel, consecrated to the biblical prophet Elijah. This small structure, located on the southern edge of the garden, was apparently built in the 1760s. We have no reliable information about how it originally looked, or its purpose, although there is speculation that it served as a morgue or a hermitage. Another chapel in the garden, consecrated to St. Teresa of Avila, was probably built around 100 years later, i.e. in the mid-18th century. 

We do not know much about how the convent garden originally looked. There was undoubtedly an orchard there – a pomarium, located mainly in the southern half of the garden. The remaining parts were certainly divided into regular beds. It is sure that there would have been a vegetable section (fructarium) and beds for growing medicinal herbs (herbularium). The garden probably also included various small structures used by the gardeners, such as an orangery, drying rooms and tool sheds. All that remains of these original small buildings is the small gloriette in the northern corner of the garden, spoiled by later alterations.

Considering that this was an enclosed convent garden, the period iconography is very modest. Probably the oldest known depiction of the garden is this excerpt from the Orthographic Plan of Prague, drawn by military cartographer Josef D. Huber in 1793–96. This is a unique document, showing the appearance of late Baroque Prague, painted in what is known as the military perspective. It is therefore not a classic veduta, but rather a brilliantly executed technical drawing showing details of architecture, greenery and staffage. The garden of the Carmelites is portrayed here with schematically marked flower beds and conifers drawn in the southern half, which we probably cannot take completely seriously (a section of the plan is scanned from the publication Prague in Pictures Spanning Five Centuries by Zdeněk Wirth, published by Jan Štenc in Prague in 1934).

We can get a more reliable idea of the layout of the Carmelite garden from contemporary plans, which are already relatively accurate. The convent is marked in red-brown, while shades of green portray flower beds and groups of trees. The image shows the axial composition of the garden and the position of the surrounding buildings. The narrow garden bordering the convent garden to the north is clearly visible. This plot of land, marked in plans from the 17th century as „enclosure for St. Thomas“ at the end of the 17th century became the garden of the Daun Palace, later called the Vrtbov Palace or Thurn Taxis Palace. In the 20th century, it was home to the Union of Architects; it now houses the Anglo-American University in Prague). Drawing © Ondřej Šefců.

A relatively realistic depiction of the convent after its completion in the first half of the 18th century can be seen in a drawing by F.B. Werner, dating to around 1740. It is worth noting the rather lofty, slender facade, lined with bossed columns. Drawing © Ondřej Šefců.

This chapel, which was built into the enclosure wall and closed off the main axis of the garden (once lined with an avenue of linden trees), was probably built at the same time as the enclosure wall, in the second half of the 17th century. The current dedication of the chapel probably dates back to the mid-18th century, when a sculpture of St. John of Nepomuk was placed there. One interesting feature is the viewing platform, reached by a hidden spiral staircase. Drawing © Ondřej Šefců.

Drawing of the statue of St. John of Nepomuk, placed in an exceptionally large niche in the wall around the convent garden during the 18th century. Nepomuk, the most famous Czech saint, is shown here in a typical pose with books and a crucifix. It is interesting to note that he is standing on a fish, which here symbolises both Christianity and the saint’s alleged silence.
Drawing © Ondřej Šefců. 

The strangest building in the garden is the Chapel of St. Elijah. This small structure is covered in decorative mouldings to imitate a natural rock or grotto, including several animals, such as a snake and a frog. It is obviously inspired by the nearby grotto and aviary in the Wallenstein Garden. The interior of the chapel, probably built in the 1760s, is decorated with frescoes depicting themes from the life of the prophet Elijah; there is also a most unusual fireplace hearth, which apparently once worked.
Drawing © Ondřej Šefců.

The facade of the Chapel of St. Elijah features some very striking decoration in the form of a double-headed imperial Habsburg eagle with the emblem of the Carmelite order on its breast.

Symbolic depiction of the Blessed Mother Mary Electa of Jesus, the first prioress of the order of the Discalced Carmelites in Prague. Although she served as prioress for just 7 years and died in 1663 at the age of 58, she became famous due to the fact that her remains, supposedly buried in the Chapel of St. Elijah, did not rot and are still preserved in very good condition to this day. Not even state-of-the-art medical techniques have been able to shed light on how she was mummified like this.

Chapel of St. Teresa of Avila, an important saint and reformer of the Carmelite order. The High Baroque chapel is built in the form of a central structure, with the remnants of frescoes visible in the interior. It is interesting to note the chasuble windows (shaped to resemble a chasuble, i.e. the robe in which priests celebrate mass).