Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Prague's Charles Bridge, St Vitis Cathedral & Castle

One of the most beautiful cities in the world, Prague is the historic gem of Europe with it's majestic castle dominating the city’s skyline. Once the hub of the Holy Roman Empire, it is a city rich with art, history, culture, music and architecture. Towering spires loom over winding cobbled streets, where gothic churches jostle for space with neo-classical palaces, many of which survived the violence and destruction of 20th-century Europe. Even after World War II as the Soviets swept Eastern Europe, destroying large parts of cities in the name of modernization, they too were charmed by this city’s architecture and kept it intact as a beacon of culture and heritage. Due to its excellent condition, UNESCO listed the extensive historical core of Prague on its Cultural and Natural Heritage Register in 1992. Founded during the Romanesque and flourishing by the Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque eras, Prague was the capital of the kingdom of Bohemia and important city to the Habsburg Monarchy and its Austro-Hungarian Empire. The city flourished during the 14th century reign of Charles IV, who ordered the building of the New Town, Charles Bridge, and St Vitus Cathedral, the oldest gothic cathedral in Central Europe. Exploring this historical area on a gorgeous sunny Autumn day, we embarked on a glorious journey through Prague's monumental history.

Charles Bridge was commissioned in the 14th century by the Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV,
 its fame due almost entirely to the magnificent, mostly Baroque statues that line the bridge

Jazz trio on the Charles Bridge on a gorgeous sunny day

Statue of St. Anne, Mary's mother, with Mary, Jesus, and winged angels, 
one of 30 statues mounted to the balustrade of Charles Bridge in Prague

Statue of The Crucifixion 

Statue of the Madonna attending to St. Bernard

Statue of the Madonna giving the Rosary to St. Dominic with St. Thomas Aquinas on the right

Cobblestone street leading up to Prague Castle and St Vitus Cathedral

Kohl's Fountain in one of Prague Castle courtyards, one of several that lead to the New Royal Palace with the offices of the President of the Czech Republic, then through St Vitus cathedral 

Prague Castle's St Cross Chapel enroute to St Vitus Cathedral was built on a buried Castle moat 
in the 16th century

The 14th-century Bell Tower of St Vitus Cathedral contains Prague's largest bell

The history of St Vitus Cathedral is almost as old as Prague Castle itself

St Vitus Cathedral located at Prague Castle, is the most important and largest church in Prague, and is the burial place of former Czech Kings. Its many treasures include the 14th-century mosaic of the Last Judgement above the Golden Gate, the baroque silver tomb of St John of Nepomuck, the ornate Chapel of St Wenceslas, and art nouveau stained glass by Alfons Mucha. The foundation stone was laid in 1344 by Emperor Charles IV, on the site of a 10th-century Romanesque rotunda built by Duke Wenceslas. Charles’ original architect, Matthias of Arras, began work in 1344 on the choir in the French Gothic style, but died eight years later. His German successor, Petr Parler, a veteran of Cologne’s cathedral, completed most of the eastern part of the cathedral in a freer, late-Gothic style before he died in 1399. Renaissance and baroque details were added over the following centuries, but it was only in 1861 during the Czech National Revival that a concerted effort was made to finish the cathedral – everything between the western door and the crossing was built during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The cathedral was completed on the occasion of the millennium of St Wenceslas in 1929.

14th-century glass mosaic of The Last Judgement on the south facade

The Rose Window

Decorative stone waterspout in the shape of a falcon

The bronze doors of the front portal and carved tympanum above of The Crucifixion

The soaring vaulted interior of St Vitus

St Vitus Cathedral is one of the best examples of Gothic architecture

Coinciding with the Millennium Jubilee of the Czech patron saint St. Wenceslas Duke of Bohemia, the Gothic reconstruction work for St. Vitas Cathedral in Prague was completed in 1929. A new stained glass window designed by Alphonse Mucha was installed in the north nave in 1931 and portrays the boy St. Wenceslas with his grandmother St. Ludmila in the centre, surrounded by episodes from the lives of Saints Cyril and Methodius who spread Christianity among the Slavs. 

The celebrated Mucha stained glass window from 1931

Detail of the stained glass depicts ‘Good King Wenceslas’ who as a child was raised 
by his Christian grandmother St. Ludmilla

Detail of St Cyril's widow

Detail of the young Wenceslas who personifies the free Czechoslovakian nation

The side aisle of the church

The Late Gothic Royal Oratory with a fancy balcony with ribbed vaulting carved to look like tree branches, was built in 1493 in tribute to the Jagiellonians

Carved wooden statue of a miner from Kutná Hora with a candle  
from the first half of the 18th century

The grand silver tomb of St. John of Nepomuk, a beloved saint of the Czech national 

Statues of saints adorn the pillars 

Carved stone doorway into 14th-century Wenceslas Chapel which keeps the holy relics of the saint

The ornate tomb of King Wenceslas I: the lower parts of the walls are decorated with more than 1300 gems, made in Bohemia and the joints between them are covered with gold

Dazzling display of light through stained glass windows — captivating

Distance view of the beautiful Mucha stained glass window

Soaring exterior of the cathedral

Glimpse of Royal Gardens of Prague Castle

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