Tag Archives: Peter Parler

Two Prague Cathedrals

St Vitus Cathedral

With a skyline pierced by thousands of church steeples, Prague is often called the city of spires.

St Vitus Cathedral
St Vitus Cathedral

Star among those many houses worship is the Cathedral of St. Vitus, St. Wenceslas, St Adalbert Cathedral, commonly known as St Vitus Cathedral, which stands alongside Prague Castle.

The first church on the site was the Romanesque Rotunda, dedicated to St Vitus, commissioned by Wenceslas in 929.

In 1344, when Prague became an archbishopric, King John the Blind commissioned a new church to mark the occasion. The project was continued by his successor King Charles IV.

The first of the many craftsmen to work on St Vitus was French master mason Mathieu d’Arras. Next was German sculptor and woodcarver, Peter Parler who added his own unique Gothic style.  Parler’s sons took over when he died, completing the clock tower and transept in 1399. The Cathedral remained untouched until 1770, when the Italian-Austrian architect, Nicolaus Pacassi, added a Baroque dome.

Still the cathedral remained unfinished until 1873 when, thanks to the efforts of a group of concerned of Prague citizens, Josef Mocker began construction of the west façade. St Vitus was finally seen to completion in 1929 by Kamil Hilbert. Both Mocker and Hilbert followed the plans of Peter Parler.

If the Cathedral’s exterior is magnificent, with its baroque dome, its great gothic windows, its turrets and its towers, the interior is breathtakingly beautiful, with its many chapels, its monumental tombs, its frescoes and its stained glass windows.

Among the many masterpieces of St Vitus are the Cyril and Methodius stained glass window, created in Art Nouveau style by Alfons Mucha, the St Wenceslas chapel which is decorated with more than 1,300 semi-precious stones and the huge silver sepulchral monument of John of Nepomuk, by the Austrian architect Joseph Emanuel von Erlach.

Chram sv Mikulase, St Nicholas Cathedral

Known affectionately as the pearl of Prague, the Cathedral of St. Nicholas in Malo Strana, is one of the city’s most impressive Baroque buildings. Its dome and bell tower are Malo Strana landmarks, symbols of the city of Prague.

St Nicholas Cathedra
St Nicholas Cathedra

The Cathedral’s story dates back to 1223, when it began life as the modest parish Church of St Nicholas in the village below Prague Castle.

In 1702 Kristof Dienzenhofer designed a magnificent new Cathedral to replace the humble parish church of St Nicholas. Construction continued after his death under Kilian Ignac Dietzenhofer who also designed the vault and the landmark green dome. Two new wings were added. The left houses the Chapel of St Barbara and the right, the chapel of St Anne. In 1752 an 80 metre bell tower, by Anselmo Lurago completed the Cathedral.

During his years living and composing in Prague, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart frequented St Nicholas and played on its organ.

During the Communist era St Nicholas ceased to be used as a house of worship.  Although today Masses have resumed, St Nicholas has gained fame as a music venue and concerts are held here all year round and every day during the high tourist season.

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.