Charles Bridge

Inseparable from Prague’s image, the Charles Bridge, built in the 14th century, is a symbol of the city.

As early as the 10th century, a wooden bridge crossed the Vltava River more or less on the site of Prague’s Charles Bridge, which was replaced in the 12th century by the capital’s first stone bridge, the Judith Bridge, some of the remains of which can still be seen today.

In February 1342, a violent ice melt destroyed two-thirds of the bridge, and Emperor Charles IV decided to build a new bridge bearing his name, slightly curved against the current. Its solid pillars rested on oak stilts. The work was partly supervised by the great imperial court architect and sculptor Petr Parléř, who was also renowned for his work on St Vitus Cathedral. Despite successive floods over the course of history and partial renovations, it is still on this old medieval bridge that you cross from one side of the historic centre to the other.

On the Old Town side, the Gothic tower that solemnly marks the entrance to the bridge is adorned with magnificent sculptures, masterpieces by the hand of Petr Parléř: these include the Emperor Charles IV and his son Wenceslas IV, as well as Saints Guy, Adalbert and Sigismund, patrons of the Kingdom of Bohemia. On the other side, Charles Bridge is enclosed by two towers of unequal height: the oldest, the Judith Tower, dates back to the Romanesque period (12th century), while the tallest dates back to the 15th century and offers a beautiful panoramic view of the city.

The gallery of sculptures adorning this Gothic bridge is just as exceptional. We know that a wooden Calvary adorned the bridge very early on, followed by the legendary figure of the knight Bruncvík in the 16th century. But it was above all at the turn of the 17th and 18th centuries that the bridge was gradually filled with religious sculptures modelled on the Sant’Angelo Bridge in Rome, forming an extraordinary triumphal avenue linking the two sides of the city, earth and sky.

The best artists of the Baroque period distinguished themselves here, in a particularly fruitful climate of emulation and artistic competition. In the 19th century, other more academic works completed the ensemble, which had been partly damaged by flooding or artillery fire. Today, almost all the original statues on Prague’s Charles Bridge have been replaced by copies.

city centre | Old Town

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