The Black Tower is one of the oldest existing buildings in Prague. It was built in 1135 as an eastern gate of the Romanesque fortification of the Prague Castle. You can still see the former gateway there in the ground floor, it is walled up now.
Origin of the name “Black Tower”
The Black Tower belongs to the area of the Supreme Burgrave´s House at the Prague Castle. Its name “Black” originates from the time of the big fire of the Prague Castle in 1541 – its walls remained black for a long time.
However, the tower was called “Golden” in the era of Emperor Charles IV. in the 14 th century. It was because of its roof, which was covered with gilded plates of lead.
Prison in the Black Tower
The Black Tower was mainly used as a prison, as well as most of the towers at the Prague Castle. Many inscriptions written by prisoners can still be seen on the walls of the tower. Most of them are from the 16 th century. The upper rooms of the tower were mainly occupied by debtors, who were considered to be “better prisoners” than others, they even had some privileges. For example, people could visit them and they could bring in some things of their own to the prison. But on the other hand, they had to find a way to obtain some food. If they weren´t able to do so, the creditor had to nourish them. When some debtor died of hunger, his creditor had to starve as a punishment.
During the revolution in 1848, the artillery of the Habsburg monarchy cannonaded Prague from a place by the Black Tower.
At the present time, the Black Tower looks almost the same as it did after some modifications in 1538. The depository of the archaeological discoveries of the Prague Castle is kept there.