The Old Town Square is the oldest and most important square of the historical Prague. It is surrounded with historical buildings such as the Old Town City Hall with the famous Astronomical Clock, the imposing St. Nicholas Church and Church of Our Lady before Tyn, and many houses and palaces of various architectural styles and colourful history. It has been a centre of Prague Old Town since the middle ages, when it was a market place at the crossing of European merchants´ roads.
Historical names of the Old Town Square
The Old Town Square was founded in the 10 th century as a place, where various goods from faraway countries were sold. It had many names during the centuries: the oldest known name is the Big Square, then it was the Old Market in the 13 th century, later for example The Old Town Place or the Large Old Town Square. The present name is from the end of the 19 th century.
Medieval houses at the square
The first houses were built around the Old Town Square in the 12 th and 13 th century. Some of the present houses still have their Romanesque or Gothic foundations, basements or ground floors. The Old Town City Hall was built in the 14 th century and the Church of Our Lady before Tyn a little later. The Old Town Square became the economic and political center of Prague Old Town.
Coronation parades used to go through the Old Town Square to the Prague Castle since 1311. Tragic events, such as executions, took place there as well. Leader of poor Prague citizens Jan Zelivsky was executed there in 1422, which caused stormy protests.
Execution of rebellion leaders at the Old Town Square
One of the turning-points of Czech history, the execution of 27 leaders of the rebellion against Emperor Matthias, took place there in 1621. You can see 27 crosses in the pavement by the Old Town City Hall, as well as symbols of swords and a thorn crown, commemorating the sad event. A legend says, that the ghosts of the executed noblemen return to the square every year on 21 st of June, the day of the execution.
Some objects that used to stand at the Old Town Square in the past, can´t be seen there anymore, for example the Marian column from 1650. It was the second oldest column in Europe, but it was pulled down in 1918.
You can still see the Prague meridian in the paving of the square. It indicates the place, where the former Marian column used to cast its shadow at noon. There is an inscription in Czech and Latin language, saying that time used to be measured according to the meridian.
Jan Hus monument
The monument of the Protestant reformer Jan Hus, burnt as a heretic in 1415, is situated in the middle of the Old Town Square since 1915.
Many important political events and demonstrations, that changed the Czech history in the 20 th century, took place at the square. People demanded an independent republic there in 1918 and Klement Gottwald had his speech there in 1948, declaring the start of socialism in Czechoslovakia. People still gather at the Old Town Square on the occasions of important events. Also the traditional Christmas markets take place there.