Prague Monuments

PRAGUE CASTLE – GOLDEN LANE – ST. VITUS CATHEDRAL – VLADISLAV HALL

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The Castle was founded after the year 880 as a seat for the Czech prices who were previously settled in Levý Hradec. It became not only the centre of the Czech Přemyslid state but also the centre of church. The Church of Virgin Mary was built before the end of the 9th century; St. Vitus Rotunda, Episcopal Palace and Church of St. George were built later. The palace served as the resident seat of the ruler. In 1344 the construction of St. Vitus Cathedral was started.

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King Vladislav Jagellon enlarged the palace by adding the Vladislav Hall. Also during his reign the tower Daliborka was built. The romantic story about the knight Dalibor from Kozojedy that was imprisoned here became the theme of the Smetana’s opera Dalibor. As the double moat was covered in the half of the 16th century, the construction of the second courtyard of the Castle took place. The Spanish Hall with Rudolph’s Gallery can be found in the Northern Wing. The Western Wing houses the Castle’s picture gallery. The Chapel of the Holy Cross is situated in the southeast corner of the courtyard. The heart of the Castle’s area is the third Castle’s courtyard. Here you can find the Palace of the emperor Rudolph II, Maxmilian II and queen’s palace built in early Baroque style. Now the office of the president of the country is located here. The square is embraced by the Royal palace and St. Vitus Cathedral.

The Powder Tower called Mihulka from the 15th century belongs also to the area of the Prague Castle. The exhibition devoted to culture and science is installed here. You can find here also a model of alchemist’s workshop. Also the gardens around the area of the Prague Castle are remarkable. For example Castle gardens, Garden of Eden and Garden on the Ramparts.

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Further popular tourist attraction is so called Golden Lane. Lane that goes over the Deer Moat consists of houses painted with various colours, the construction of these houses started during the 16th century. Originally the Castle marksmen, craftsman and Rudolphine gold-beaters lived in these houses. However, according to a legend, the Rudolphine alchemists lived here. Currently the houses are used for exhibition about the history of this part of the Castle; you can find here book shops and gift shops.

St. Vitus Cathedral is the most important Prague cathedral, the crown jewels of the Czech kingdom and also relics of Czech rulers are stored here. In the year 1344 the cathedral was founded by Charles IV on the place of Romanesque basilica and previous rotunda built by St. Wenceslas. The structure of the cathedral was designed by Matthias of Arras, after his death Petr Parléř and later his sons took over the construction. The cathedral was built in stages; different parts in different styles were added. It was finished as late as in 1929. In the triforium of the cathedral you can find 21 busts displaying Charles IV and ruler’s family, archbishops, builders of the cathedral. The royal tomb is placed in the ground floor, here are also located the remains of the Romanesque rotunda. Further important place is the chamber in which the Coronation Jewels are kept and locked. Indisputably, the most precious piece is the Crown of Saint Wenceslas from the year 1346. During the reign of Vladislav Jagellon, the royal oratory was built (year 1493). The tombstone of the earl L. Šlik made by J. E. Fischer from Erlach, F. M. Kaňka a M. Brandl from the year 1723 is important Baroque element of the cathedral. Among the new work pieces, the statue of the cardinal B. Schwarzenberg made by V. Myslbek in the years 1892-1895 is very interesting. The 20th century enriched the individual chapels with coloured windows made according to paperboards of e.g. A. Mucha, F. Kysela and other.

If we revert to the Prague Castle that it is necessary to mention the Vladislav Hall that stretches in the whole second floor of the Old Palace of the Prague Castle. The area built during the reign of Vladislav Jagellon in the years 1492-1502 was designed by B. Ried. The area served and serves the most important state gatherings. It was the scene of coronation festivities, knights' tournaments and other. The Hall was renovated after the World War I.

 

ROYAL SUMMER PALACE (BELVEDERE)

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The Summer Palace was built to the order of Ferdinand I in the years 1538-1563. It is an example of Renaissance in Bohemia. P. della Stella, H. Tirol, B. Wohlmut and O. Aostalis participated in the design works. The stonemasonry originates from the workshop of P. della Stella. The Palace was intended to serve mainly for relaxation and entertainment of the queen Anna. Rich gallery, dancing hall and also rooms with luxurious furnishings were here. Belvedere was affected by the invasion of the Swedish troops in 1648 that took many collections from the Summer Palace. Later the Palace went into decline because under Joseph II it was transformed into laboratory. In the years 1851-1865, the walls of the first ground of Belvedere were painted with the cycle of the Czech history. The reconstructed Royal Summer Palace is now used as facility for exhibitions.

