Prague, the Capital of Bohemia

September 14, 2012  •  Leave a Comment

Prague, one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, is set on both banks of the Vltava River.  Its townscape of burger houses and palaces are punctuated by towers.  The famous Prague Castle (left) was built in the 870s by Prince Borivoj as the main seat of the Premysl dynasty.

Christianity became the state religion in the 12th century under the rule of the pious Wenceslas, duke of Bohemia.  Wenceslas was the 'Good King Wenceslas' of the well-known Christmas carol written in 1853 by English clergyman John Mason Neale. Neale read about St. Wenceslas' legendary piety, and based his carol on the story of the duke's page finding strength and warmth by following in the footsteps of his master as they carried food, wine and firewood to a poor peasant on a freezing cold Boxing Day. The unfortunate Wenceslas was murdered by his own brother, Boleslav; the Chapel of St. Wenceslas in St. Vitus Cathedral is decorated with scenes from the saint's life.

The murder of Wenceslas III in 1306 left no male heir to the throne. Two Habsburg monarchs briefly ruled Bohemia until the Holy Roman emperor John of Luxemburg became king by marrying Wenceslas III's daughter Elyska in 1310. Under the rule of John's son Charles IV (r 1346-78) as king and Holy Roman emperor, Prague grew into one of the continent's largest and most prosperous cities, acquiring its fine Gothic face, and landmarks including the Charles University, Charles Bridge and St. Vitus Cathedral.

Prague belongs to the group of historic cities which have preserved the structure of their development until the present times. Within the core of Prague, successive stages of growth and changes have respected the original grand-scale urban structure of the Early Middle Ages. This structure was essentially and greatly enlarged with urban activities in the High Gothic period with more additions during the High Baroque period and in the 19th century. It has been saved from any large-scale urban renewal or massive demolitions and thus preserves its overall configuration, pattern and spatial composition.

In the course of the 1,100 years of its existence, Prague’s development is documented in the architectural expression of many historical periods and their styles. Of particular importance are Prague Castle, the Cathedral of St. Vitus, Hradcany Square in front of the Castle, the Valdgtejn Palace on the left bank of the river, the Gothic Charles Bridge, the Romanesque Rotunda of the Holy Rood, the Gothic arcaded houses round the Old Town Square, the High Gothic Minorite Church of St James in the Stark Mesto, the late 19th century buildings and town plan of the Nave Mesto.

As early as the Middle Ages, Prague in became one of the leading cultural ce nters of Christian Europe. The Prague University, founded in 1348, is one of the earliest Europe. The milieu of the University in the last quarter of the 14th century and the first years of the 15th century contributed among other things to the formation of ideas of the Hussite Movement which represented in fact the first steps of the European Reformation. As a metropolis of culture, Prague is connected with prominent names in art, science and politics, such as Charles IV, Petr Parler, Jan Hus, Johannes Kepler, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Franz Kafka, Antonín Dvorak, Albert Einstein, Edward Benes (co-founder of the Leaue of Nations) and Vaclav Havel.

 

Prague, as a city of 1.2 million inhabitants, seems swamped by tourists.  The crowds are evident at Prague Castle, on the Charles Bridge and in the Old Town Square from morning to well into the evening hours.  We enjoyed the evening view from the rooftop restaurant of our hotel, the Intercontinental.  The view was beautiful and it was truly the photographer 's Golden Hour.

 


 


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