In 2017, on the historical anniversary of 9 July, the most famous bridge in the Czech Republic was celebrating 660 years since the laying of its foundation stone. Despite the fact that it has adorned Prague for seven centuries, it still enjoys immense interest from tourists and artists alike.
One of the most well-preserved medieval bridgesThe foundation stone of Charles Bridge was laid by Bohemian King and Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV. He initiated construction of this gothic stone bridge in 1357 after the previous bridge was swept away by a devastating flood. It was not completed until 1402, and continues to link the left and right banks of the Vltava River to this day.
Its history was accompanied by numerous tragic events, wars, as well as destructive floods. During the worst of these, in 1890, three bridge arches collapsed. However, repairs were successful, and today the bridge offers gorgeous views of Prague Castle, the ancient seat of Bohemian kings and the most-visited Czech monument.
The Charles, Prague, or Stone Bridge?All three names are correct. The name, Charles Bridge, did not originate during the actual era of the construction of the monument. For a very long time in the past, the bridge was simply called the Pražský most (Prague Bridge) because it was the only bridge in Prague. In addition to this name, people also called it the Kamenný (Stone) bridge. The name, Karlův most (Charles Bridge) originated in the late 19th century, and is derived from the name of its founder.
Decorations by leading masters of sculptureDuring a stroll along the bridge, you are essentially walking through an outdoor gallery of baroque statues and sculptural groups. The bridge's embellishments come from the studios of renowned artists of the time. Those who contributed include sculptural luminaries Matthias Bernard Braun, Jan Brokoff, and his son, Ferdinand Maximillian Brokoff. A total of thirty statues of prominent saints line the entire half-kilometre length of the bridge, of which the most famous is the statue of St John of Nepomuk. Also of great artistic value are the two medieval towers that protected the bridge.
LegendsAncient legends remain magical to this day. The oldest legend about Charles Bridge is linked to the celebratory inauguration of its construction. The foundation stone was allegedly laid by Charles IV himself on 9 July 1357 at exactly 5:31 a.m. upon the advice of court astrologers. This rare moment was furthermore heightened by the alignment of the Leo constellation, the symbol of the Bohemian kings, and the high visibility of Mars, the planet of great acts and warriors.
Another legend tells of how eggs were used to strengthen the mortar. Unfortunately, this legend was refuted several years ago by an analysis of the bridge's construction materials. This analysis, however, did show that the medieval builders added milk and wine to the mortar.
Take a walk along Charles Bridge and discover for yourself that it is rightfully regarded as one of the most beautiful monuments in the world.