As of last weekend, you may have noticed a uniformed figure moving along the Charles Bridge at dusk, igniting its lamps with an antique wooden pole. That’s the lamplighter—and he’ll be illuminating the bridge with atmospheric gaslight through December 23rd of this year.
The year 1847 saw the first use of gas lamps in Prague. The real golden era of gas was from the second half of the 19th century to the 20th century when, by 1940, nearly 9,000 gas lamps cast their bluish glow on the city. In 1985, Prague’s gas lamps were replaced by electric ones, rendering the role of the lamplighter obsolete.
But 2002 saw the return of gaslight to the city’s most historic areas. There are currently 700 of these lamps in the Czech capital, which are ignited remotely.
This will be the thirteenth annual advent outing for the Charles Bridge lamplighter (a.k.a the president of the Lamplighter’s Guild). In previous years his fellow lamplighters have also lit the Royal Way.
This year, however, a series of free walking tours of historic gas lamps in Malá Strana has been organized by Prague City Gallery and Prague gasworks on Dec 2 and Dec 29 at 17:00. The meeting point for these tours is Dražického Square near the castle, which is home to a newly restored historic four-armed lamppost.
If you want to catch the Charles Bridge lamplighter in action, he begins his rounds at 16:05 daily. For a list of gas lantern locations in Prague see this 2014 Metro article.
Photos courtesy of Prague City Gallery.