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Statues that line the Charles Bridge in Prague

The Charles Bridge in the heart of Prague is lined with statues, standing on parapets on both sides. There 30 of them altogether, plus one statue standing aside on a pillar at Kampa Island. Most of the statues are from 1706 – 1714. They were ordered for the bridge by aristocrats, by the Church, the City of Prague and by universities. They were created by important sculptors of the era – for example Matthias Braun or Jan Brokoff.

Some of the statues were damaged by floods during the centuries and they were replaced by replicas. The originals can be seen in the Lapidary of the National Museum or in the Gorlice hall at Vysehrad.

Statue that brings luck – St. John of Nepomuk

The statue of St. John of Nepomuk is the oldest statue on the Charles Bridge. It was made by Jan Brokoff in 1683. It is made of bronze and it became an obligatory iconographic model for many other statues of this saint made in Bohemia and abroad. St. John of Nepomuk was a parson, who refused to betray a secret, confided to him by Queen Sophia, to the king Wenceslas IV. He was tortured on the king´s demand and then thrown to the river Vltava from the Charles Bridge in 1393. The inseparable attributes of St. John of Nepomuk statue are the five stars, a surplice, a cross and a martyr´s palm tree. The five stars allegedly appeared above the river, after the martyr was thrown there. They are supposed to symbolize the five letters of Latin word “tacet”, which means “silent”. There is a brassy cross with five stars at the place on the parapet, where he was thrown to the river. If you place your hand on the cross, so that every finger will touch one star, you can wish something and it will be fulfilled. People also touch the relief on the statue for luck.

Crucifix statue

You can see a Crucifix statue on the right side of the Charles Bridge. A cross stood there as a first decoration of the bridge already in the 14 th century and it was changed several times later. The present bronze gilded cross was bought for the Charles Bridge in 1657. There is a gilded inscription on the pedestal, saying “Saint, saint, saint is the God of the crowds”. It was said, that the inscription was gilded on the expense of a Jew, who sneered at the Crucifix. However, this story is not true, and that´s why a board with an explanation was placed there in 2000.

Legend of the Bruncvik statue

Bruncvik statue stands aside. It represents a knight with a golden sword, a coat-of-arms and a lion beside. It was made according to a fragment of the original statue, which was damaged during the Thirty Years´ War. An old legend about Bruncvik says, that he was a Czech ruler, who went to faraway countries to gain a right to have a stately coat-of-arms. He allegedly saved a lion on his journey and the lion accompanied him ever since. There is a lion in the Bohemian national emblem. Bruncvik also gained a miraculous sword, which could kill anybody on his demand. The sword was built up somewhere in the Charles Bridge and it will wait there till the country is in danger. Than, the legend says, the knights in the Blanik hill will come to Prague, St. Wenceslas will lead them, and they will help the country. The sword will serve to them. When the Charles Bridge was restored after a flood in 1890, a big rusty sword was reportedly really found in the bridge deck.

Other interesting statues

St. Francis Xavier statue from 1711 made by F. M. Brokoff is situated on the left side, if you look at the bridge from the Old Town Bridge Tower. It is the most valuable statue of this sculptor on the Charles Bridge. St. Francis was a missionary in exotic countries and the statue depicts him with the pagans. This statue fell to the river together with a part of the Charles Bridge during a flood in 1890. A replica was placed there later.

St. Ludmila and little Wenceslas statue represents the first Czech Christian martyr St. Ludmila, the grandmother of Czech patron St. Wenceslas. The statue was made by Matthias Bernard Braun around 1720. St. Ludmila statue has a veil in her hand, which symbolizes her death: she was strangled. The murder of St. Wenceslas is depicted on a relief on a pedestal. The original of this statue is placed in the Gorlice at Vysehrad.

The only marble statue on the Charles Bridge is the St. Philip Benitius statue from 1714. The area underneath the statue is called The Venice of Prague.

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