Charles Bridge

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Coordinates: 50 ° 5 ′ 11 "  N , 14 ° 24 ′ 43"  E

Charles Bridge
Charles Bridge
Charles Bridge in Prague from the west
Official name Karlův most
use Pedestrians and special vehicles
Convicted Mostecká – Karlova ulice
Crossing of Smetanovo nábřeží
Subjugated Moldova
place Prague
district of Prague Old Town
construction stone arch bridge
overall length about 516 m
width 10 m
Longest span between 16.62 m and 23.38 m
height 13 m
Clear height 4.30 m
start of building 1357
Charles Bridge (Czech Republic)
Charles Bridge

The Charles Bridge ( Czech Karlův most ) is a historically significant bridge over the Vltava in Prague , built in the 14th century , which connects the old town with the Lesser Town . It is the oldest surviving bridge over the Vltava River and one of the oldest stone bridges in Europe. The bridge did not get its current name until 1870, it is considered a symbol of the city and is one of the national cultural monuments . The coronation route of the Bohemian kings led across the bridge .


Previous structures and the construction of the current bridge

View from the Petřín lookout tower
View at dawn from the east of Charles Bridge and Prague Castle
Deserted Charles Bridge in the morning

Initially, a ford served as a crossing over the Vltava , probably supplemented by raft traffic since the 9th century . A wooden bridge was first mentioned in the 10th century by the envoy of the Caliph of Cordoba , Ibrahim ibn Yaqub . The wooden bridge was repeatedly damaged and finally destroyed by floods in 1157 or 1158. Between 1158 and around 1170 the first Prague stone bridge in Romanesque style , the Judith Bridge ( Juditin most, named after Judith of Thuringia , the wife of Duke Vladislav II), was built. In 1342 this was also destroyed by the Magdalen flood. One of the two bridge towers on the Lesser Town, a gate tower (which was later incorporated into the Maltese monastery) and some pillars and bridge arches that were integrated into residential buildings on the Lesser Town remained undamaged.

The foundation stone of the Charles Bridge was laid in 1357 by Emperor Charles IV. According to different sources, the celebration was either on June 15 (feast of St. Vitus) or on July 9, the ninth day of the seventh month at 5:31 am, so the date can be represented with a regular sequence of odd numbers: 1-3-5-7-9-7-5-3-1.

Small and large tidal waves and severe ice drift have threatened the bridge over and over again in the course of its history, most recently in 1872/74 when five piers were badly damaged.

In 1890 another flood caused two pillars to collapse from floating tree trunks. The repairs were under the direction of Josef Hlávka and the Viennese professor Franz von Rziha . They dragged on for over two years.

Builders and building materials

Charles Bridge around 1880

The architect of the Charles Bridge is not proven with certainty. For a long time it was assumed that it was the work of Peter Parler . But a new theory from 2007 says the architect was a Prague stonemason named Otto, also known as Otlin. Work on the bridge and the towers, however, was under the direction of Parler.

Based on the model of the Stone Bridge in Regensburg, it was built as an arch bridge with 16 arches. It is 516 meters long and 10 meters wide. The arches are arranged almost symmetrically over the entire bridge construction. Old millstones, granite from the river bed and sandstone (from the quarries of the Cross Lords with the red star near Hloubětín ) were used as building materials. The tradition that the mortar was enriched with eggs in order to increase the stability was answered contradictingly according to scientific material analyzes on the occasion of the reconstruction in 2008. The admixture of curd and wine as "Roman mortar" could, however, be proven.

Importance of the bridge, damage and modifications

In the following years, the stone bridge (Kamenný most) or Prague bridge (Pražský most) made a significant contribution to making Prague an important station in the trade between Western and Eastern Europe. The Lords of the Cross with the Red Star were initially responsible for protecting the bridge .

In 1432 three pillars of the bridge were damaged by a flood. At the end of the Thirty Years' War , the bridge was the scene of fierce fighting in 1648 when Swedish troops besieged Prague from the west bank of the Vltava.

Around 1700 the bridge was essentially given its present form with the thirty baroque sculptures symmetrically on both sides. A symbolic figure was erected exactly above each arch pillar.

June 1848: Barricade fighting on the bridge tower of the "Prague Bridge" (later Charles Bridge) during the Whitsun uprising in Prague in the revolutionary year 1848

It was not until 1870 that the bridge was officially renamed Charles Bridge . From 1883 a horse-drawn tram ran over it. In 1905 the horse-drawn tram was replaced by a tram , which three years later gave way to omnibuses . For centuries it was an important transport link between Prague's districts.

Charles Bridge since the middle of the 20th century

Charles Bridge is a tourist magnet in summer.

Extensive renovation work was carried out from 1965 to 1978 after more detailed investigations revealed numerous cracks, mainly caused by rainwater and the road salt used in winter service. The repair costs totaled around 50 million euros: sandstone blocks and granite blocks had to be replaced. The bridge structure was then closed to all vehicle traffic. It is frequented by pedestrians, artists and souvenir dealers offer their products here and a bridge band plays music several times a day.

