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CHARLES BRIDGE

The spectacular Charles Bridge (Karlův most) has witnessed processions, battles, executions and, increasingly, film shoots since its construction between 1357 and 1402. Architect Petr Parléř built it in Gothic style to replace its predecessor, the Judith Bridge. The bridge’s most distinguishing feature is its gallery of 30 statues. The religious figures were installed from 1683 onwards to lead people back to the church. Some, such as Bohn’s Calvary, are politically controversial; others, such as Braun’s St Luitgard, are incomparably lovely. Today all the statues are copies, with the originals preserved in museums across the city.

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Charles Bridge and the Old Town bridge tower

NEED TO KNOW

prac_info en.muzeumprahy.cz/prague-towers

prac_info Malá Strana bridge tower: 607 050434

prac_info Old Town bridge tower: 724 379677 • Open Apr–Sep: 10am–10pm; Nov–Feb: 10am–6pm; Mar & Oct: 10am–8pm (both towers) • Adm (both towers)

Google Map

  • The Malá Strana bridge tower houses an exhibit on the bridge’s history. The Old Town bridge tower has an exhibit on Charles IV and the bridge.

1. Old Town Bridge Tower

From the parapet of the Old Town bridge tower, you can see the gentle S-curve that Petr Parléř built into the bridge to obstruct invaders, as well as a jaw-dropping panorama of the city.

2. Calvary

This statue will cause double takes among students of Hebrew. According to a nearby apologia, the words “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Hosts” were added in 1696, paid for by a local Jewish man who had been accused of profaning the cross.

3. The Lorraine Cross

Midway across the bridge is a brass cross where John of Nepomuk’s body was thrown into the river. It is said that wishes made at the cross will come true.

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The brass Lorraine Cross

4. Statue of St John of Nepomuk

At the base of the statue of St John is a brass relief showing a man diving into the river. Rubbing it to attract good luck is an old local tradition; petting the adjacent brass dog is a new one.

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Statue of St John of Nepomuk

5. Statue of Sts Cyril and Methodius

Greek missionaries who brought both Christianity and the Cyrillic alphabet to the Czech and Slovak lands, Cyril and Methodius are revered figures in both countries to this day. Karel Dvořák created this statue in 1928–1938 at the peak of Czechoslovakia’s National Awakening following independence.

6. Statue of Bruncvik

Peer over the bridge’s southern edge to see the Czech answer to King Arthur. Bruncvik, a mythical Bohemian knight, is said to have had a magical sword and helped a lion fight a seven-headed dragon. He and his army are promised to awaken and save Prague at the city’s most desperate hour.

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Statue of Bruncvik, a mythical knight

7. Our Lady of the Mangles

The portrait of Mary hanging on the house south of the bridge is tied to an ancient tale of miraculous healing. Seeing the light go out on the balcony below is supposedly an omen of imminent death – don’t stare too long.

8. Statue of St Luitgard

Matthias Braun’s 1710 depiction of a blind Cistercian nun’s celebrated vision, in which Christ appeared to her and permitted her to touch his wounds, has a timeless appeal.

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Statue of St Luitgard

9. Antonín

One of many artists on the bridge, the popular Antonín mostly painted portraits of himself as the devil. His proximity to the Čertovka (Devil’s Canal) may have been the key to his choice of subject.

10. Statue of the Trinitarian Order

This religious order was set up to ransom prisoners of war from the Crusades and buy Christians back their freedom, hence the depiction of a bored Turk keeping guard outside a cell.

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Statue of the Trinitarian Order

WHEN TO VISIT CHARLES BRIDGE

During summer, and increasingly year-round, the bridge is well nigh impassable throughout the day, crowded with artists, tourists and the odd Dixieland jazz band. It is best seen in the early hours as the sun rises over the Old Town bridge tower. A late evening stroll gives a similarly dramatic view, with the illuminated cathedral and castle looming above.

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