Jan Dismas Zelenka,  baroque composer:
born Lounovice 1679, died Dresden 1745.




Lounovice pod Blanikem

Jan Dismas Zelenka was born and baptized on 16 October 1679 in Bohemia, now part of the Czech Republic, in the village of Lounovice pod Blanikem ("Lounovice at the foot of Blanik"). Lounovice is some 80 kilometres south-east of Prague.

Lounovice in the 1700s, with the Blanik mountain in the background. Note the spire of the church, which can be seen close-up in a modern, frontal view here.

Zelenka's family

Zelenka's father was called Jirik and his mother's maiden name was Maria Magdalena Hajek. J.D. Zelenka was the eldest of 8 siblings. He had 5 sisters and 2 brothers. His father was the local teacher, which meant that he was also organist in the village church.

Zelenka's name

J.D. Zelenka was baptized Jan Lukas. His later adoption of the name "Dismas" (already documented in 1704) instead of Lukas must have been a result of his strong affinity for the story of the Crucifixion, as according to the Gospel of Nicodemus (fourth century), the name Dismas belonged to one of the 2 robbers who were crucified along with Jesus - the so-called "good thief" who was repentant (Luke 23:39-43).

Zelenka's brothers

Like the father, Jan Kilian Zelenka became an organist at the church in Lounovice, at least intermittently, during the early 1700s. It is not known whether he also became a composer, but the name Zelenka appears on copies of works in the Czech Republic that do not bear the hallmarks of J.D. Zelenka's style. Even less is known about Matej Zelenka.

Interior of Lounovice church, which was recently renovated. The little baroque organ on which members of the Zelenka family must have played has been restored.

Eight-minute feature on Lounovice pod Blanikem, courtesy of Radio Prague. (Requires RealPlayer).

As this is meant to be entertaining as well as informative, no source references are given. Please see the Further reading page instead.

The church in Lounovice, showing the position of the metal plaque commemorating Zelenka's life (see below).

The metal plaque showing the dates and places of Zelenka's birth and death.