From 2007 onwards, extensive restoration work took place in stages, which should drag on until 2011. These measures were heavily criticized because an allegedly unqualified construction company was hired. In 2010 the monument protection authority of the Czech Republic imposed a fine of around 130,000 euros on the city of Prague because serious mistakes were made during the renovation. Among other things, complaints were made that historical stone blocks were unnecessarily destroyed and replaced with unsuitable replicas. The UNESCO began to make inquiries, as the Charles Bridge as part of Prague's Old Town to the World Heritage belongs. A petition launched in October 2009 to save the Charles Bridge , which calls for the reconstruction in its current form to be stopped, was signed by over 43,135 people (as of March 2011).

In efforts to put the bridge in an appropriate light, old technology is used: the electric lighting for the historicizing lanterns was converted to gas with Berlin technology and has been in operation since November 11, 2010. In the future, night watchmen will switch gas lanterns on and off again like in the old days on the Charles Bridge.

The statues on the bridge

When the Charles Bridge was inaugurated, it was not yet wearing any bridge decorations. Only gradually were sculptures of saints and patrons erected above the bridge piers, beginning in 1629 and mostly in the early 18th century. These come from various sculpting workshops and are mostly in the baroque style. This includes B. St. Lutgard of Tongeren . The best known is probably the bronze statue of St. John of Nepomuk , donated by Matthias Gottfried von Wunschwitz, made as a wooden model by the sculptor Johann Brokoff around 1683, cast by Wolf Hieronymus Herold in Nuremberg and erected on August 31, 1693 on March 20-21, 1393, he had fallen from Charles Bridge and drowned in the Vltava. The metal reliefs to the right and left of the statue were also made in Nuremberg.

Since 1965 the stone figures have been gradually replaced by replicas ; the originals go to the lapidarium of the National Museum .

The following tables list the total of 30 figures.

South side (upstream)
shown figure Year of first listing sculptor comment image
Holy Ivo 1711 MB brown Copy
Group of saints Barbara , Margarethe and Elisabeth 1707 FM Brokoff
Sv.  Barbora + .jpg
Pietà 1859 E. Max Charles Bridge Pieta.jpg
Saint Joseph 1854 J. Max
Charles Bridge-saint Josef.jpg
Saint Francis Xaverius 1711 FM Brokoff Copy
Charles Bridge St Francis-Xavier.jpg
Saint Christopher 1857 E. Max
Charles Bridge-Krystof.jpg
Saint Francis of Borgia 1710 FM Brokoff
Charles Bridge St Francis Borgias.jpg
Saint Ludmila 1730 MB brown
Pont Charles (Ste Ludmila) .JPG
Saint Francis Seraphicus 1855 E. Max
Charles Bridge St Francis.jpg
Saints Vincent Ferrer and Procopius 1712 FM Brokoff
Charles Bridge St Vincent & Prokop.jpg
Saint Nicholas of Tolentino 1708 JF Kohl
Charles Bridge St Nicholas Tolentino.jpg
Saint Lutgard of Tongeren 1710 MB brown Charles Bridge St Lutgard 056.jpg
Saint Adalbert 1709 JM Brokoff Copy
Charles Bridge St Adalbert.jpg
Saints John of Matha , Felix of Valois and Iwan (with the hind) as well as a Turk guarding the Christians 1714 JM Brokoff
Sv Jan z Malty.jpg
Saint Wenceslas 1858 JK Bohm
Sv Václav.jpg
North side (downstream)
shown figure Year of first listing sculptor comment image
Madonna and Saint Bernard 1708 MW Jackel
Charles Bridge Madona & St Bernard.jpg
Madonna with Saints Dominic and Thomas Aquinas 1708 MW Jackel Copy Charles Bridge Madona & St Dominic & Thomas.jpg
Crucifix with stone statues 1629 and 1861 Model WE Brohn , Guss H. Hillger
Jesus-Charle's bridge.JPG
Saint Anne with baby Jesus 1707 MW Jackel
Charles Bridge St Anna.jpg
Saints Cyril and Method 1928-1938 K. Dvorák An earlier group of statues depicting Saint Ignatius was damaged by the floods in 1890 and moved to the National Museum's lapidarium.
Charles Bridge St Cyril & Methodus.jpg
Saint John the Baptist 1857 J. Max
Charles Bridge-Saint John.jpg
Saints Wenceslas , Norbert and Sigismund 1853 J. Max Charles Bridge St Norbert Venceslas Sigmund.jpg
Saint John Nepomuk 1683 Designed by M. Rauchmüller , model JM Brokoff , cast by W. H. Herold in Nuremberg It's the oldest figure on the bridge.
Jan Nepomucky na Karlove moste.jpg
Saint Anthony of Padua 1707 J. Mayer
Statue of Saint Anthony of Padua on Charles Bridge.jpg
Saint Jude Thaddeus 1708 J. Mayer
Charles Bridge St Thadeas.jpg
Saint Augustine 1708 JF Kohl
Charles Bridge St Augustin.jpg
Holy Kajetan 1709 FM Brokoff Copy
Charles Bridge St Caetan.jpg
Saint Filippo Benitius 1714 MB Mandl
Charles Bridge St Philip.jpg
Saint Vitus 1714 FM Brokoff
Charles Bridge St Vitus.jpg
Saints Salvator , Cosmas and Damian 1709 J. Mayer Charles Bridge Christ & St Cosme & Damian.jpg
Commons : Statues on Charles Bridge  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