 

PETŘÍN OBSERVATION TOWER

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Observation Tower 60 metres high can be found westwards above the Lesser Town Basin. The Czech Tourist club decided to build the Tower; they were inspired by the Parisian Eiffel Tower. Petřín Observation Tower was built in connection of the Jubilee Prague exhibition in 1891.

 

STRAHOV MONASTERY

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The Monastery was founded by the prince Vladislav II in 1140. The monastery complex stretches on the Petřín hillside and it comprises two churches, monastery, monastery prelature, library and farmyards. The core of the complex is the monastery with the library where the Museum of National Literature is located. The entrance to the area is through the gate from Pohořelec made by A. Lurago, who also participated in the reconstructions of the abbey temple of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. The building of the prelature originates from the second half of the 16th century and it is placed on the main courtyard. Worth seeing in particular are the ceiling frescos made by S. Nosecký. Interesting are also the Philosophical and Theological Hall with rich decoration. In 1991 the monastery was given back to the Premonstratensian order.

 

BŘEVNOV MONASTERY

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This complex was built in the years 1708 - 1745 according to the design of K. Dienzenhofer and his son K. I. Dienzenhofer. Originally on this place, the Benedictine Monastery was founded by the Prague bishop Adalbert and by Boleslav II in 993 as the first male monastery on the territory of Bohemia. The monastery temple is decorated with ceiling painting by J. J. Steinfels, and with illusive painting by J. Hager. Excellent works of arts are especially pictures from P. Brandl, statues from M. V. Jackl and R. Prachner. Important finding was the revelation of the crypt from the second quarter of the 11th century; this is the most valuable monument of the Pre-Romanesque architecture. Rich fresco decoration can be found in the building of the convent and prelature with the depository of the State Central Archive. The Theresa Hall was painted by the Bavarian painter K. D. Asam in 1727.

 

WALLENSTEIN PALACE

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Wallenstein Palace is the first monumental construction of the early Baroque in Bohemia that was built to the order of Albrecht of Wallenstein in the years 1624 - 1630. The construction architect was A. Spezza from Lombardia, after him N. Sebregondi and finally the architect G. Peroni. The representative Knights´ Hall goes through two floors of the northern part of the building. Its ceiling fresco depicting Apotheosis of Wallenstein as Mars, god of war, was made by Wallachian B.del Bianco. Further we can find here the Leather Hall with the ceiling painting of Pallas Athena made by P. Maixner, the Mirror Hall and the Wallenstein workroom. The Palace is embraced in the garden in which the festive loggia with paintings made by B.del Bianco is located. In the garden there were also positioned the statues made by the Rudolphine master A. del Vries. Today the facility is used mainly by the Ministry of Culture.

 

CHARLES BRIDGE

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The oldest preserved Prague bridge connects Old Town and Lesser Town. It was founded by Charles IV in 1357 on the place of the collapsed Judith Bridge. Originally its name was also Prague and Stone Bridge. The length of the bridge is 520m, width 10 metres. It is made of sandstone blocks and it lies on sixteen arches. Petr Parléř was appointed as the builder; however the bridge was finished as late as at the beginning of the 15th century. In 1723 the oil lighting was installed on the bridge, in 1866 the gas lighting was put into operation. The bridge is decorated not only with its towers but also with the set of 33 statues und groups of statues. Today the statues and groups of statues are replaced by copies. The originals are placed in lapidaries of the National Museum und the Museum of the Capital of Prague. The authors of the statue works are for example M. B. Braun, J. Brokoff, M. V. Jackel, J. B. Kohl or J. O. Mayer.

 

LESSER TOWN

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This Prague district was founded in the year 1257. The impulse was given by Přemysl Otakar II. This district experienced great expansion under Charles IV who enlarged it and fortified it with ramparts. The Lesser Town was almost burnt down during the fights of the Prague people with the king’s troops in 1419. When it started to develop, it was affected by another fire. The Lesser Town experienced the greatest prosperity during the Baroque period, many important buildings were built – especially St. Nicolas Church, Wallenstein Palace, Furstenberg Palace, Lichtenstein palace, Nostic palace and other. Apart from the important buildings, the Lesser Town is attractive thanks to its picturesque and romantic corners.

