Everyone knows the Prague Castle, the seat of Czech power since the 9th century. Hrad means Castle in Czech and Hradcany means the Castle District, it is a place steeped in history and has undergone many changes.
The entrance to the castle is the courtyard, the courtyard was once protected by a natural ravine, moats, and bridges which give way to a welcoming ceremonial entrance.
The portal is surmounted by a rococo gate bearing the initials of Maria Theresa and Joseph II.
The harmony of this spacious courtyard, which dates originally from the 16th century is entirely due to the redesign of Pacassi during the 18th century. In the center, an impressive Baroque fountain created in 1686, by Hieronymus Kohl, Hercules, and other gods. You will also find a Baroque puit and a modern lion fountain.
The central building between the second courtyard and third contains offices. It stands on the site of the eastern rampart of the wall that separated the main part of the old fortress slave, and a beautiful carved leopard which marks the ceremonial entrance.
The north wing is pierced by a passage leading to the road that crosses the ravine named ‘deer gap’, which defended this flank of the Castle, and leads to the Royal Gardens.
The Pacassi facade demonstrates the complex history of this building, which began with the construction of the royal stables, and continued at the time of Rudolf II with the addition of great galleries to its vast collections. The Rudolph gallery and the Spanish Hall measure 48 meters in length and are used today for ceremonies, but unfortunately are not open to the public. On the lower floor, the gallery of the Castle has been beautifully converted into exhibition halls.
Chapel of the Holy Cross
Pacassi also renovated the chapel of the Holy Cross (it houses the reception desk and ticket sales), transformed in 1852 by the former private chapel of Emperor Ferdinand I of Austria, a king unable to govern by himself. Forced to abdicate in 1848 in favor of his nephew Francis Joseph, he chose to retire at Prague Castle.
The Castle Gallery offers a selection of works from its collection of 4000 pieces. These are outlined in former stables appointed at the end of the 16th century by Emperor Rudolf II, a patron of the arts who was the first to constitute a collection. The Emperor Rudolph II (1552-1612) was an artist who worked hard but was always looking for beautiful pieces across Europe to enrich his collection. At the end of his life he had nearly 3000 paintings. But this great inheritance was quickly dispersed by his successors. Many objects were left to dishonest traders in Vienna or were looted in 1648 by Swedish soldiers and left only empty frames and a rhinoceros skeleton.
In 1920 the collections were reconstructed thanks to a foundation created by the first President of Czechoslovakia, Masaryk.
One of my favorite painters who represented the emperor Rodolphe II is Giuseppe Arcimboldo with a fruit portrait, but unfortunately this painting is now located in Paris.
The St. Vitus Cathedral
Built on the remains of his ancestors the Romanesque cathedral has glorious towers and pinnacles that rise well above the walls of the castle, and is the largest church in the country. Furthermore it is the location of coronation church mausoleum of kings and queens and green jewels in the crown of Bohemia.
The first stone of the cathedral was laid in 1344, but more than five centuries passed before the formal completion of the work in 1929. Sometimes austere, sometimes very inventive architecture is enriched in a multitude of decorative elements, from sumptuous tombs Renaissance and Baroque to the extraordinary stained glass of the early twentieth century.
The ornamentation of the building continues even though the communist regime was hostile to the Church.
Cathedral over the centuries
Charles IV (1316 – 1378) reign is the origin of the construction of the cathedral. We perceive his influence in the style of the building itself. It was only when he was Prince in 1344, laying the first stone by Ernest of Pardubice, first Archbishop of Prague, appointed by the pope, who confirmed the development of the city. When Charles became king, and from 1355, the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles enlisted in the expansion and improvement of its capital and the new cathedral formed the spiritual center. With a French education he chose Matthew of Arras as the architect. At the latter’s death in 1352, the end of the Cathedral was nearly completed, a plan and a style reminiscent of the French Gothic style. Charles appointed a new architect Petr Parler, 23 year old member of the dynasty and a master mason of the new cathedral of Cologne and was also in charge of the construction of the Charles Bridge. Original, energetic and inventive, the talk ended choir Matthieu of Arras. It also closed the west end of the chancel wall with a temporary solution “temporary” which lasted almost half a millennium.
The work of the cathedral continued very sporadically after the death of Parler in 1399. In 1421, the Hussites broke into the building with the intention to loot furniture, but they could only see their opponent, the emperor Sigismond had preceded because he had melted the treasure of cathedral to pay the soldiers.
In 1619 the Calvinists effected a similar reconstruction. In 1757, the cathedral was heavily damaged during the Prussian siege.
