Charles Bridge

Charles Bridge seen from Prague CastleCharles Bridge (Karluv most) is one of the finest architectural wonders of Prague. Together with Prague Castle, they make the two must-see attractions in Prague. Charles Bridge stands on the place of a former edifice – Judith Bridge built in the 12th century that was destroyed by the flood of the Vltava in 1342. In 1347, Charles IV decided to rebuild the bridge and handed the project to Petr Parler, the architect of St. Vitus Cathedral. The construction process was completed in 1390 and opened to the cars until 1965, when it became a pedestrians-only area. First called the Stone Bridge, it took the name of Charles Bridge in 1870.

The 515 meters long and 10 meters wide Charles Bridge is supported by 16 large sandstone pillars. At the foot of the bridge, there are tree trunks that protect the pillars in case of cold weather as Vltava River is often covered, during winter, by towering blocks of ice that could hit the pillars and break them. The bridge is located in a pastoral setting with views of the city and the castle. It is usually crowded with tourists, local people and street performers.

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Charles Bridge’s Towers

Charles bridge towerOn each side of the bridge stand two towers: Malá Strana Bridge Tower and the Old Town Bridge Tower. The two towers were built at different times but they harmoniously complement each other with their architectural variety.

A remaining of the old Judith Bridge used as a jail for over two centuries, Malá Strana Bridge Tower features a Romanesque architecture, while Old Town Bridge Tower is fully decorated with Baroque elements.

A marvel of Baroque architecture, the Old Town Bridge Tower is part of the original 14th century project signed by Petr Parler. Among its decorative elements are several sculptures depicting royal figures like Charles IV, Wenceslas IV or different patron saints of the Czech people.

The moon side of the Old Town Bridge Tower is decorated with 28 crabs representing the moon’s 28 days. You can go up the steps inside the tower to get some stunning views of the city and Prague Castle.

The Malá Strana Bridge Tower is actually made up of two towers, which feature no decorative elements.

The smaller of the two is relic the old Judith Bridge, while the larger one dates back to 1464. Inside the towers you can admire rare Romanesque reliefs and other symbols of Wenceslas IV’s reign.

Charles Bridge’s Statues

statue on Charles bridgeBut, what makes this bridge so unique are its statues of stone and bronze raising on top of each pillar. Today there is a total of 30 statues, all built between 1683 and 1928. Their eminently Baroque style contrasts with the rest of the bridge. The statues you can see nowadays on Charles Bridge are copies of the original ones severely damaged by floods and rains. They depict the religious history of the city through groups of Saints: the group of Holy Cross, the group of Saint Wenceslas, the group of St. John of Nepomuk. The oldest decorative element of the bridge is the Crucifix dating from 1657 and featuring a gilded Hebrew inscription, saying ‘Holy, holy, holy, the Lord of Hosts’ added in 1694 by a local Jew, Elias Backoffen.

Charles Bridge’s most oldest statue and also the most popular with tourists is that of John Nepomuk – a vicar that became saint after being killed in 1393. He was thrown off the bridge for having refused to betray the queen and divulge her confession. The legend says that 5 starts appeared on the place he was murdered. This is why the statue has a 5 stars crown. There is an old belief that if you rub the bronze plaque at the bottom of John Nepomuk’s statue, you will return one day to Prague. This explains the panel a bright golden sheen.

Kampa Island

Separated from the rest of the city, Kampa Island is one of Prague’s quietest spots. The island dating back to the 12th century is made up of two parts – one crossed by Charles Bridge and another one covered by historical gardens. Its shape has constantly changed along the history because of repeated flooding. Kampa Island is connected to the Old Town via the street Na Kampě and to the Lesser Town by a river channel – the Čertovka.

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