Charles Bridge, Prague

Updated: Dec 7, 2018

The Charles Bridge is one of the most defining architectural landmarks of Prague. With sixteen arches of differing lengths, it spans the banks of the Vltava River, connecting the Old Town side, with the Malá Strana (Lesser Quarter) side.

Constructed from Bohemian sandstone in Gothic style, it was commissioned in 1357 by the Czech King and Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV to replace the Judith Bridge, which had collapsed in a flood in 1342. Legend dictates that King Charles IV consulted astrology and numerology to determine the ideal time and date to begin construction of the bridge. The first foundation stone was set into place by the King on the 9th of July 1357 at 5:31am. This very specific time and date created a palindromic number, 135797531. These numbers ascend and descend, like the arches of the bridge itself.

Construction lasted 45 years. Neither the King, nor the architect tasked with building it, Peter Parler, lived to see it finished when the bridge opened in 1402. Despite such importance given to the creation of the bridge by the King, it was known simply as the Stone Bridge, until it was renamed the Charles Bridge in 1870.

View of the Charles Bridge with Prague Castle and St. Vitus Cathedral from the Old Town tower.

The Charles Bridge has a Gothic Tower at each end of the bridge, the Staroměstská věž on the Old Town side and the Malostranská věž on the Malá Strana side. On the Malá Strana side there is also a smaller tower that was part of the Judith Bridge.

The Charles Bridge is famously decorated with 30 Baroque statues of saints that line each side. The most popular of which is that of St. John of Nepomuk, which was also the first statue to be placed on the bridge, in 1683.

In 1393, Archbishop Nepomuk had angered King Wencesias IV of Bohemia, and after the King had tortured him nearly to death, Nepomuk was bound, gagged, and thrown off the Charles Bridge into the Vltava River below.

St. John of Nepomuk

Many of the originally placed statues have been replaced with copies. The original statues can be seen at the Lapidarium of the Prague National Museum.

The Charles Bridge, at over 600 years old, is an architectural masterpiece that has withstood the tests of time, floods, and two World Wars. It is a must-see for anyone visiting the wonderful city of Prague.

1 - Statuary of St. John the Baptist

2 - on the bridge, facing the Old Town side

3 - Statuary of The Madonna and St. Bernard

4 - Statuary of St. Barbara, St. Margaret and St. Elizabeth

5 - Statuary of St. Augustine

6 - on the bridge, facing the Lesser Quarter side

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