Prague

Prague ; Czech: Praha is the capital and largest city of the Czech Republic. Nicknames for Prague have included Praga mater urbium/Praha matka měst ("Prague - Mother of Cities") in Latin/Czech, Stověžatá Praha ("City of a Hundred Spires") in Czech or Zlaté město/Goldene Stadt ("Golden City") in Czech/German.[4]
Situated on the Vltava River in central Bohemia, Prague has been the political, cultural and economic centre of the Czech state for more than 1,100 years. For many decades during the Gothic and Renaissance eras, Prague was the permanent seat of two Holy Roman Emperors and thus was also the capital of the Holy Roman Empire.

At the present time the city proper is home to about 1.3 million people, while its metropolitan area is estimated to have a population of over 1.9 million.[5]

Since 1992, the extensive historic centre of Prague has been included in the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites, making the city one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe, receiving more than 4.1 million international visitors annually, as of 2009[update].[6][7] Prague is classified as an alpha- world city.

History

The history of Prague spans thousands of years, during which time the city grew from a castle known as Vyšehrad to the multicultural capital of a modern European state, the Czech Republic.


Ancient age
The area on which Prague was founded was settled as early as the Paleolithic age. Around 200 BC the Celts established a settlement in the south, called Závist, but by the 1st century BC, they were replaced by the Marcomanni ( and possibly the Suebi), a Germanic people who either migrated westwards or were assimilated in the 6th century AD, during the great migration period following the collapse of the Roman empire, by the invading West Slavic people. According to legends, Prague was founded by Libuše and her husband, Přemysl, founder of the dynasty of the same name. Whether this legend is true or not, Prague's first nucleus[citation needed] was a castle on a hill commanding the left (western) bank of the Vltava River: this is known as Prague Castle, to differentiate from another castle, which was later, in the latter part of the 9th century[citation needed], erected on the opposite right (eastern) bank the Přemyslid fort Vyšehrad, which is now wrongly considered as the oldest one.

The city became the seat of the dukes, and later kings, of Bohemia. Under Emperor Otto II the city became a bishopric in 973. Until Prague was elevated to archbishopric in 1344, it was under the jurisdiction of the Archbishopric of Mainz.

Prague flourished as a great slave market.[9] It was an important seat for trading where merchants from all of Europe settled, including many Jews, as recalled in 965 by the Jewish merchant and traveller Ibrahim ibn Ya'qub. The Old New Synagogue of 1270 survives.

King Vladislaus II had a first bridge on the Vltava built in 1170, the Judith Bridge, which was destroyed by flood in 1342.

In 1257, under King Ottokar II, Malá Strana ("Lesser Quarter") was founded in Prague on a place of an older village in the future Hradčany area: it was the district of the German people. These had the right to administer the law autonomously, pursuant to Magdeburg rights. The new district was on the opposite bank of the Staré Město ("Old Town"), which had a borough status and was defended by a line of walls and fortifications.

The era of Charles IV
 
A view of one of the bridge towers of the Charles Bridge. 
Charles Bridge.The city flourished during the 14th century reign of Charles IV, Holy Roman Emperor and the king of Bohemia of the new Luxembourg dynasty. He ordered the building of the New Town (Nové Město) adjacent to the Old Town. The Charles Bridge was erected to connect the new district to Malá Strana. Monuments by Charles include the Saint Vitus Cathedral, the oldest Gothic cathedral in Central Europe, which is actually inside the castle, and the Charles University. The latter is the oldest university in Central Europe. Prague was then the third-largest city in Europe. Under Charles, Prague was, from 1355, the actual capital of the Holy Roman Empire, and its rank was elevated to that of archbishopric (1344). It had a mint, and German and Italian merchants, as well as bankers, were present in the city. The social order, however, became more turbulent due to the rising power of the craftsmen's guilds (themselves often torn by internal fights), and the presence of increasing number of poor people.

During Easter 1389, members of the Prague clergy announced that Jews had desecrated the host (Eucharistic wafer) and the clergy encouraged mobs to pillage, ransack and burn the Jewish quarter. Nearly the entire Jewish population of Prague (3,000 people) perished.[10][11]

During the reign of King Wenceslaus IV (1378-1419), Jan Hus, a theologian and lector at the Charles University, preached in Prague. In 1402, he began giving sermons in the Bethlehem Chapel. Inspired by John Wycliffe, these sermons focused on reforming the Church. Having become too dangerous for the political and religious establishment, Hus was summoned to the Council of Constance, put on trial for heresy, and burned in Konstanz in 1415. Four years later Prague experienced its first defenestration (the act of throwing someone out the window as a political protest - in this case, the city's councillors out the window of the New Town Hall), when the people rebelled under the command of the Prague priest Jan Želivský. Hus' death, coupled with Czech proto-nationalism and proto-Protestantism, had spurred the so-called Hussite Wars. In 1420, peasant rebels, led by the general Jan Žižka, along with Hussite troops from Prague, defeated the Bohemian King Sigismund, in the Battle of Vítkov Hill.

