One of the most well-preserved medieval bridges in the world—its stone foundations laid in 1357 at the behest of Bohemian King and Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV—the Charles Bridge is commemorating 660 years this weekend with a series of events taking place in its vicinity.
The bridge, built by court architect Petr Parler, connects Prague’s right and left banks to this day. Zdeněk Bergman, director of the Charles Bridge Museum, says of the country’s signature monument:
“Its sovereign position among the other Prague bridges was never put in doubt. It connects the oldest city districts and the view over the bridge at the skyline of the Hradčany is one of the breath-taking sights of Europe.”
Visitors to the museum will see the worlds’s most detailed replica of the gothic bridge’s construction, as well as learn a number of fascinating facts, including:
▪ Czech folk legend says construction began at 5:31am on July 9, 1357 with the first stone being laid by Charles IV himself. The Holy Roman Emperor believed this time, which formed a palindrome (1357 9, 7 5:31), would protect the bridge against floods and evil.
▪ Its predecessor is the Romanesque Judith Bridge (1158–1172), a fragment of which is on view at the museum.
▪ It was originally called the Stone Bridge (Kamenný most) or the Prague Bridge (Pražský most) having only been known as “Charles Bridge” since 1870.
▪ It is protected by three bridge towers, two of them on the Lesser Quarter side and the third one on the Old Town side.
▪ The bridge was decorated by a a single cross during Charles’s reign; its thirty statues and statuaries were erected around the year 1700 but are now all replaced by replicas.
▪ At 515.76 meters long and 9.4 meters wide it was one of the sturdiest bridges of its period, its construction allegedly fortified with eggs.
▪ It’s only the second oldest stone bridge in the Czech Republic, however: Písek Stone Bridge was built in the early 13th century.
▪ Though it wasn’t completed until the early 15th century, scholars have proven that Charles IV’s funeral procession crossed the bridge in 1378.
▪ The bridge is now open for foot-traffic only, but horse-drawn carriages crossed it in 1883-1905 and, up until 1965, cars were allowed to drive over it.
This Sunday’s celebratory program includes ceremonial fanfare from Lesser Town Tower beginning at 6:30pm, special guided tours of the bridge via boat (in Czech only), and a screening of the Czechoslovak musical A Night at Karlštejn in front of the Rudolfinum at 7:30pm.
See additional details at www.prague.eu.