Art in Public Places

The Vltava River runs north through Prague, dividing the city between Staré Město and Nové Město (Old Town and New Town) on the right bank; and Hradčany (the Castle District) and Malá Strana (Little Quarter), on the left bank.

Eighteen bridges span the Vltava River in Prague, but the most famous is a pedestrian crossing known as the Charles Bridge (Karlův most), built to replace an earlier bridge that had been washed out by a flood in 1342.

Since we were staying in the Old Town on the right bank – the east side – we had a nice view of Prague Castle (Pražský hrad) up on the hill across the river.

It was a sunny but windy day, so we got decked out in our sunglasses and raincoats which were the closest thing we had to windbreakers.

The Vltava River is the longest river in the Czech Republic, originating in the southern Bohemian Forest, then flowing north through Prague to its confluence with the Elbe River at Mělník about 25 miles downstream.

The Charles Bridge is lined with 30 statues of various saints erected circa 1700, all of which are interesting, and none of which are really historic since they are nearly all replicas, the originals having been removed or destroyed by flood or battle.

Back when we were in Vienna, I mentioned in one of my posts that the Habsburg family held the title of Holy Roman Emperor since 1452. This title was in conjunction with being the ruler of Germany which resulted from certain German princes and archbishops (known as Electors) selecting the German king who would then also be crowned Holy Roman Emperor by the Pope.

Indeed, with the exception of one short interruption (Charles VII, a Wittelsbach, ruled 1742-1745), the Habsurgs held the title of Holy Roman Emperor until the demise of the Empire in 1806 during the Napoleonic Wars; thereafter, the Habsburgs continued as Emperors of the Austrian Empire and, later, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, in addition to being the Kings of Bohemia, modern-day Czech Respublic.

The family that preceded the Habsburgs as Holy Roman Emperors was the House of Luxembourg, the first being Charles IV (b. 1316, ruled 1346-1378) who made Prague his capital, and, therefor, the capital of the Holy Roman Empire. Charles Bridge, Prague Castle and the Cathedral of Saint Vitus, all visible in the photo, below, were built under his patronage.

According to local legend, Emperor Charles IV set the foundation stone for Charles Bridge himself in 1357 on the 9th of July at 5:31 A.M. He was thought to have been a believer in numerology and this act was supposed to give strength to the arches of the bridge, setting the foundation stone on 1-3-5-7-9-7-5-3-1.

[As an aside, we attended the wedding of the daughter of our friends, the Madsens, last year on 12/13/14; she had gotten engaged on 11/12/13.]

Having successfully made it across Charles Bridge, we passed through the western bridge tower into Malá Strana making ready for our hike up to the top of Hradčany to Prague Castle.

The view on the way up was great.

Prague Castle, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is supposedly listed in the Guiness Book of World Records as the largest medieval palace complex in the world at a little over 17 acres.

After passing through the palace gate and walking up the main street past several palace buildings and an old Gothic basilica, we came upon Saint Vitus Cathedral inside the main courtyard of the palace.

We walked around the cathedral to the left which was the side of its historical front entrance (which is what Dale is looking at in the photo, below). Prague Castle is still in use as the seat of the President of the Czech Republic; I’m pretty sure those are his offices on the left:

Here’s what Dale was looking at: the original entrance. Beautiful mosaics adorned the façade.

Here’s another photo for scale just a little further around the cathedral. I don’t remember what that 3-story building in the foreground was.

We continued on into the next courtyard where bird-lover Dale saw what she thought was a cool birdcage. It turned out, instead, to be the main well for the palace which had been enclosed with this ornate metalwork to keep the tourists from throwing ________ (you name it) down the well.

After a cup of coffee on the square outside the front gate to the palace, we headed back down on the side opposite that from which we had entered as the wind picked up and it started to become overcast.

Then back through the western bridge tower…

… and across the Charles Bridge…

… to the bridge tower on the eastern Old Town side and our starting point for the day.

It was mid-afternoon so we decided to head back to the hotel to rest and freshen up before going back out for dinner. As we turned down Husova Street near the hotel, we looked up to see somebody hanging on for dear life up above us:

We quickly realized that this was a sculpture. I later researched it on the internet and determined that this was a work by David Černý called Viselec which I think means “hanging out.” The figure is supposed to be Sigmund Freud who is hanging on with his right hand while his left hand is in his pocket. I don’t know, maybe you can figure it out.

Right around the corner we found more art in public places: the street crew was remaking the cobblestone road after doing some sewer work.

I have to say that my favorite art in public places in Prague was the cobblestone mosaic work.

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