“135797531”- Can you guess what is so special about this number? Correct! the number is a palindrome. But, do you know that this number also represents a significant date in history?
King Charles IV, A Bohemian king who later became the Holy Roman Emperor was certainly optimistic about numbers as he laid the foundation of one of the finest examples of splendid gothic architecture in the year 1357 on the 9th of July(7th month) exactly at 5:31 AM! – The Charles Bridge Prague.
Stay with us and you will explore all the major facts and history about the Charles Bridge Prague. So, let’s start with the Where, Why, and How.
1. Where Charles Bridge is located?
Crossing over the Vltava river(“wilt ahwa” meaning Wild Water as it is flooded several times) in Prague- The Capital of The Czech Republic in Central Europe. It is a bridge connecting the Prague castle and the Old town Square from both ends.
2. Why & How The Charles Bridge was built?
A flood in 1342 heavily damaged the “Judith bridge” named after Queen Judith(wife of King Vladislav II) which was founded in the 12th century. The destruction of the Judith bridge led to its replacement by the Charles bridge built under the reign of King Charles IV.
It took around 45 years to build the Charles Bridge which was completed in 1402. The bridge represents a typical arch bridge with 16 arches protected by ice guards. The material used for the bridge is sandstone blocks (Bohemian Sandstone) and that is why it was earlier called the Stone Bridge or Prague Bridge. It is being referred to as the Charles Bridge since 1870.
There are innumerable interesting facts, history, and even legends about the Charles Bridge Prague, some of which are discussed here. So, let’s start with the Facts:
3. Facts about the Charles Bridge
- The Charles Bridge Prague is regarded as one of the most beautiful bridges in Europe.
- It is called Karlův Most in the Czech Language.
- The bridge is measured 516 meters in length and approx. 10 meters in width.
- It is a medieval stone arch bridge comprising 16 Arches which are based on 15 pillars supporting the bridge.
- The design of Charles Bridge was inspired by the Stone Bridge in Regensburg, Germany.
- This bridge shows both Baroque and Gothic-style architecture.
- This bridge established Prague as an important trade route linking Eastern and Western Europe
- It is the oldest bridge in Prague which is still standing over the Vltava river and is also the second oldest bridge in the Whole Czech Republic after the Písek Stone Bridge standing over the Otava River which is a tributary of the river Vltava.
- The Charles Bridge was designed by famous German architect Peter Parler– A very important figure in terms of late medieval architecture. Along with this bridge, his Mastercraft also includes the St. Vitus Cathedral which is located inside the Prague Castle.
4. Bridge towers
The Charles bridge is supported by three bridge towers- One on the city’s Old town side called the Old town bridge tower, and the other two belong to the Lesser Quarter known as the Lesser town bridge towers.
The iconic Old Town Bridge Tower with gothic architecture is an art center of its own. You can observe different statues such as that of St. Vitus, Charles IV, and Václav IV. Various symbols such as the sun, moon, lions, griffin, eagles, and many others are shown on different fronts of the tower.
The tower is approximately 47 meters high. Climb 138 stairs to reach its top floor where you will see the amusing spectacle of the Prague Castle and Malá Strana by paying a minor fee.
The Lesser Town Bridge Towers comprise two different towers, the Smaller Bridge Tower also called the Judith’s Tower as it was earlier a part of Judith’s Bridge, shows Romanesque architecture which was built around the 12th Century.
While The Taller Bridge Tower is Gothic and was built during the late 15th century. Both the towers are accessible to the top and give you a magnificent view of the Prague castle district.
All three towers were designed to embed that exceptional aura of Prague in the mind of spectators.
5. Prominent Baroque Statues
All the fascination and the gothic chills of this bridge come from the two rows of aesthetic Statues designed under Baroque style architecture, with one row paving the north side of the bridge and the other to its south side. Most of them were positioned between 1683 & 1714.
Each row holds 15 statues(30 in total) and every statue narrates some significant history. Here are the names of some of the statues:
- Statue of St. John of Nepomuk
- Statuary of the Holy Crucifix and Calvary
- Statue of St. Joseph
- Statuary of St. Vitus
- Statue of St. Cyril and St. Methodius
- Statue of St. Francis Xavier
- Statue of the Lamentation of Christ
- The statue- Dream of St. Lutgardis, was sculpted by Matyáš Bernard Braun- An eminent Czech Baroque sculptor.
