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CZ: Prague - Hradčany

Published: 3.11.2008
Originally, Hradčany was an independent town. In 1784, it became a part of united King´s Capital of Prague. Most part of Hradčany is formed with Prague Castle. The castle was created with subsequence of added buildings of castle of 9th century. Today, the castle is marked as one of greatest castle complexes of the world.

Thousand years long Europe history stamped its character to Hradčany. On fortress-rests of Bohemian rulers from Přemyslovci Parentage of 9th century, the Kings and Emperors built a castle, which became in 1346, and again in 1576 (during rule of Emperor Rudolph II.), seat of Emperor of Roman Empire of German Nation. Since 1918 till division of common state of Czechs and Slovaks (on 1st January 2003), Hradčany was a seat of President of Czechoslovak Republic, today a seat of President of Czech Republic.

Castle´s complex is 600 metres long and is divided through three courtyards. First of them, neighbouring with Hradčanské Square, was established within 1756-1774, on request of Austrian Empres and Bohemian Queen, Mary Therese. Her court-architect united separate Castle buildings, coming from various time-periods and built in diverse styles (from Roman up to Baroque style), under uniform facade. So, he covered many things which were created in the course of centuries. Emperor Mathias´ Gate (1614) – it was the first secular building in Prague – leads to the second courtyard, with castle picture-gallery and St.Cross chapel. Third courtyard, own Hradčany-nucleus, is bordered with St.Vitus Cathedral from north side, and so called Castle palace from the right side. The works on construction of the cathedral (it is the greatest church in Prague, and its two towers form a characteristic Prague-dominante) took 585 years. This cathedral is smaller, making comparison to similar cathedral in Colonia/Rhine, but it became the same symbol of national unity. In 19th century, Bohemian patriots founded Company for finishing of St.Vitus Cathedral, and, successively in 1873, basic stone for Neo-Gothic western part of cathedral, including two big towers of 82 metres height, was put down. St.Vitus Cathedral is most beautiful building of Prague Castle. Cathedral chorus, surrounded by Gothic support columns, is 74 metres long and 39 metres high. In 1929, on 1000 years´ anniversary of St.Wenceslas death, (it is a patron of Bohemia), the cathedral was solemny consacrated. To architects, who participated on cathedral face in their decisive way, belongs builder Peter Parler (of German origin). He worked in Prague within 1353-1399, and he created so called Golden Gate (richly decorated southern cathedral portal, including three-parts lobby, eastern chorus and chapel-garlands around, together with St.Wenceslas chapel – its walls are set with precious stones in its lower part, and where there are set  St.Wenceslas relics). Parler also put basic stone for main tower (109 meters high) over south portal. The tower was finished even in 1554 and obtained its Baroque bulbous cupola. In south direction from St.Vitus Cathedral, there is located King´s palace, till beginning of 17th century the Emperor´s seat. Later the Habsburgs, ruling in Bohemia since 1527, transferred their residence to Vienna. During rule of Vladislav Yagellonsky (1486-1502) there was constructed vast hall, 62 metres long, with late Gothic vault of moving groins. It served, except of representative purposes, to organisation of Knights´ tournaments. The knights on horses could enter, along wide stages from courtyard, directly to the hall. Since 1934, there were elected in this hall, all Czechoslovak Presidents. On 2nd February 1993, Vaclav Havel, first President of Czech Republic, put together his President´s famous vow. In Lewis´wing of this palace, there were situated rooms of Bohemian Court Office. On 23rd May 1618, Bohemian Protestant Aristocrats threw out Emperor´s Governors into 15 m deep castle moat. The governors had good luck in general, but this event became a signal for Bohemian Uprising and start of 30-years war between European great powers. When this war was over, the importance of Hradčany fell down successively, some great fires damaged it (1743, 1760, 1781, 1855) and even centralistic policy of Emperor Joseph II. Anyway, better conditions brought a period of National Revival, with its interest for history and national monuments, and, first of all, in 1918, when Prague Castle became again seat of Head of State, lived to magnificent reconstruction, with great support of architects – such as Josip Plecnik and Pavel Janák.

Text: Jakub Štantejský

Photo: Wikipedia.com

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