Palackého Square

Palackého Square (Palackého náměstí) is one of the most unusual spaces in the centre of the metropolis. At first sight, it looks more like a crossroads where two city axes meet. If, on the other hand, we focus our attention on the space itself, we find that the little square is dominated by a huge Art Nouveau sculpture by Stanislav Sucharda, which is dedicated to František Palacký, one of the main political figures of the Czech National Revival of the 19th century. In the southern part, the square ends with a terrace, from where the view opens up onto the adjoining park. Next to the park is the symmetric Classicist structure of ministerial buildings by the architect Bohumil Hypšman.

The calm atmosphere of the ensemble does not betray the fact that this very place was the scene of one of the fiercest confrontations over the character of historical Prague in the history of the modern city. The part where the park and the blocks of tenement houses are located today was, up until the beginning of the 20 th century, occupied by Podskalí – a peculiar neighbourhood of timber rafters and floaters, who had erected their showy timber rafting houses there since the 16th century. During the building of the embankment, the entire quarter was condemned. In its place, tall tenement houses were to be built which would have almost entirely obscured the panoramic view of the Emmaus Monastery, the dominant feature of the whole space today. This speculative plan was blocked by a cultural public movement led by Klub Za starou Prahu (Club for Old Prague). The club also presented an alternative construction plan preserving the view of the Gothic monastery, which was later implemented.

Today’s panoramic view of the square and the monastery was affected by yet one more tragic event: in February 1945, one of the allied planes headed for Dresden mistakenly found itself above Prague and dropped a line of bombs from New Town all the way to Vinohrady. One of the buildings hit was the Gothic Emmaus Monastery, whose interior Gothic frescos were badly damaged. Also destroyed was the monastery’s facade, which subsequently acquired its new, purely modern look in the 1960s. The Functionalist architect František Maria Černý managed to enhance the Gothic building with concrete sheets, which congenially supplemented the whole space and became a definitive symbol of reconciliation between historical architecture and modern times.

New Town