You can see imposing towers on both ends of the Charles Bridge over the river Vltava. The tower on the left bank, where the Prague Old Town is situated, is called the Old Town Bridge Tower and it is one of the most beautiful Gothic towers in Europe. It was built together with the bridge and it´s not just a fort tower, but also a symbolic triumphal arch on the “Royal Way” – the way of coronation parades of former Czech kings.
History of the Old Town Bridge Tower
The Old Town Bridge Tower was built at the end of the 14 th century according to a plan by Petr Parler, the favourite architect of Emperor Charles IV. It took about 25 years to build it and about 100 stone-cutters participated on the building.
The tower was damaged by Swedish troops, besieging Prague in 1648. You can see a stone board commemorating Prague citizens fighting with the Swedes, written in Latin language, on the side of the tower oriented to the Charles Bridge.
After the rebelling Czech Protestant noblemen were executed in 1621, heads of some of them were exhibited as a warning at the platform of the Old Town Bridge Tower. They stayed there for more than 10 years, then they were secretly took away in the night and buried.
Under the roof at the top of the tower you can see two old mysterious inscriptions, which can be read from the left to the right or the opposite way and still have the same content. It reads: “Signate, signate, mere me tangis et angis” and “Roma, tibi subito motibus ibit amor”. It doesn´t make much sense, it means “sign, if you stain me with your touch you´ll be strangled” and “Rome, love will be sacrificed to you through upheavals”. These sentences allegedly contain a magical formula of power. It is a so-called magical trap, a conjuration, supposed to threaten evil powers. Such inscriptions were written usually on religious buildings especially in Italy.
Symbols and statues
There are symbols of countries under the reign of Charles IV. above the gateway: the most important is the symbol of black eagle on a golden background, which means that Charles IV. was the Holy Roman Emperor and the symbol of silver two-tail lion on a red background, saying that he was also the King of Bohemia.
Statues in the first floor represent the patron of the Charles Bridge St. Vitus, the Emperor Charles IV. and Wenceslas IV. They are excellent works of art from around 1380, probably made by Michael Savoyen. They were replaced by replicas in 1978.
Movie about building of the Charles Bridge
The gate-way of the Old Town Bridge Tower is 8 metres wide and you can see remains of Gothic paintings there. There is a spiral staircase with 138 stairs leading to the tower from the passage. The second floor of the tower used to be a prison for debtors from rich families, whose fathers refused to acquit their debts. The tower is about 47 metres high.
If you visit the Old Town Bridge Tower, you can see not just its interior and the beautiful view over Prague from the top, but also a movie about astrological and astronomical background of building the Charles Bridge.