Tag Archives: Charles Bridge

Prague’s Charles Bridge

Great cityscapes are distinguished as much by the might and majesty of their Bridges as by the grandeur of their buildings. What is London without Tower Bridge, Paris without the Pont Neuf, San Francisco without the Golden Gate or Sydney without the Harbour Bridge?  And what is Prague with out the Charles Bridge?

Prague's Charles Bridge
Prague’s Charles Bridge

In Prague’s early days here had been several attempts to link the little townships that lay on either side of the Vltava River. The first was wooden bridge, which was swept away by floods in the 11th century. In 1172, King Wenceslas I commissioned the first stone bridge which he named after his wife Judith. But the Judith Bridge too succumbed to a Vltava flood and collapsed in 1342. Then, in 1357, Charles IV of the Luxembourg Dynasty, King of Bohemia and Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, set about building the bridge which would stand for over six centuries, through flood, fire and numerous wars, as a monument to the magnificence and might of his reign.

Construction began under the engineer Master Otto and continued under architect Peter Parler, designer of the Wenceslas Chapel in St Vitus Cathedral and the Old Town Hall Tower. The foundations were laid at 5.31 a.m. on the 9th of July, 1357, a time, according to legend, of great numerological significance. Legend also has it that the bridge’s mortar was reinforced with egg yolk. While this can’t be proved conclusively, modern tests have established that it does contain organic elements.

The Stone Bridge (Kammeny Most) or Prague Bridge (Prazsky Most) as it was first known, opened in 1402. At 516 metres long and nearly 10metres wide with three fortified bridge towers and sitting on a series of stone arches with ice-guards, it was unsurpassed in contemporary Europe. Kammeny Most proved a vital commercial artery between the two banks of the Vlatava and the townships of Prague prospered. Soon merchants and traders set up on the bridge. On holidays and festivals, it was the scene of grand medieval tournaments.

In the 18th century the Hapsburgh Empress Maria Theresa made her mark on the Stone Bridge, with the addition of 30 magnificent Baroque statues.

In 1870, Kammeny or Prazsky Most changed its name to Karlov Most or Charles Bridge, in memory of the great King who had masterminded it. Too precious to risk at the hands of the millions that reach to touch them these days, the original Baroque statues are now stored in Prague Castle’s Lapidary. Those on the bridge are replicas.

Today the Charles Bridge stands as strong as it did over six hundred years ago. It throngs with life and colour. Artists and artisans ply their trade there. Tourists flock to photograph its beauty. Lovers bask in the romance of the place – the towers, the bridge, the castle above on one bank and the ancient facades of the old town buildings on the other.


A History Of Prague, Part 3, King Charles

By the beginning of the 14th century Prague was already a hub of European commerce, a centre of rich and diverse cultures and Bohemia was the most powerful state in the Holy Roman Empire. With the renaissance sweeping through Europe and an enlightened and visionary king in the making, Prague was poised for its first “Golden Age”.

The Charles Bridge, Prague
The Charles Bridge, Prague

The last male in the Premyslid line died in 1306, bringing and end to the rule of Bohemia’s founding dynasty. A new era began and a new dynasty was founded when Eliska Premyslova, sister of the last Premyslid, ruler married John of Luxembourg. King John was a modest and humble man, a quiet achiever who, during his brief and unspectacular reign, continued the work of the Premyslids. The legal status of the towns of Mala Strana and Stare Mesto were strengthened and in 1320 a new town, Hradcany, was created from the settlement around Prague Castle Square. The cornerstone of Prague’s cathedral was laid and in 1344 Pope Clement VI promoted Prague’s bishopric to an archbishopric. However, John of Luxembourg’s greatest work and the one into which he poured the most vision and wisdom, was the education and the preparation of his eldest son, Charles, for his role as sovereign.

Charles acceded to the throne on the death of his father in 1346. He was thirty years old, and set for a spectacular reign in a rich and powerful kingdom. He wasted no time.

It had been John of Luxembourg’s ambition to transform Prague into a second Rome and Charles dutifully carried out his father’s programme. On April 7, 1348, he established the region’s first university. Known today as the Charles University, it is the oldest in the Czech Republic. In the same year he founded Nove Mesto, the New Town, a modern town of over 360 hectares, surrounding the Old Town. He rebuilt Prague Castle and Vysehrad and erected the beautiful Charles Bridge, today almost an emblem of the city of Prague, to replace the old Judith Bridge. Construction was begun on St Vitus Cathedral and many new churches were completed.

In 1355 Charles was crowned Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire in Rome and Prague became  its capital. By now Charles had his own ambitions for the city. He wanted it to be the most beautiful in the world, with Prague Castle as its centrepiece and St Vitus Cathedral dominating the skyline. Construction boomed. Grand, elaborate Gothic architecture replaced the relatively simple Romanesque style and a unique, new Bohemian kind of decoration evolved. Art, culture and commerce flourished. These were golden days for Prague and the Czech lands were among the most powerful in Europe.

Even today, there is little of the city which does not bear King Charles’  stamp. Explore the masterpieces of the era with a walk across the Charles Bridge, around Prague Castle and through the New Town.