It was founded by Charles IV for the Slavonic liturgy, with imperial consent in 1347. The Benedictine monks of the Eastern rite of Dalmatia and Croatia, who used Old Slavonic as a liturgical language, were invited here. It was thus the only truly Slavic monastery in Charles's entire kingdom.
The exceptional monastery soon became a centre of learning and the arts. Among its students was Jan Hus. Charles IV donated the Reims gospel to the monastery, which from Constantinople had ended up in the coronation treasure of French kings. Today we would say that the Na Slovanech monastery was in its time a unique project, which Charles IV wanted in order to consolidate Slavic solidarity and help eliminate the schism between Western and Eastern churches.
The Gothic monastery with a church was consecrated after its completion by the archbishop in the presence of Charles IV and Wenceslas IV, and as the Gospel of Christ's meeting with his disciples at Emmaus was read during the ceremony, the building began to be called Emmaus.
The construction, including the artistic decoration, lasted 24 years. The wall paintings are among the most precious monuments of the Czech Gothic. In addition, the ambit was decorated by means of vapour painting, which depicts scenes from both testaments and is thus a European curiosity. The monastery went through many centuries without serious harm, although it served a variety of purposes. In the 16th century it was even turned into a pub with a bowling alley and musicians. Later the astronomer Kepler lived here.
The monastery was reconstructed in the Baroque style after the Battle of White Mountain by the Spanish Benedictine Order. After 1880, the monastery was restored by the Benedictines of Beuron, who replaced the pseudo-Baroque elements with the austerity of the Beuron style.
In 1945, the church was significantly damaged during an American bombing raid. As the restoration took place immediately after the raid, the Gothic frescoes were restored and a new concrete roof was gradually built. The church thus gained a new architectural design for the roof and towers. The towers were conceived in a quite modern style and are still considered one of the most valuable examples of modern architecture in the country.
The towers are 32 m high and end with 4 m high golden spikes, which required 1.3 kilograms of 24 carat gold. Thanks to an optical illusion the southern tower appears to be higher, when in fact there is no difference between them.
Benedictine monks returned to the monastery in 1990. The monastery is a national cultural monument.
The construction of Emmaus was expensive and cost as much as the construction of the Charles Bridge. Although we do not know who the builders were, thanks to some architectural elements and figural themes some of the work is reminiscent of that done by the smelters of Petr Parléř. This is suggested by the bold and unconventional approach to the massive atrial building without towers.