FROM CHARLES BRIDGE TO PRAGUE CASTLE
Old Town Bridge Tower
(Staroměstská mostecká věž)
The bridge tower on the Old Town side of Charles Bridge was built at the same time as the Gothic bridge by Charles IV in 1357 as not only a fortified tower but also a symbolic triumphal arch on the Bohemian kings’ coronation route. This is attested by the rich sculptural decorations on its eastern facade. Inside the tower is an exhibition of old musical instruments from the National Museum collections.
was built in 1357 to replace an earlier Romanesque bridge from the second half of the 12th century and known as Judith bridge after a Bohemian queen. Judith Bridge was destroyed in a flood in 1342. Although the Gothic bridge was more solid, it was also damaged by floods and had to be repaired several times. It is decorated with 30 statues and sculptures added gradually from the end of the 17th century (the earliest statue being that of St. John of Nepomuk from 1683). Some of the sculptures date from the 19th century and the youngest one is that of St. Cyril and Methodius from the time shortly before World War II. The most valuable originals are currently being replaced by copies.
Malá Strana Bridge Towers
(Malostranské mostecké věže)
The taller one of the two towers on the Malá Strana (Lesser Town) side of the bridge was built in the second half of the 15th century under King George of Poděbrady, after the example of the tower on the opposite side of the bridge. It is connected by a gate with Judith tower, the only remaining part of the Romanesque bridge destroyed in a flood in 1342. The tower exhibition is dedicated to the eventful history of the bridge.
connects Charles Bridge with Malá Strana’s central square. In the early Middle Ages there was a Romanesque court at each side of the square. On the right side stood the bishop’s, later the archbishop’s, court which was destroyed in the Hussite wars in the 15th century. Only a tower has survived, accessible from the house at Mostecká 16/47). Opposite it, the commandery of the Knights Hospitalers was established after 1158. The baroque Church of Our Lady under the Chain at the end of the bridge is actually only the presbytery of an earlier church. Parts of the brickwork and the tower have been preserved from Romanesque times and from the reconstruction in the Gothic style. Most of the houses on Mostecká have Gothic or Renaissance ground plans, and some have house signs on their baroque facades.
square is the central square of the Lesser Town of Prague, known as Malá Strana. The town was founded by Přemysl Otakar II, nicknamed “king of iron and gold”, in 1257 on the site of an earlier settlement. The Church of St. Nicholas was built in the centre of the square as early as the 13th century. The present-day church is an 18th-century baroque structure, built by Christoph Dientzenhofer and his son Kilian Ignaz. It is one of the finest examples of Bohemian baroque. The church belonged to a Jesuit college, and the two buildings actually divide the square into two distinct parts. Most of the buildings here are in the Renaissance and baroque styles, because the town was almost entirely destroyed in a huge fire in 1541.
Nearly all the houses and palaces at the lower end of the square have arcades. Probably the most interesting are the early 18th-century Kaiserstein Palace (Malostranské náměstí 23/37) with a memorial tablet commemorating the stay here by the famous Czech singer Emmy Destinn and the corner house of the former Malá Strana town hall (Malostranské náměstí 21/35). Behind the corner stands yet another architectural gem, namely the Church of St. Thomas, whose Gothic ground plan attests to its foundation in the 13th century. It was beautifully rebuilt in the baroque style. The high altar is decorated with two Rubens paintings (the originals have been replaced by copies and are deposited at the National Gallery).
Among the palaces at the lower end of the square two other baroque structures merit attention. The Sternberg Palace (Malostranské náměstí 19/7) and the adjacent Smiřický Palace (18/68) are a part of the compound housing the Czech Parliament. The western side of the upper end of the square is occupied by the Liechtenstein Palace (Malostranské náměstí 13/258) with remains of earlier architecture. The building houses the Academy of Music and is often the venue of concerts.
The Marian Column in the middle of this part of the square is an early 18th-century baroque structure with statues of Bohemia’s patron saints.
Take Nerudova street leading up to Prague Castle. The lower part of the street (up to the Church of Our Lady) was once a part of the medieval town, while the upper part was joined to Malá Strana only by Charles IV. The houses here have an eventful history, with some remains of the Gothic period, but most of the burghers’ houses were rebuilt in the Renaissance style and some replaced by huge baroque palaces. The most remarkable among the latter are the Morzin Palace (Nerudova 5/256) and Thun-Hohenstein Palace (Nerudova 20/214), both designed by the baroque architect Johann Blasius Santini. The former palace is decorated with sculptures by Ferdinand Maxmilian Brokoff and the latter by Matthias Bernard Braun (who also made some of the statues on Charles Bridge).
The Church of Our Lady at the Gaetans was built on the site of a medieval town gate in 1711 and was originally a part of a monastery compound extending as far as Prague Castle.
The opposite Hansturkovský dům house (Nerudova 17/248) still has remains of medieval fortifications within its walls. The burghers’ houses on Nerudova boast beautiful house signs, a trademark of sorts of this part of the city. The house U dvou sluncí (At Two Suns; Nerudova 47/233) bears a memorial plaque recalling that leading Czech author Jan Neruda after whom the street was named lived here.