Pražský hrad

PRAGUE CASTLE, HRADCANY AND STRAHOV

Starý královský palác

The Prague Castle has been the political center of our country for more than 1200 years. At present, it is the seat of the Czech President who resides in the New Palace in the so-called Teresian Wing. In the 18th century, this structure designed by Nicolo Pacassi integrated all individual palaces and buildings of the Castle including the Matyas Gate which had been completed in 1614, two years after the death of Rudolf II. Despite the fact that the inscription acknowledges Rudolf`s successor, it still testifies to Rudolf`s love for art.

The oldest part of the Castle is now open to the tourists. The Old Medieval Royal Palace consists of the Romanesque underground chambers, the Gothic ground floor with the Columnar Hall of Wenceslas IV and the Vladislav Throne Hall built in the Late-Gothic style by architect Benedict Ried (1486 -1502). This magnificent hall which replaced a group of three chambers of the original Luxembourg palace was the largest vaulted secular structure in Medieval Europe, spanning a space of 62m x 16m without any support. Nowadays, the Vladislav Hall is used for the most important ceremonies and events like presidential elections. The Late-Gothic vaulting of the hall and of the riding "Knight`s stairway" was complemented with Renaissance-style windows and portals, and the Renaissance Ludvik`s Wing was added. All the work was supervised by B. Ried. The conjunction of the traditional and the modern has continued until today. President T. G. Masaryk`s architect, world-famous Josip Plecnik, designed and supervised multiple renovation and construction project on the Castle grounds from 1920 to 1934 which gave the Castle complex a subtle, intelligent and distinct look, and late Vaclav Havel with Borek Sipek and Eva Jiricna carried on the tradition.

Katedrála Sv. Vita

The real hart of the Czech state and the holiest place of all of Bohemia is located at the center of the third courtyard. It is the chapel of St. Wenceslas, an organic part of St.Vitus` Cathedral. This is the burial site of the eternal ruler and the patron-saint of this country. The Crown Chamber situated above his tomb in the upper part of the chapel houses the crown jewels including the most precious item, the crown of St. Wenceslas from the time of Charles IV, when the magnificent chapel was completed by Peter Parler in 1367 to emphasize the importance of this site. Its square ground plan rejects the period cathedral design. The walls are faced with polished gems and frescoes which date back to the 16th century and which tell the legend of St. Wenceslas. His 2m high statue (completed in 1373) and the frescoes with portraits of emperors date back to the time of Charles IV just like the extraordinary starry vault of the chapel.

The southern frontage of the church is dominated by a tower with a Renaissance gallery and a Baroque, onion-like cupola. The monumental entrance into the church called the Golden Gate is situated between the Great Southern Tower and the chapel of St. Wenceslas. The gate is decorated with a mosaic which dates back to the time of Charles IV who is depicted there with his fourth wife, Elizabeth of Pomerania. Based on the design of Czech artists, the mosaic was created by Venetian masters and even today, it is considered the largest and oldest exterior mosaic on the north side of the Alps. Following a renovation which was completed recently, the mosaic displays again its original beauty. Apart from the chapel of St. Wenceslas, the Golden Gate and the Southern Tower, Parler and his masters completed the presbytery of the cathedral up to the Old Sacristy with courageously designed ceiling - a vault with a protruding keystone, at that time (1356) a remarkable technical feat. The same goes for the vault of the presbytery, one of the oldest net vaults in Europe (completed in 1385).

Mosaika - Katedrála sv. Vita

It was at the workshop of the Prague cathedral in the 1350s, where the Late-Gothic architectural style originated and spread over central Europe in the next 50 years. Sculptural decoration created in Parler`s workshop is also worth our attention. The tombstones of six Premyslid rulers and of Bishop Jan Ocko of Vlasim, situated on the ground floor of the chapel together with a unique collection of 21 portrait busts in the lower triforium and 10 busts of saints in the outer triforium make the cathedral a majestic shrine of the Medieval sculpture.

Following the death of Peter Parler (1399), the construction work slowed down and finally completely stopped at the beginning of the Husite Wars (1420). In the following centuries, only minor addition were built. The Jagiellonians had the Late-Gothic Royal Oratory built in 1493, the Royal Tomb with the sepulchers of Ferdinand I, Anna and Maximilian II was established by the Habsburgs. The silver sepulcher of St. Jan of Nepomuk enriched the interior (1733-1736). The construction work was completed from 1873 to 1929 under the supervision of Josef Mocker (until 1899) and Kamil Hilbert. It gave the opportunity of self - expression even to modern artists. Modern art in the cathedral is represented i.e. by a famous tomb of B. Schwarzenberg by Myslbek ( 1892-1895) or vitrages by F. Kysela, M. Svabinsky and A. Mucha. St.Vitus is not only the Metropolitan temple of the Prague archbishops, but it is also the Coronation cathedral and a burial site of the rulers. It has been and it will be the epitome and symbol of the Czech statehood and of our faith as the reverence for St. Vitus has always united the Czech Protestants and Catholics.

