Unless you come to Prague in deep winter cold and wake up very early, you will not get a chance to walk over this bridge in peace and calm: it is full of people all year through. Locals on a romantic walk, tourists with mobiles in hands, childen on schooltrips, everybody wants to see and share the beauty of this gothic bridge decorated with baroque statues… and no wonder, the bridge is a real gem in many aspects.
As some people say, bridges do not connect only two places, they connect people. A fact that can be literally used for Charles Bridge, perhaps the most visited sight of Prague, which gathers people of all generations, people from all over the world, musicians with artists, contemporaneous world with the old one, and there are no doubt many other connections that may come upon your mind and will be true.
Connecting the Old Town of Prague (where hotel Rott is located, just a few minutes from the bridge) – a merchants´part of the city – and Lesser Town – the noble part of the historical capital of Bohemia, the bridge was a witness to many different and colourful events of Czech (but not only) history. Let´s have a look at least at some of the most weird ones.
Medieval Opus magnum
The construction of the bridge and of the towers was conceived and started as a grand masterpiece, a kind of Opus magnum, comparable to the only similar bridge of the times, the famous stonebridge across Danube in Regensburg. But it should have been more than a bridge – it was constructed as an hommage to the greatness of god, as a parable to the ancient Rome and in Charles´ IV.desire to change Prague into the second, or third (after Constantinopolis) Rome. The bridge is longer than 500 metres, and 9,5 metres wide, which ranks it among the most robust constructions of the 14th century. Everyone knows the story about laying the corner stone, but the end of the works are not known even among historians. The only trace we get is a legend about the priest Martin Cink and his overthrow into Vltava river – it is dated into 1361, and it is quite probable, that the old town inhabitants used the bridge to reach a spot in the middle of the river – where the execution was taken. Not much later, the famous Crucifixion was installed as a reminder of this inhuman act.
Unsuccessful siege of Prague by the Swedish army
But this was only the beginning of all the cruelties the bridge saw. In 1420, the hussites marched across the bridge, destroying it partially. In 1621, the heads of executed Czech noblemen and merchants, those who opposed Ferdinand II., were hung from both sides of the Old Town Bridge Tower and remained there more than 10 years – till November 1631.
At the end of the 30 years war, Charles Bridge was the main point of a pitiless struggle of the army of the Swedish conqueror Königsmark, who tried to besiege the Old Town of Prague. But the merchant´s defence was so strong and determined, that the Sweidh never got to the other riverbank, and the last peace of this long war was negotiated right on the bridge.
Two hundred years later, in 1848, the bridge saw other soldiers: the imperial army suppressed the revolutionary movement of Czech students . And bombs were flying everywhere, even on several spots on Charles Bridge, destroying it quite significantly.
And there are many, many other events. The corpse of Reynhard Heydrich the Reichsprotektor, was carried in a night torch secret ritual across the bridge in June 1942. Tom Cruise was shooting here the film Mission Impossible, western presidents walked across in the communist times spied by dozens of Secret Police agents…
When you walk across the bridge today – during a visit to Prague, you should not forget its crucial role in the history of the Czech Republic and recall some of the facts that cocreated its history…
The author of the article and the manager of the hotel in one has many years experience with writing texts, she has been working as a free-lance journalist contributing to different Czech daily newspapers and other periodics of all kinds. She has spent a part of her career working as a city guide, and her articles are therefore providing a highly informed insight of a person, who was not only born in Prague, but who has crisscrossed the city streets countless times, has read hundreds pages of literature about Prague, and who constantly strives to contribute to the good reputation of the city from her todays workplace. Hopefully with a success…