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Prague Castle

Prague Castle offers a unique example of continuous settlement and uninterrupted human activity for more than thousand years. It became the seat of the profane as well as the church authority of the Přemyslid princedom and all later Central European states with Prague as their capital.

  • AD 1050 – Modern Era

AD 1050 – Modern Era

Development of the Site

A major Romanesque renovation (since 1135) resulted in a castle of stone, at the same time reducing the area and enclosing it in walls, structured by towers (still preserved is the Black Tower).28 Fig. 21

Fig. 21: Prague Castle from the east. In the foreground: so-called Black Tower, a relic of the Romanesque fortification (after 1135). Credit: Martin Frouz

Fig. 21: Prague Castle from the east. In the foreground: so-called Black Tower, a relic of the Romanesque fortification (after 1135). Credit: Martin Frouz

The reign of Emperor Charles IV (1344–1378) represents another important stage of development. He had the imperial palace, the St George Basilica together with the Chapel of St Ludmila, and other buildings renovated. The foundation for the new Gothic Vitus Cathedral was laid (1344) Fig. 22, master builder Matthias of Arras and Peter Parler from Gmünd ordered to execute the building.29 The golden age of the 14th century found an end with the Hussite looting at the castle.

Fig. 22: St Vitus Cathedral from the 3rd courtyard, around 1840, F. X. Sandmann, coloured lithography. Credit: The City of Prague Museum

Fig. 22: St Vitus Cathedral from the 3rd courtyard, around 1840, F. X. Sandmann, coloured lithography. Credit: The City of Prague Museum

The appearance of Prague Castle changed remarkably by the end of the 15th century, as Ladislaus Jagiellon had Benedikt Ried invited to implement elements of the Italian renaissance.

Modern reconstructions of the castle as one of many representative seats of the house of Habsburg were realised by the architects of Rudolf II (1576–1612), Bonifatius Wohlmuth and Ulrico Aostalli, after the relocation of the imperial court from Vienna to Prague in 1583. Fig. 23 In the 17th century, after Rudolf’s death and the destructive events of the Thirty Years’ War, the transformation from a fortified castle into a representative palace, closed up for the needs of the court, was finished.30

Fig. 23: Western facade of St Vitus Cathedral by Vincent Morstadt, 1825, coloured copper engraving. The chapel of St Adalbert in front of the cathedral was designed by U. Aostalli and built 1576, demolished in 1879 within renovation and completion of the cathedral. Credit: The City of Prague Museum

Fig. 23: Western facade of St Vitus Cathedral by Vincent Morstadt, 1825, coloured copper engraving. The chapel of St Adalbert in front of the cathedral was designed by U. Aostalli and built 1576, demolished in 1879 within renovation and completion of the cathedral. Credit: The City of Prague Museum

The building development of Prague Castle culminated at the time of the rule of Maria Theresa (1743–1780), who had the castle buildings unified in the Classicist style by architect Nicolò Pacassi. In comparison to the Romanesque castle, the inhabited area had grown by approximately a third. The castle entered modern times as a closed unit. In the 19th century, the Bohemian state offices and Church institutions were seated here. In the period of the Czech National Revival, the castle acquired new symbolic values. Only then, St Vitus Cathedral was finished. Fig. 24

Fig. 24: The Cathedral of St Vitus, Wenceslas and Adalbert after the completion of the western part. Photograph taken before the excavation in the 3rd courtyard in the 1920s. Credit: The Archive of the Prague Castle

Fig. 24: The Cathedral of St Vitus, Wenceslas and Adalbert after the completion of the western part. Photograph taken before the excavation in the 3rd courtyard in the 1920s. Credit: The Archive of the Prague Castle

The last important building phase broke in after the foundation of the Czechoslovak Republic, as President T. G. Masaryk (1918–1937) had it transformed into his seat. The Slovenian architect Josip Plečnik adopted it to the needs of a modern state administration. 31 After World War II the castle was partially closed, its current shape shows imprints of the time of President Václav Havel (1990–2001), who made most of the area accessible for the public.

References

28 Frolík, Jan and Chotěbor, Petr, ‘The Transformation of the Fortified Settlement into a stone Castle’, in The Story of Prague Castle, Prague, 2003, pp. 122-127

29 The construction was only finished after centuries in the spirit of the 19th-century romantic heritage preservation and Czech patriotic interests.
Crossley, Paul and Opacic, Zoe, ‘Koruna Českého království’, in Fajt, Jiří (ed.), Karel IV. Císař z Boží milosti. Kultura a umění za vlády Lucemburků 1310–1437, Prague, 2006, pp. 197-217

30 Fučíková, Eliška, ‘Pražský hrad za Rudolfa II., jeho předchůdců a následovníků (1530-1648)’, in Rudolf II. and Prague. The Court and the City [published on the Occasion of the Exhibition ‘Rudolf II and Prague: the Imperial Court and Residential City as the Cultural and Spiritual Heart of Central Europe’, 30 May 1997 – 7 September 1997], Prague, 1997, pp. 2-71

31 Kovtun, Jiří and Lukeš, Zdeněk, Pražský hrad za TGM, Prague, 1996
Lukeš, Zdeněk, Prelovšek, Damjan and Valena, Tomáš (eds), Josip Plečnik. An architect of Prague Castle, Prague 1997

Continue to: Modern Era – Today

Development of the Site

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