Prague Castle

Situated about 10 km from Prague, Levý Hradec along the Vltava River was one of first settlements within the territory of Bohemia. As time passed and the gord was gradually extended, the area was no longer sufficient and the Bohemians moved their settlement to the territory of today’s Prague. It was probably in 884 that Bořivoj I., Duke of Bohemia, after having been baptized, ordered for the construction of the second oldest church in Bohemia, called the Church of Virgin Mary, while the first church was St. Clement Church in Levý Hradec, also founded by Bořivoj I. When, after efforts pursued for many years, the Czech bishopric was established in 973, Prague Castle saw the construction of the first Bohemian convent next to the Church of Saint George, belonging to the Order of Saint Benedict. Undoubtedly, it is the Cathedral of Saints Vitus, Wenceslas and Adalbert that is the most important monument in Prague Castle, its construction having started around 925 as a Romanesque rotunda.

The Prague Castle was much in focus in the 14th century during the reign of Charles IV; the construction of the Gothic cathedral of Saint Vitus, Wenceslas and Adalbert began. In addition, Charles IV also initiated a renovation of the Royal Palace and ordered for the construction of All Saints Church.

Further larger construction works took place under the reign of the Jagiellonian dynasty (end of 15th century); Vladislav II of Hungary invited notable artists to Prague and started the reconstruction. After 1526, when the House of Habsburg acceded to the Bohemian throne, Prague Castle premises were enriched with the Royal Garden and Queen Anne’s Summer Palace, as well as Ball Games Hall. Under the reign of Rudolf II, the Holy Roman Emperor, the Castle accommodated a number of renowned persons, including astronomers (Johannes Kepler, Tycho de Brahe), alchemists or artists. Moreover, the Castle premises also housed a zoo and botanical garden and a wide range of the emperor’s artistic collections. It was also in this period that the famous Golden Lane gained its reputation. When Rudolph II died, the Castle lost its significance, and the seat of Bohemian rulers – the House of Habsburg ‑ was moved to Vienna.

The Castle of Prague also witnessed the beginning of the Thirty Years’ War (1618 ‑ 1648), triggered by the so-called Prague Defenestration, during which the emperor’s governors and scribe were thrown out of the window. Furthermore, the 18th century marks another significant period of the Castle, when Empress Maria Theresa ordered for its reconstruction, having also founded the Institute of Gentlewomen. At the end of 19th century, Josef Mocker took charge of works to complete St. Vitus Cathedral construction.

After 1918, when the Czechoslovak Republic was established, the Castle became significant once again as the seat of Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk, the first Czechoslovak President; it was he who invited architect Josip Plečnik to come to Prague to start reconstruction works, which resulted in today’s appearance of the Castle.

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