MAGICAL CITY OF A HUNDRED SPIRES
Prague of a hundred spires, Prague, the mother of cities, magical Prague: these are just three of the names that have been given to the capital of the Czech Republic, a city with over a thousand years of history, which is included in UNESCO’s list of heritage sites. The Castle that dominates the city, which is in the Guinness book of records as the largest in the world, is also the most visited Czech monument. Built in the year 870, this majestic castle was progressively enlarged and, together with the Cathedral of Saints Vitus, Wenceslas and Adalbert, comprises a complex of structures that represent all the architectural styles of the last millennium.
The most romantic place in the castle is Golden Lane, where alchemists of Emperor Rudolf Il resided and where the writer Franz Kafka once lived. Today it is the home of craftsmen and artists. The castle also houses a vast art gallery.
The Powder Tower, once equipped with cannons, today houses a permanent exhibition dedicated to the guards of the castle. A permanent exhibition on the history of the castle is found in the Gothic underground passages of the Old Royal Palace, which is accessed from the 3rd courtyard along the right-hand side of the cathedral. The Imperial Stables are also fitted out to hold exhibitions. The Belvedere, built in the sixteenth century in the eastern corner of the Royal Garden, is the farthest building from the castle and one of the most beautiful examples of Renaissance architecture in central Europe.
The Cathedral of Saints Vitus, Wenceslas and Adalbert appears to be in Gothic style, but was originally a Romanesque rotonda and then a three-naved basilica. Building of the Gothic cathedral, which was begun by Charles IV in 1344, lasted almost 600 years. The king’s crypt can be found beneath the main altar. The centre of worship of the church is the very beautiful and richly decorated Chapel of St. Wenceslas, where the coronation ceremonies of the kings and queens of Bohemia were held.
Here the crown jewels, made of fine gold encrusted with pearls and precious stones, are kept. The ruby in St. Wenceslas’ crown is the largest in the world. Six of the nine largest sapphires in the world are set in the same crown, which also includes a twig that belonged to Jesus’ crown of thorns. A balcony open to the public in the bell tower offers a view from above of the church, the castle complex and the entire city of Prague.
In addition to the Castle Cathedral, Prague has three other important churches. The best known is the Romanesque Basilica of St. George, dating back to the year 920, with the adjoining Monastery of St. George, founded half a century later and today the seat of the National Gallery.
Charles Bridge, 10 metres wide and 516 metres long, rests on 16 stone arches and is the oldest bridge in Prague. Both sides are protected by bridge towers, one on the Old Town side and two on the Lesser Quarter side. The bridge is decorated with 30 baroque statues and decorations dating back to the eighteenth century, which represent saints and historical and biblical figures. The bridge is the much-loved location of street artists (painters, musicians, dancers and mimes).
The Old Town’s clock, located on the Gothic Town Hall, is a masterpiece of science and medieval technique as well as a gem of Gothic art. Each hour between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. statues of the twelve apostles appear in the two small windows. There are also figures of a Skeleton, a Turk, a Jew and a Vanity. After the apostles appear, a cock crows and the tower clock begins to chime. The tower the Old Town Hall can also be climbed.
By Luca Lembi
Photo: Czech Tourism
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Published on Avion Tourism N53