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Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Prague

HISTORY

The earliest inhabitants of the area that is now Prague lived in the valley of the Vltava river around 500 BC.

The legendary origins of Prague attribute its foundation to the 8th century Princess Libuše, the leader of a Slavonic tribe, who chose a simple peasant Přemysl to be her husband. She told him to go and find a village on the banks of the Vltava and to start a town there. The town became Prague, ruled by the Přemyslid family.

Hradcany Castle or Prague Castle was the largest ancient castle in the world. The construction of what came to be known as the Prague Castle began near the end of the 9th century, with a fortified settlement already existing on the site in the year 800.


Wenceslaus I was the duke of Bohemia from 921 until his assassination in 935. Renowned for his piety, he took a vow of celibacy and founded many churches in Prague, including a rotunda consecrated to St. Vitus at Prague Castle, which exists as present-day St. Vitus Cathedral.

In 1257 King Otakar II founded the area of Prague called the Lesser Quarter for the Germans to live in.

During the Middle Ages Prague became very important as the capital of the Holy Roman Empire ruled by Charles IV (1316-1378) who was the most powerful ruler in Europe at the time. Charles made Prague a great city, building St Vitus Cathedral.

Charles IV personally laid the first foundation stone for the Charles Bridge on July 9, 1357 at 5:31 am. The bridge still exists and the exact time of laying the first foundation stone is known because the palindromic number 1-3-5-7-9-7-5-3-1 (year, day, month, time) was carved into the Old Town bridge tower. The notoriously superstitious king was into astrology and numerology, and chose this date as the best time for starting the bridge construction.
Charles Bridge, Prague 

Charles Square was founded in 1348 as the main square of Prague by Charles IV. At roughly 70,000 m² it is one of the largest squares in the world and was the largest town square of the medieval Europe.

The wall and moat that once surrounded the old town of Prague was dismantled in the 14th century; the remains of the moat now lie under several streets.

The Prague astronomical clock was first installed in 1410, making it the third-oldest astronomical clock in the world and the oldest one still working.

The Prague astronomical clock By Krzysiu "Jarzyna" Szymański 

The first Protestant collection of hymns and psalms in the vernacular was published by the Bohemian Brethren in Prague in 1501. It contained 89 hymns in Czech.

Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II, elected King of Bohemia in 1576, chose Prague as his home. He lived in the Prague Castle, where his court welcomed not only astrologers and magicians but also scientists. Famous people living there include the astronomer Tycho Brahe, who moved to Prague as imperial mathematician in 1599. He was joined there by another astronomer Johannes Kepler.

Rudolf was an art and music lover too, and Prague became the capital of European culture. This was a prosperous period for the city: famous people living there in that age include the painter Arcimboldo and the poet Elizabeth Jane Weston. 

Prague panorama in 1650

One of the first street numbering schemes took place in the Jewish quarter of Prague in 1727 where the houses were numbered to aid the authorities in the conscription of the Jews.

Prague was an important city to the Habsburg Monarchy and its Austro-Hungarian Empire. By this period Prague had three parts: the Old Town, the Lesser Quarter and the New Town. Famous people such as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart visited the town often.

In the 19th century industry came to Prague. Factories sprung up and a railway was built between Prague and Vienna.

The Czech nationalist movement became very strong after 1848. They wanted to use their own language instead of German. Prague had a German-speaking majority in 1848, but by 1880 the number of German speakers had decreased to 14% (42,000), and by 1910 to 6.7% (37,000), due to a massive increase of the city's overall population caused by the influx of Czechs from the rest of Bohemia and Moravia and also due to return of social status importance of the Czech language.

World War I ended with the defeat of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the creation of Czechoslovakia. Prague was chosen as its capital and Prague Castle as the seat of president Tomáš Masaryk.

The Strahov Stadium in Prague was finished in 1934 for a gymnastics exhibition. When it was an active sports venue, it had a capacity of around 250,000, making it the largest stadium in the world.

Prague was occupied by Germany between 1939 and 1945 and a Nazi official Heydrich was assassinated there.

The city was liberated by Soviet troops in May 1945. However, the Red Army soon seized power and Czechoslovakia was ruled by communists who had to obey the Soviet Union.

Prague liberated by Red Army in May 1945

The reform programme introduced in January 1968 by prime minister Alexander Dubček was ended in August by the Soviet army invasion. It was known as the "Prague Spring" from an annual music festival.

Democracy gradually came to Prague in 1989 when the Velvet Revolution took place. In 1993, after the split of Czechoslovakia, Prague became the capital city of the new Czech Republic.

FUN PRAGUE FACTS

According to the Guinness Book of Records, Prague Castle is the largest ancient castle in the world. Its three courtyards and a number of magnificent buildings cover over 7 hectares (18 acres).

Josefov, Prague’s historic Jewish Quarter, includes the overcrowded cemetery and Europe’s oldest active synagogue.


The most famous square is the Wenceslas Square, formerly known as Horse Market. It was renamed Saint Wenceslas square in 1848 on the proposal of Czech writer Karel Havlíček Borovský.

Prague is farther to the West than Vienna.

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