In the middle of the 19th century, there was a new craze for Gothic architecture, and a concerted effort was established with the founding in 1859 of an association for the completion of the cathedral. They began by removing the elements of the Baroque choir. Joseph Mocker (1835-1899), the most prominent proponent of Gothic in the country, oversaw much of the work. The vault of the nave was completed in 1903, after which it was decorated in ornaments and furniture which contributed many great artists of the time. In 1929 marked the celebration of millennium of the martyrdom of Wenceslas, the patron saint of the country, and St. Vitus’ Cathedral was consecrated with great ceremony.
On the west side at the mouth of the passage that connects the second and third castle courtyard, the west facade of the cathedral stands the twin towers. This part of the building dates from the 20th century, although at first glance the Gothic illusion is complete, so great respect was paid to Mocker and his colleagues for their style of medieval predecessor. Approaching the west end, we discover some interesting details such as the bronze reliefs Otakar Španiel 1929, depicting scenes from the construction of the cathedral on the three doors.
The courtyard facade on south end is dominated by the beautiful south tower of the cathedral, standing 96.5 meters high. It was begun by the successors of talk and then he added in the middle of the 16th century, a Renaissance gallery and triple dome, rebuilt in 1770, which gave him his current form feature. It is surmounted by a golden bohemian lion.
To the east of the foot of the tower open arches of the famous Golden Gate (Zlata grana), completed in 1367 by Parler to serve as a ceremonial entrance
Gothic nave that has been criticized for its academic coldness but now considered as an important part of the monument, as well as other inputs of the 19th and 20th century, all imbued with a genuine respect for the work of ancient medieval builders. Nave faithfully reproduces the pattern established by Petr Parler for the choir, for example in the ribs of the vault or provision height sculpted portraits of the gallery, the number of busts honoring the latest benefactors of the cathedral is that of Joseph Mocker by Jan Štursa. But the most remarkable feature of this part of the building remains unquestionably the modern stained glass. František Kysela was a pioneer in this field. With 25,000 peaches glass, his western rose window finished in 1928 illustrates the world’s creation.
The Third courtyard
The south wing has a superb Pacassi portico, surmounted by a balcony where the president stands to greet the crowd at the ceremony. But Plečnik presence is evident in the appearance of the third courtyard. He removed the old level differences by developing the existing coating, and raised canopy that protects the foundations of the Romanesque basilica, ancestor of the cathedral and compiled (not without difficulty, because the top was broken) the great obelisk granite monument to the dead of the First World War. In the southeast corner, the stairs of Taurus (Byčí schodiště) is the work of Plečnik. It consists of several flights of stairs that descend through the gardens to the south wing.
At the southwest corner of the cathedral stands the baroque Old Deanery (Stare Probošství), which shows the remains of the Romanesque palace of the bishop, in a corner, one of St. Wenceslas Bendl.
Old royal palace
Previously the center of court life, the former royal palace is now a museum, all the offices of the President and other administrations have been long since transferred to the building west of the Castle. Discovering the successive constructions of the palace, we have an idea of the age of the Castle.
Vestibule on the left opens the Green Room (Zelená světnice) where you can see the coat of arms and a baroque fresco depicting the Judgment of Solomon, and the so-called bedroom Vladislav, the Gothic arch strongly colorful, decorated as of Arms
The Vladislav Hall (Vladislavský sal) was in its time the largest vaulted hall for non-religious in Central Europe. Built between 1492 and 1502, sublime fusion of late Gothic, while fancy, and the new Renaissance is the masterpiece of Benedikt Ried. The south facade of the Vladislav Hall is bordered by a terrace with beautiful views Prague.
The wing Louis (Ludvíkuv palác) a passage in the southwest corner of the room led to the Vladislav wing added in the early 16th century by Ried. Here the the officers of the Chancery met: Bohemia junior officers occupied the first room, the Governing Council of the second (ie, its windows were thrown two of them in 1618, during the Second Prague Defenestration). A spiral staircase vaulted Gothic rises to the Council Chamber imperial witnessed the aftermath of the defenestration: in 1621, 27 men who took part in the rebellion of the Bohemian Estates against the imperial authority there were sentenced to death.
I wanted to highlight the main parts of the castle that are visible and a part of the history. I also wanted to give you the tip that if you buy tickets for a complete visit please do not hesitate to go through the Golden Alley. Legends that run on the Golden Alley are numerous.
One of them says that the small picturesque houses harbored alchemists. It dates from the Romantic period and does not correspond to a reality far more prosaic. The castle had its own jurisdiction, and its walls, shopkeepers and artisans resellers are not recognized by the profession and able to work without incurring the wrath of powerful corporations. The castle has not sought to dislodge the artisans, who have settled in small houses made of bits and pieces. Resulting of these illegal businesses, but also the presence of prisons in the towers on either side of the lane (traders also sold to prisoners), the neighborhood had a rather bad reputation.
I will try to show next item kings and other leaders who have lived and marked their time in this castle.