 

OLD TOWN SQUARE – OLD TOWN ASTRONOMICAL CLOCK

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The square got its name in the year 1895. It has always been a witness to various historical events. A spacious market place was originally here. Later it became the place of frequent political or revolutionary gatherings. Executions took place here on numerous occasions. Among others the Hussite radical preacher J. Želivský was executed on the courtyard of the town hall in 1422, the last Hussite marshal Jan Roháč of Dubá was executed on the square in 1437. The greatest event of this kind was the execution of 27 Czech noblemen and burghers. Jiří of Poděbrady was elected Czech king in the chamber of the Town Hall in 1458. On the square you can find in particular Gothic houses, Rococo Palace Golz-Kinsky or Secessionist-Baroque building of former Prague city insurance company from the architect O. Polívka. The last mentioned building is decorated with statues from the L. Šaloun, F. Procházka and B. Schnirch. The magnificent memorial of Master John Hus can be also found on the square.

The favourite tourist attraction that we can find on the Old Town Square is the Old Town Astronomical Clock that is located on the building of the Old Town Hall. Originally it was constructed by the clockmaker Mikuláš of Kadaň in 1410. However the reconstruction of the Astronomical Clock was made by Master Hanuš because of the reconstruction of the Town Hall. In the course of time various adjustments of the mechanism and also completion or adjustment of decoration were carried out. One of the important people of the Czech art who participated in the work on Astronomical clock was J. Mánes. The calendar plates with allegories of the Moon have decorated the Astronomical clock since 1865. However most of the decorative components were replaced by copies. The mechanism of the moving figures that is put into operation every hour is one of the most visited attractions in Prague.

 

THEATRE OF THE ESTATES

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Originally it was called Nostic Theatre, later Tyl Theatre, and now Theatre of the Estates. It was built in Neo-Classicistic style at the expenses of the earl F. A. Nostic in 1781. Adjustments and reconstructions of the building were gradually carried out. The final renewal of the Theatre of the Estates took place as late as in 1991, as the operation of the theatre was connected to the opposite Kolowrat palace. The most important event in the theatre was the first performance of Mozart’s opera Don Giovanni that was held in 1787. Further important event was the performance of the play Fidlovačka with music by F. Škroup on the 21st December 1834. During this first performance the song “Where is my home” appeared for the first time, this song became the Czechoslovak state anthem in 1918.

 

WENCESLAS SQUARE – NATIONAL MUSEUM

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As most of the squares the Wenceslas Square was originally a market place. In this case it was called Horse Market. In the middle of the square stood the statue of St. Wenceslas made by J. J. Bendl, this statue was later (in 1879) moved to Vyšehrad. The square is 750m long and it represents important social and business centre of the city.

In the upper part of the square you can find the National Museum. The building was built in the years 1885-1890 according to the design of prof. J. Schulz. The Neo-Renaissance building consists of four wings and two courtyards. The building of the museum is decorated by the sculptural artworks made at the end of the 19th century. Apart from the statues of the sculptor L. Schwanthaler from Munich you can find here also the statues made by A. Popp and B. Schnirch. Also the painting decoration in the interiors is made by the leading painters, such as V. Brožík, F. Ženíšek or V. Hynais. A part of the museum is also the square building of Pantheon that has a dome on the top and it houses 48 busts and statues of important people of the Czech nation. In the building of the museum you can find historical and natural collections and valuable library.

Lower in the Wenceslas Square stands the colossal monument of St. Wenceslas made by Myslbek. The theatre called Bouda was placed in the bottom part of the square in the years 1786-1789; it was the first Czech theatre scene.

 

POWDER TOWER

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The tower was built in honour of the king Vladislav Jagellon by the builder M. Rejsek from Prostějov in 1475. Wenceslas IV ordered to build his residence - King’s Court near the Powder Tower. After abandoning of the court, the area went into decline. For a period of time the tower was used for storing gunpowder. This example of late Gothic had to be repaired in Neo-Gothic style by the architect J. Mocker in the years 1875-1876, because it was damaged during the Prussian besieging. From the tower you will have wonderful view on the whole Old Town.

