Prague is the capital of Czech Republic and, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful European cities. I’ve visited quite recently and I loved it. The historic centre is gorgeous, with exceptional buildings, an impressive castleand a bridge renowned as one of the world’s most famous. The whole historic centre is a UNESCO Heritage Site since 1992.
The centre of the Prague is crossed by the country’s longest river, the Vltava. It has 435 km, its source is found in the Bohemian region and the mouth is located a few kilometres north of the Czech capital. The river splits Prague into two banks:
- On one side, Malá Strana (a tiny city) and Hradcany – The Castle is located in the small city;
- In the other bank: Staré Mesto (old city), Nové Mesto (new city), Josefov (Jewish quarter) and Vysehrad.
The city has more than 300 bridges… over the Vltava and also over other water courses found there. This is why it is aptly named the city of the hundred towers and also of the 100 bridges.
The most famous of all is the Charles Bridge. It’s the oldest and, for 450 years, it was the only connection between both banks of the Vltava.
Who ordered the construction of the bridge?
The Emperor Charles IV ordered the construction of a bridge in Prague in 1357, with 1402 being the deadline. The old Judith bridge needed a replacement, since it had been shattered by the 1342 floods. The Emperor assigned the bridge’s drawing and construction to the architect Petr Parleř, but the work was finished already after his death.
The legend says that Charles IV consulted astrologers to know what would be the most favourable day to launch the construction. The 1st stone was placed by the Emperor himself at the exact moment the astrologers recommended him to. It was at dawn (5:31 am), on July 9 of 1357.
Some say as well that, at the time of its constructions, eggs, wine and milk were all used to make sure that it would last many years… the fact is that it’s almost 660 years old already!
It was initially called Stone Bridge and the name of Charles was only given to it in 1870, as a tribute to this ruler.
What the bridge looks like and what can see in it?
Charles Bridge is 515.76 meters long and 9.5 meters wide approximately. It’s a construction made of sandstone with 16 arches.
I’d say that, first of all, the most important of Charles Bridge is the view we can have to the castle and river, and all of its dynamics. Quite probably you will cross it coming from the old area and so you will have this gorgeous monument right in front of you. It’s a magnificent complex located on the top of a hill. Quite interesting as well is being able to look at the river, both banks and to all the ships that placidly sail the Vltava.
Secondly, the bridge itself. It has 3 towers (one located in one of its ends and 2 in the other) and 30 statues depicting important saints, spread throughout its length.
Thirdly, the whole frenzy caused by the perennial streets artists and small jewellery merchants. I don’t recommend buying anything given how high the prices are, but checking and being part of this is really worth it.
The bridge has been car-free since 1965, so you can walk on this precious gem as freely as you want.
The towers found on the edges of Charles Bridge are regarded by many as the world’s most beautiful gothic constructions. On the old city side, there is one and, around it, there’s the statue of the Emperor Charles IV, from whom the name of the bride derives. This tower was built in the same period of the bridge and it holds gorgeous sculptures, also authored by the architect Petr Parleř.
It’s highly likely that your crossing will start precisely here. Get ready for a journey back in time. After half a kilometre of bridge, already on the side of the castle, there are 2 towers with different heights. The smallest is also the oldest and it was part of the Judith Bridge. The highest is more recent, from the 15th century, just like the portico between both towers.
The statues and sculptural groups
The 30 statues and sculptural groups that are found in the bridge were placed there between 1683 and 1928, many years later after its construction. It’s a rather interesting mishmash of styles, since the bridge is still medieval and there are baroque statues. They were donated by judges and noblemen who were part of the Counter-Reformation movement, since it resembled the Sant’Angelo Bridge in Rome.
I just have to mention that what we see today in the bridge are replicas, if you want to see the originals you will have to visit the Prague National Museum.
The statues depict saints in their vast majority, with these being Saint Ivo; Saint Barbara, Saint Margaret and Saint Elizabeth; – the sacred virgins; Pietà; Saint Sigismund, Saint Lugardis, Saint Albert or the rather popular statue and tribute to Saint John of Nepomuk. This is the bridge’s oldest statue.
The legend says that this saint was the queen’s confessor priest and, when he refused to tell the king what the queen was telling him in confession, he was killed and his body thrown into the river.
There are a statue and a tribute carved in iron dedicated to this saint. In both monuments it’s possible to check the 5 stars in his head, a depiction of what is said to have happened with his body in the river…
Yet another sculpture found on the bridge is the Calvary, which underwent several changes over the years. Death sentences were consummated in this place.