Lobkovický palác

Adjacent to the southern wall of the cathedral is the building of the Old Provostry, a one-time residence of the Prague bishops. In 1928, J. Plecnik erected a Mrakotin-granit obelisk near-by in memory of the victims of WWI. The exact copy of the statue of St. George is situated a short distance from the obelisk, the original statue from 1373 is on display in the National Gallery.

The Benedictine Nunnery of St. George belongs to the oldest buildings of the Prague Castle complex. Hidden behind the Baroque frontage of the church, a basilica from 920 has been preserved in the form which it took after the renovation in the 1150s. The actual nunnery was founded in 973. It is the oldest convent in our country and girls of noble birth of the Bohemian Kingdom were brought up there. Jirska (George) Street on its south side runs along the Rozmberk (later Lobkowicz) Palace down to the Black Tower and also past the Burgrave`s house. The Black Tower (1135) is a part of the Renaissance gate which opens toward the Old Castle Stairway. To get to the picturesque Golden Lane, we have to make a left turn half-way down Jirska Street. The quaint, small houses are affixed to the Castle fortification wall. Two interesting towers which served as prison can be found here. The one called "Daliborka" is very popular because of its famous inmate Dalibor of Kozojedy who was incarcerated in it during the reign of the Jagiellonians and who later inspired composer Bedrich Smetana.

Letohrádek královny Anny

There are several gardens in the immediate vicinity of the Prague Castle: On the Bastion, Paradise, On the Ramparts, Stag Moat and Royal. The gardens were established here from 1534 (rule of Ferdinand I) on. The gardens are adorned with a number of Renaissance and Baroque sculptures created by famous masters of the time (M. Braun, among others) and with equally interesting structures like the Renaissance Ball-Game Hall by Bonifac Wohlmuth. It is the oldest stone sports facility of its kind in Europe (completed in 1569). The most famous of all is the Summer Palace of Queen Anna Jagiello called Belvedere, commissioned by Ferdinand I who had it built in the Royal Garden for his wife (1535-1563). The structure is adorned with tens of Renaissance reliefs inspired by historic events marked by gallantry. In front of the Belvedere, a gentle ringing sound can be heard which emanates from the bronze Singing Fountain from 1564. On the east side, the Royal Garden neighbors the Chotek Gardens and Letenska Plan.

Hradčánské náměstí

On the opposite side, to the west, the Prague Castle complex opens into the Hradcanske Square with a number of palaces of the nobility and of religious institutions, i.e. the Renaissance Lobkowitz (later Schwarzenberg) Palace adorned with sgraffito (1545-1563), and also the Baroque Tuscany Palace (completed in 1691 by J.B. Mathey). The entrance gate to Sternberg Palace is situated on the side of the Archbishop Palace which is decorated with a Rococo-style façade. The Sternberg Palace, one of the venues of the National Gallery, houses the exhibition of Old European art. A Late-Baroque Marian Column from the workshop of F.M. Brokoff (1726) is located at the center of the square. Along the south side of the square, on the corner of the Salmovsky Palace, a bronze statue of T.G. Masaryk, our first president, was unveiled in 2000. The square and its immediate surroundings constitute the oldest part of Hradcany, the third Prague borough, which was founded as early as 1320 but had to wait until 1598 to be elevated to the status of a Royal Town. Luxury aristocratic palaces and their lovely gardens, like the garden of the Cernin Palace, and also numerous temples (i.e. a spacious Loreto by K.I. Dienzenhofer in 1722) stand in stark contrast to small town houses hidden mainly along a street called Novy Svet (New World). Nowadays, most of them display a Renaissance or Baroque style façades and their poetic charm counterbalances the grandeur of the majestic palaces.

Strahovský klášter

The Strahov Premonstratensian Monastery, founded in the 1150s, is located to the south of Hradcany. Following numerous renovations, the abbey has now a Baroque appearance. The spacious buildings house not only the monastery, but also the Monument of the Czech Literature and the rich collections of the Strahov Gallery. The monastery library is of particular interest: it has in stock 130 000 books, 2 500 manuscripts (the oldest ones date back to the 9th century), some 1 500 incunabula and apart from that, the legacy of 1 200 Czech writers. The Strahov complex also includes picturesque gardens which offer beautiful views of Prague.

Výhled ze Strahova

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Updated 01-01-1970 01:00