- Statues of Madonna and St. Bernard.
- Statue of St. John the Baptist
Do you know that the Statue of St. Cyril and St. Methodius is a replacement for the earlier statue of St. Ignatius of Loyola, and the original statue of St. Xavier is replaced by its replica! because it fell into the river along with the statue of St. Ignatius during the flood in 1890.
Except for the statue of St. John of Nepomuk, all other statues are carved from sandstone. Most of the original statues are replaced by their replicas and moved to different Prague museums so to preserve them from future damage, as some damages have happened earlier.
A statue that is although not counted as a part of the 30 main statues standing on the bridge, is very distinguished and noteworthy. We are talking about the Statue of Knight Bruncvík holding a golden sword, which is situated outdoor to the south of Charles bridge giving a message to the wayfarers that they (Old town) have the right to collect tolls and duties.
6. Beautiful Bridge & Its Beautiful Surroundings
Yes, it is completely correct to say that Prague is a Magical world on its own, this statement is complemented by the fact that Charles bridge surrounds itself with elegant historic surroundings.
On the eastern side of Charles Bridge, you will find the Old town square with its medieval Astronomical clock and the famous Church of Our Lady Before Týn represented in Gothic style.
The Wenceslas square also on its eastern side will amaze you with its vibrant night view, showing you the commercial side of Prague with beautiful Cafes, Clubs, restaurants, and other amusements. Its most famous attraction includes the National museum which hosts cultural and historical exhibitions.
The Western side also charms you not less than its eastern side. The Malá Strana, also known as the lesser town or the Little Quarter will enchant you with its mystical air, its beautiful streets, and the peaceful harmonic waves of the Vltava river.
The Kampa Island near Malá Strana is separated from it by an artificial stream called Čertovka(or Devil’s Canal) becomes a perfect place to sit back and relax, listen to music played by several artists there, and visit Museum Kampa which is a modern art gallery founded in 2003 and showcases European art (primarily Czech artworks).
You can hop quickly from Charles Bridge to Kampa Island by using the Historical Kampa staircase which got replaced by the original one in 1844.
The great Prague Castle which needs no introduction is also described as the seat of power for different emperors who ruled Czechoslovakia from time to time.
The Castle’s first construction began in the 9th Century by raising its first building known as the Church of The Virgin Mary followed by The Basilica of St. George and the Basilica of St. Vitus, commonly known as the St. Vitus Cathedral.
Viewing the Prague Castle is like living in a dream, The serenity offered by its churches, gardens, and courtyards makes you think you are in a different world. That is why it is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site under the Historic Centre of Prague.
Currently, it serves as the official office of the President of the Czech Republic.
- More than 6.5 million tourists visit Prague and so the Charles Bridge every year.
- The Historic Centre of Prague which includes Charles Bridge has been declared one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1992.
- On 9th July 2017, even Google celebrated the 660th Anniversary of the Charles Bridge by highlighting it on Google Doodle.
7. The History of Charles Bridge
As already mentioned, the Charles Bridge was founded by King Charles IV in 1357 A.D
- The bridge has endured several flood damages over the years such as the 1432 floods which damaged its three pillars, and the breaking of the third arch in 1496 due to water erosion.
- A flood in 1784, badly damaged five pillars of the bridge, making it restricted for people for a considerable period.
- The devastating flood in 1890 destroyed two pillars causing the breakdown of three arches and the falling of two statues by Ferdinand Brokoff namely the statue of St. Xavier and the statue of St. Ignatius of Loyola. The Charles bridge was piled up with numerous logs, rafts, and wood from upstreams ad households floating on the Vltava river, and the list goes on.
- The recent 2002 floods, however, caused minor damage only.
The Charles Bridge has witnessed several battles and war incidents from time to time such as,
- In 1621, The Old town bridge tower served as a dreadful display of the severed heads of the 27 Leaders of the Anti-Habsburg revolt resulting from the Battle of White Mountain.