South side of the Charles Bridge

Buildings on both sides

The towers on both sides of the bridge, which were completed at different times, are striking.

Old Town Bridge Tower

Old Town Bridge Tower

On the Old Town side, the Old Town Bridge Tower was built between 1370 and 1380 exactly above the first bridge pillar in the Gothic style , the east facade of which has been preserved over the centuries. The coats of arms of all the countries that belonged to the Bohemian Kingdom at the time the bridge was built , the coat of arms of the Roman emperor, the coat of arms of the Bohemian king and a kingfisher framed by a veil (a symbol of Wenceslas IV ) are made of sandstone. At the height of the second floor of the tower, two bridge arches are designed in relief , on which Saint Wenceslas is depicted as the bridge patron in the middle. On both sides there are the statues of Charles IV in the dignity of emperor and Wenceslaus IV with the crown of a Roman king. On the next floor there is a shield with an eagle and a (not heraldic ) lion. Statues of Saint Adalbert and Saint Siegmund form the upper end of the facade.

The tower can be climbed and circumnavigated on a viewing platform. Often a historically dressed trumpeter entertains the tourists from up there.

In the towers and in the passage, paintings adorn the walls and ceilings, which were restored to their original Gothic version at the end of the 19th century. The net vault of the gateway is provided with a keystone designed as a royal crown . The work on this tower is attributed to Peter Parler .

The jewelry on the west facade was destroyed during the bombardment by the Swedish troops and has not been restored. The tower also served as a political issue: the heads of 27 executed participants in the uprising of 1618 against the Habsburgs were put on poles outside for ten years (1621–1631) as a deterrent. A memorial plaque installed in 1650 commemorates the participants in the liberation struggles against the Swedes in 1648.

Lesser Town Bridge Towers

Bridge towers on the Lesser Town

The lower of the two towers is the slightly modified, intact tower of the Judith Bridge. It is built in the Romanesque style on a rectangular floor plan. Decorations that have survived from this period are remains of sgraffito , windows, gables and the roof. In 1591 it was rebuilt in the Renaissance style.

In 1464 the higher Lesser Town Bridge Tower was built on behalf of King George of Podebrady , probably on the site of an older Romanesque tower . The design was based on the Old Town Bridge Tower on the eastern bank. The towers were connected with a crenellated archway in the 15th century .

See also


Web links

Commons : Charles Bridge  - Collection of Images

Individual evidence

  1. V ledové Vltavě se Foti nejlépe. Podívejte se na první fotografie Juditina mostu - newspaper article about the archaeological investigation of the Judith Bridge on February 3, 2010 ; History Karlova mostu
  2. a b c d e f g Olympia travel guide. Prague . Pages 37-42
  3. Zdeněk Horský : založení Karlova mostu a kosmologická symbolika Staroměstské mostecké věže , Praha 1979
  4. Martina Klapalová: Pilířů bylo asi více (There were probably more pillars) ( Memento from May 5, 2009 in the Internet Archive ) In: Lidové noviny (People's Daily) , September 10, 2007.
  5. ( Memento of April 7, 2013 in the Internet Archive ), accessed January 19, 2013
  6. Susan Raušová: Charles Bridge is not built from eggs, as scientists have established. Hospodářské noviny from October 15, 2008 (Czech)
  7. ^ Klaus Brill : Charles Bridge in Prague - A myth is spoiled. ( Memento from May 21, 2010 in the Internet Archive ) In: Süddeutsche Zeitung . April 14, 2010
  8. ^ Tom Clifford: UNESCO looks at bridge work . In: The Prague Post. February 3, 2010
  9. ^ Petition to save Charles Bridge in Prague ,, October 1, 2009
  10. Berlin gas light technology for Prague . In: Berliner Morgenpost from November 28, 2010
  11. Isabel Heitjan: The "miracle" Johann von Nepomuk 1744 in Prague. In: Börsenblatt for the German book trade - Frankfurt edition. No. 89, November 5, 1968 (= Archive for the History of Books. Volume 62), pp. 2863–2868, here: pp. 2866 f.
  12. ^ Gottfried Fehr: The Charles Bridge in Prague. Berlin 1944 (= Guide to major architectural monuments. Volume 25), p. 12.
  13. A list of all statues on Charles Bridge on a private website