The Charles Bridge over the river Vltava is definitely one of the most beautiful places in Prague. It is the oldest bridge in the city, built between the 14 th and 15 th century, and it spans the river with 16 pillars. It is lined with statues and lamps and this scenery together with the Gothic bridge towers on both ends makes the Charles Bridge a breathtaking historical monument. There is no better place in Prague for a walk in the evening.
Romanesque Judith Bridge
There used to be just a crossing over bound beams in the middle ages. A wooden bridge stood there in the 10 th century, but it was often threatened by floods. That´s why King Vladislav II. had a stone bridge built there around 1170 and it was called Judith Bridge. It was a predecessor of the present Charles Bridge. You can see remains of this bridge near the Old Town Bridge Tower. The Judith Bridge was demolished by flood in 1342.
Numerology and the Charles Bridge
Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV. had the Charles Bridge built there in the 14th century. He laid down the foundation stone on 9 th of July 1357, at 5:31 a.m. It is no coincidence: this date was carefully chosen, because it makes an interesting numerical scale. When it is written in the chronology the year – the day – the month – the time, it makes a scale, going upwards and then downwards: 1 3 5 7 9 7 5 3 1. It is not the only one “magical” circumstance of building the Charles Bridge. You can see all of them in a movie, screened in the Old Town Bridge Tower.
History of the bridge
The Charles Bridge was built by Petr Parler and finished after his death in the beginning of the 15th century. It is about 515 metres long and 9.5 metres wide. It was originally called “Stone Bridge” or “Prague Bridge”, the name Charles Bridge was established around 1870. It was damaged by flood several times: in 1432, when the water demolished 5 pillars, in 1784 and especially in 1890, when 2 pillars and 3 arches were demolished.
Oil lamps were placed on the Charles Bridge in 1723 and the staircase leading to Kampa Island underneath it is from 1844. Prague public transport could run over the Charles Bridge since the 19 th century. Horse-drawn trams run there since 1883, and they were replaced by electrical trams in 1905. Buses could drive over the bridge later, but all this transport threatened the bridge, so it lasted only to the World War II. Cars could drive over the bridge till 1965.
Towers of the Charles Bridge
The Charles Bridge has towers on both ends. The Old Town Bridge Tower was built by Petr Parler. It is adorned with statues of Charles IV., Wenceslas IV. and St. Vitus in the lower part and St. Procopius and St. Sigismund in the upper part. It is one of the most beautiful Gothic towers in Europe.
There are two bridge towers on the Lesser Town end of the Charles Bridge. The smaller one was a part of the Judith Bridge originally. It was rebuilt in Renaissance style and lowered in 1591, after a fire. The bigger tower was built in the 15 th century and inspired by the Old Town Bridge Tower. The gateway between the two bridge towers is from the 15 th century as well.
Charles Bridge statues
The Charles Bridge is decorated with 30 statues on the parapets on both sides. Most of them were placed there between 1706 and 1714. The first cross stood on the Charles Bridge in the 14 th century. The Bruncvik statue was set there before 1503, but there is only a pedestal preserved. It can be seen in the Lapidary of the National Museum and there is a replica on the Charles Bridge. The oldest preserved statue is St. John of Nepomuk from 1683, the newest one is St. Cyril and Methodius from 1928. Several statues were damaged by floods during the centuries. They were mostly placed elsewhere then and replicas were set on the bridge. You can see some of the original statues from the Charles Bridge in the Lapidary of the National Museum or in the Gorlice hall at Vysehrad.