CASTLE OF PRAGUE

Posted in Europe | June 8, 2010 | 0 Comments


There is an old story about the origin of Prague that goes back to the 7th century. There was a Slavic princess called Libuse. She awed everyone with her beauty and wisdom; and it was said about her that she possessed prophetic powers. Legend says she saw a vision one day.

She said ‘I see a great city whose glory will touch the stars’; and with this she pointed in the direction of a hill. She instructed her people to go there and build a castle right where a man was building the threshold (in Czech – Prah) of a house

She added that since noblemen would bow low before that threshold, the place be named ‘Praha’. Years later, the city of Prague became the seat of the Premyslid dynasty.

History

Records will tell you that the Castle of Prague is the largest castle area in the world. The castle was expanded and then fortified somewhere in the 12th and the 13th centuries. It wasn’t long before a community began to grow around the castle area; and the neighborhood got the name ‘Lesser Town’. The whole castle was renovated at a later stage, by King Charles IV.

There are records of a fire breaking out in the Castle in 1541. Due to which, it underwent further works. The Spanish Hall was added during the reign of Rudolf II and the final touch was added by Empress Maria Theresa. She got the celebrated architect M. Pacassi to work on this standing monument.

The Royal Palace

The majestic Vladislav Hall, built within the Castle of Prague, makes for quite a visual treat.  Built between the years 1493 and 1502, the castle was turned into a fortress. The princes of Bohemia moved into the Royal Palace, also known as the Old Palace.

This monument is, by far, one of the finest halls of the Middle Ages – with a dimension of over 16 meters wide and 14 meters high, which roughly translates into 52 feet x 46 feet.

The Courtyards

The Castle area is called ‘a city within a city’. There are around three courtyards and several streets. Ornate entrance gates at the Castle Square lead to the first courtyard. This is the venue for the hourly ‘changing of guards’.

St. Vitus Cathedral

The cathedral is placed at the center of the Royal Palace. Charles IV acquired the bones of St. Vitus, a fourth century martyr, and brought it with him to Prague. From that time on, the city became an important center for the St. Vitus Cult. The construction of St. Vitus Cathedral began in 1344. The first part was built by Mathieu d’Arras, and was then taken over by Peter Parler, after the death of the former. The cathedral had quite a few interruptions before it reached the stage that it was completed only in the year 1929.

St. George’s Basilica and Convent

The basilica of St. George houses the graves of Ludmila – the first Czech Christian martyr, and Duke Vratislav I of Bohemia. He is housed in a painted wooden grave that is found near the area where the choir sits.

The convent of St. George is adjacent to the basilica. When the Hasburg Emperor banished monasteries in the 18th century, it was used as a barrack. It is now used a museum with a collection of baroque paintings and statues. It also includes works of Petr Brandl and Karel Skreta, who are popular Czech artistes.

All in all, the Castle of Prague boasts of a beauty that has manifests itself in the architectural styles of different eras. But one thing’s for sure, Libuse was right in saying ‘a great city whose glory will touch the stars’. After a visit to Prague Castle you’ll nod your head in agreement.

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