Some repairs will soon take place to Charles Bridge, one of Prague’s biggest tourist attractions. The wooden ice guards, which protect the pillars, will be renewed. The current ones are in poor condition.
This is the first step in a new wave of repairs to the medieval bridge planned by City Hall. The full range of repairs will stretch out over 20 years.
“The most extensive repairs will take place on the bridge arches in the coming years. But we must start from the ground up,” Jozef Sinčák, general manager of Technical Roadways Management (TSK) said in a press release, adding that the cost of the new ice guards would be CZK 29.5 million.
“The pillars are in good shape, but the state of ice guards standing in front of them have deteriorated rapidly in recent years.”
The ice guards are in the Vltava river in front of stone pillars and are intended to keep ice from damaging the bridge during winter.
Preparation work began earlier this month. The installation will start in the middle of June and will last until the end of November or start of December. The work will be carried out in three phases, starting with the removal of the old ice guards.
The new ice guards will be made from Czech oak trees from the forest around Moravský Krumlov and Strážnice in South Moravia. Some 800 cubic meters of wood has been ordered. Oak has the highest durability of any common European tree. The previous guards used poor quality wood.
The trees, which were harvested between November 2018 and March 2019, had to meet strict criteria for height and width. The harvesting of the trees was made more complicated due to almost all forestry equipment in the Czech Republic currently being used to remove trees in an effort to fight bark beetles.
The repairs will take place with full boat traffic still being allowed. Pedestrian traffic on the bridge will also not be hindered.
The ice guards were last repaired after the floods on 2002.
Charles Bridge underwent an extensive but controversial renovation between 2008 and ’10. UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee criticized it for being poorly planned. The bridge is part of the city’s UNESCO’s World Heritage Site and is a protected landmark.
City Hall in February 2018 announced it would examine the state of the bridge’s stone blocks and, after replacing the ice guards, would make repairs to the 14th arch, which goes over Kampa on the Malá Strana side, where the joints between the stones are crumbling and there are some cracks.
Then the rest of the arches will be repaired over the course of the next two decades. Each arch will cost CZK 45 million to CZK 60 million to repair.
Construction on Charles Bridge started in 1357 and was supported by Emperor Charles IV. It was the only bridge across the river in Prague until 1841.
The bridge replaced the Judith Bridge built 1158–1172, which had been badly damaged by a flood in 1342.
Charles Bridge has been damaged several times in floods. A flood in 1432 damaged three pillars. In 1496, the third arch from the Old Town side collapsed during efforts to reinforce a support pillar. Repairs were finished in 1503.
On September 2–5, 1890, another flood damaged it. Logs and debris caused three arches and two pillars to collapse, while others were partly damaged. Two statues fell into the river. One was replaced with a copy, the other with a new statue of a different saint. Repairs lasted for two years and the bridge was reopened on November 19, 1892.