Prague: Charles Bridge

Constructed during 14th and 15th centuries Charles Bridge of Prague replaced Judith Bridge that was badly damaged during flods. Newly built Charles Bridge was originally called Stone Bridge or Prague Bridge to gain his famous today name Charles Bridge (after King Charles IV) in 1870. Up until year 1841 Charles Bridge was one and only one bridge crossing Moldau river (Vltava) in Prague. Charles Bridge is 621m long, roughly 10m wide, supported by 16 arches, guarded by 3 bridge towers and decorated by 30 mostly baroque statues. 

About Charles Bridge

Sooner or later – but most probably sooner – your walk through historical Prague will take you to the large stone bridge which is entered on both ends through a gate under a Gothic tower. The Charles Bridge, the oldest bridge in Prague and only the fourth oldest documented stone bridge in the Czech Republic which connects the Old Town with the Lesser Town. It is also the most crowded one in Prague. Well, if you want to have a closer look at some of the statues it doesn’t bother you too much. However, if you need to get across fast the most efficient movement is a combination of running and dance (and sometimes break-dance as well).

One of the older three stone bridges was the predecessor of the Charles Bridge, the Judith Bridge. It was built at the same location as the Charles Bridge in 12th century. It bore the name of the Queen Judith, wife of the King Vladislav II who had the bridge built. In 12th century, it was perhaps the most ambitious construction project in the Kingdom but also a necessary one. Prague, capital of an important state in the Central Europe, was a crossroads of trade routes and good connection across the Vltava which divided Prague was more than welcome.

Unfortunately, the Judith Bridge was damaged beyond repair by a flood during thaw in 1342. The King Charles IV therefore founded a new bridge – on 9th July 1357 at 5:31 – a day and time chosen for numerology reasons (1357/9/7/5/31). It was to warrant good luck for the new bridge. Widespread legend said that eggs were put in the mortar to improve its durability. Only few years ago, when a large restoration took place, it was found that the mortar used in 14th century did not contain eggs – but it contained milk and wine! Perhaps the workers were rather hungry than thirsty – or beer was also delivered. Interestingly, the King had not the bridge named after himself nor was it named so shortly after his death as happened to many other places founded by Charles IV – castles Karlštejn and Kašperk (orig. Karlsberg), the Charles University, Carlsbad and so forth – and until 1870 it was referred to as the Stone Bridge or the Prague Bridge. Only then the bridge was renamed.

The Charles Bridge has incorporated a part of the Judith Bridge. On the right bank end, there is a head of a man with a beard (Bradáč – “Bearded Man”) which was on the Judith Bridge. It is said that when the water rises to the head, there will be flood in Prague.

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