- The bridge has witnessed violent fighting exactly on its deck in the ending years of the highly atrocious “Thirty Years War“, when the Swedes who had captured the West Bank of the river Vltava, were trying to seize the Old town and severely damaged the Old town bridge tower.
- The Charles bridge has also witnessed The Prague Uprising of 1848, commonly known as the Pentecostal Storm or the 1848 Revolution which took place in June 1848 in Prague.
- Even when Prague was under the grasp of both German and Russian armies during World War II, no major damage was caused to Charles Bridge. Though, a barricade was installed at the Old Town bridge tower gateway.
8. Transportation and Renovations
- Before 1841, it was the only bridge acting as a medium of transportation to connect the Prague Castle to the Old town.
- Through the 1870s and 80s, a new mode of public transport emerged like omnibuses and later horse trams over the bridge which promoted transportation and trade.
- In 1905, Electric trams replaced horses, and then buses also started running around 1908.
- By 1978, a good decisive plan of making the bridge accessible to pedestrians only was executed and all the trams, buses, and other vehicles entry were excluded.
- The first oil street lamps were added to the bridge in 1723 and by 1866, they were replaced by gas lamps, and later on by electric lights.
- At present, the Charles bridge is going through a series of inspections and restorations which started in 2019, which is stated to be a 20-year process with an estimated budget of 1.9 to 2.6 million USD.
9. Legends about The Charles bridge
Hearing legends have always been interesting right from our childhood, right? There are also a large number of exciting legends circulating the Charles bridge Prague. Here are some most interesting ones-
An Interesting and funny legend about the bridge states that the builders used eggs and mixed them into the mortar! to strengthen the bridge. While others say that there are wine and beer bottles under the bridge emptied by the builders while working on the bridge.
Remember the sculpture of St. John of Nepomuk, the legend about it says that John Velfín of town Nepomuk was tortured by King Wenceslaus IV because of not revealing Queen’s confession to him as he was the queen’s confessor.
He was then thrown into the Vltava river at the same spot where his statue stands today. It is believed that touching this statue brings you good luck.
Some people claim to see a Cross on the bridge when they are in distress or trouble and consider it a bad sign as according to an urban legend, offenders sentenced to death were allowed to kneel before a Cross to pray which was taken off from the bridge long ago.
10. Visit the Charles Bridge Prague
Ever dreamed of a magical sphere where you want to go, leaving behind all the hassle, work, and noise of this incessant factory we call the “real world”, a place similar to those we had seen on televisions during our childhood such as Castles, Kings, and Queens.? Yes! We all have done that and a place like that exists for real called “Prague”
It is not possible to even think of Prague without taking into account the Charles bridge, a bridge where the ambiance of its predecessors is still felt today. Not only a bridge with significant history, but it is also an emotion for the native people of Prague.
Searching for the best time to visit Prague and Charles Bridge, No need! – It does not matter in which month of the year or at what time you are visiting this beautiful city, I am sure you will get a vibrant feeling each time.
Either you can wake up early when the lamps of the bridge are still lit, and wait calmly until the sun rises and sparkles the bricks of the footwalk golden yellow. Or, you can go there at night and watch fireworks with your love or family.
What makes it even good is that it is free to visit Charles Bridge. Along with visitors, you will find on the bridge several artists such as painters, from whom you can get yourself a painting or self-portrait, and Photographers trying to capture the crowd, or looking for a still of the bridge in the early morning or night.
The Charles Bridge Prague is a medieval bridge reflecting the history, culture, and emotions of different eras. It has witnessed several major events in history such as the Thirty Years’ War, The 1848 Revolution, and World War II. It has endured several damages from Wars and natural calamities such as floods for many centuries.
Even after withstanding all of these, the Charles Bridge is still standing today, holding its pride like its kings and presenting to the people age-old Gothic and Baroque style architecture with amusement and mysteries.
Got emotional at the end, Right? Not your fault! The Charles Bridge was made for this purpose and will continue to serve it in the future.
Now, if you want to explore facts about some other beautiful cities in Europe and their attractions. Then Click Capital Cities In Europe: 10 Most Visited & Luxurious Capital Cities In The World.
And also, don’t forget to share your thoughts by commenting below this article. Na shledanou!