 

MUNICIPAL HOUSE

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The Municipal House was built on the place of the King’s Court according to the planes of A. Balšánek and O. Polívka as representative social and cultural centre. Balls, exhibitions, concerts are held here. You can find here also a café, restaurant and wine tavern. The pride of the Municipal House is the interior decoration and paintings of the leading Czech artists. You can see here paintworks of A. Mucha, J. Preisler, F. Ženíšek, M. Aleš and others. The sculptural works made by J. V. Myslbek, K. Novák and L. Šaloun are surely worth mentioning.

 

NATIONAL THEATRE

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The National Theatre was build thanks to national collections of money in 1868-1881. Its architect was J. Zítka. However, shortly afterwards this Neo-Renaissance building was damaged by fire. Its renewal was finished in 1883, the architect J. Schulz participated in it. The new look of the theatre took pride in the new interior decoration and curtain that was painted by V. Hynais. Further artists who participated on the decoration of the „golden chapel“ are for example the painters J. Turek, M. Aleš, F. Ženíšek, V. Brožík or J. Mařák. The sculptural works are mostly made by A. Wagner, J. V. Myslbek and B. Schnirch. In the years 1977-1983 extensive reconstruction of the theatre was carried out, and during this reconstruction the vacant space between the theatre and the Voršila Monastery was built in. The new scene of the National Theatre was finished under command of the architect K. Pragr in 1983.

 

OLD JEWISH CEMETERY – OLD-NEW SYNAGOGUE

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The beginnings of the Jewish inhabitation of Prague date back to the 10th century. At the beginning of the eighteenth century the Jewish community formed almost the third of the Prague inhabitants. Various restrictions or measures forced the Jews to live in a closed ghetto. The Prague Jewish Town was named Josefov after the liberation decrees of Joseph II, Josefov became the fifth Prague district in 1848. The Old Jewish Cemetery refers to the old Jewish history, you can find here the oldest tombstone from the year 1439. The charming cemetery with approximately 11 thousand tombstones is also valuable historical monument. The information on the tomb stones has unique historical significance. We can find here the tombstone of the mayor and primate of the Jewish Town M. Mordechai Maisel, and also the legendary tombstone of J. Loew ben Bezalel. According to the legend, the artificial human being Golem was made in the workshop of J. Loew ben Bezalel. In the Jewish Town there is the oldest synagogue in Europe called Old-New Synagogue, it was built in the year 1280. Inside you can find Jewish monuments from the 16th till 19th century. Today the former hall of farewell next to the Jewish Cemetery is used as exhibition hall for children paintings from Terezín. Also the so called High Synagogue is intended for exhibitions today. In Maisel Synagogue are displayed collections of things made of silver and other metals; the Pinkas Synagogue is the memorial of the Nazi victims

 

VYŠEHRAD

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According to the legend, Vyšehrad is the seat of the oldest prices, Libuše and Přemyslid rulers. The ruler’s residence was transferred to Vyšehrad during the reign of Vratislav II and the existing wooden castle was rebuilt into stone castle. Today Vyšehrad is embraced by Baroque fortification walls and bastions that were built by Italian builders. Inside behind the fortification walls there is Church of St. Peter and Paul that was originally built in Romanesque style. It was gradually rebuilt in the period of Gothic, Baroque and Neo-Gothic. Opposite the church is located the Chapel of St. Ludmila and among other monuments of Vyšehrad belongs also the original Romanesque Rotunda of St. Martin. Opposite the front side of the Church of St. Peter you can find the cemetery built around the year 1890 where the worthy sons of the nation rest. Slavín was built on the East side of the cemetery as the dignified burying ground for national important people. Three groups of statues made by Myslbek (Lumír with his muse Song, Záboj with Slavoj, Ctirad and Šárka) were positioned on the place of the burnt down armoury in 1948. In 1978 the last fourth group of statues was integrated, it was named Přemysl and Libuše.

 

ROTUNDA OF ST. MARTIN

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The rotunda is the oldest monument that was preserved in Vyšehrad. It dates back to the second half of the 11th century. The rotunda went into decline as it was changed into powder store after the creation of the Vyšehrad fortress. It was used as storage place during the whole 19th century. In the year 1878 it was renewed according to the design of the architect A. Baum and also wall paintings made by A. Konig and J. Heřman were added. The author of the altar painting is the painter A. Sequens. The new renovation of the building was carried out in the year 1915 and in the years 1969-1970.