In the following two centuries, Prague strengthened its role as a merchant city. Many noteworthy Gothic buildings were erected[citation needed], including the Vladislav Hall of the Prague Castle.

Habsburg era
In 1526, the Kingdom of Bohemia was handed over to the House of Habsburg: the fervent Catholicism of its members was to bring them into conflict in Bohemia, and then in Prague, where Protestant ideas were at the time having increasing success.[12] These problems were not preeminent under Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II, elected King of Bohemia in 1576, who chose Prague as his home. He lived in the Prague Castle where his court saw invitations to astrologers and magicians, but also scientists, musicians, and artists. Rudolf was an art 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 astronomers Tycho Brahe and Johann Kepler, the painter Arcimboldo, the alchemists Edward Kelley and John Dee, the poetess Elizabeth Jane Weston, and others.

 
Defense of Charles Bridge against Swedish troops during the Thirty Years' WarIn 1618, the famous second defenestration of Prague provoked the Thirty Years' War, a particularly harsh period for Prague and Bohemia. Ferdinand II of Habsburg was deposed, and his place as King of Bohemia taken by Frederick V, Elector Palatine; however the Czech Army under him was crushed in the Battle of White Mountain (1620) not far from the city. Following this in 1621 was an execution of 27 Czech lords (involved in the Battle of White Mountain) in Old Town Square and an exiling of many others. The city suffered subsequently during the war under Saxon (1631) and Swedish (1648) occupation.[13] Prague began a steady decline which reduced the population from the 60,000 it had had in the years before the war to 20,000. In the second half of the 17th century Prague's population began to grow again. Jews have been in Prague since the end of the 10th century and, by 1708, they accounted for about a quarter of Prague's population.[14]

In 1689, a great fire devastated Prague, but this spurred a renovation and a rebuilding of the city. In 1713-14, a major outbreak of plague hit Prague one last time, killing 12-13,000 people.[15] The economic rise continued through the 18th century, and the city in 1771 had 80,000 inhabitants. Many of these were rich merchants who, together with noblemen of , and even origin, enriched the city with a host of palaces, churches and gardens, creating a Baroque style renowned throughout the world. After the Battle of Prague in 1757 the city was badly damaged during a Prussian bombardment.[16] In 1784, under Joseph II, the four municipalities of Malá Strana, Nové Město, Staré Město, and Hradcany were merged into a single entity. The Jewish district, called Josefov, was included only in 1850. The Industrial Revolution had a strong effect in Prague, as factories could take advantage of the coal mines and ironworks of the nearby region. A first suburb, Karlín, was created in 1817, and twenty years later population exceeded 100,000.

The revolutions that shocked all Europe around 1848 touched Prague too, but they were fiercely suppressed. In the following years the Czech nationalist movement began its rise, until it gained the majority in the town council in 1861. Prague had a German speaking majority in 1848, but by 1880 the German population 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 ethnic mixing and assimilation.[17]

20th century
 
The Jubilee Synagogue, built in 1905 to 1906 by Wilhelm Stiassny, of Bratislava, is the largest Jewish place of worship in Prague[edit] The First Republic
Main article: Czechoslovak Republic (1918-1938)
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). At this time Prague was a true European capital with highly developed industry. By 1930, the population had risen to 850,000.

Second World War
Main article: German occupation of Czechoslovakia
Hitler ordered the German Army to enter Prague on 15 March 1939 and from Prague Castle proclaimed Bohemia and Moravia a German protectorate. For most of its history Prague had been a multiethnic city with important Czech, German and (mostly Czech- and/or German-speaking) Jewish populations. From 1939, when the country was occupied by Nazi Germany, and during World War II, most Jews fled the city.

In 1942, Prague was witness to the assassination of one of the most powerful men in Nazi Germany - Reinhard Heydrich (during Operation Anthropoid). Hitler ordered bloody reprisals. At the end of the war Prague suffered several bombing raids by the USAAF. Over 1,000 people were killed and hundreds of buildings, factories and historical landmarks were destroyed (however the damage was small compared to the total destruction of many other cities in that time). Once the outcome of the war was decided and it was known that Germany would surrender to the Allies, the Prague uprising against the Nazi occupants occurred on 5 May 1945 two days before Germany capitulated, on 7 May. Four days later the Red Army entered the city. The majority of the German population either fled or was expelled by the Beneš decrees in the aftermath of the war.

Cold War
Main article: History of Czechoslovakia (1948-1968)
 
Mostecká Street packed with tourists in the afternoon.Prague was a city in the territory of military and political control of the Soviet Union (see Iron Curtain). The 4th Czechoslovakian Writers' Congress held in the city in 1967 took a strong position against the regime. This spurred the new secretary of the Communist Party, Alexander Dubček to proclaim a new deal in his city's and country's life, starting the short-lived season of the "socialism with a human face". It was the "Prague Spring", which aimed at the renovation of institutions in a democratic way. The Soviet Union and its allies reacted with the invasion of Czechoslovakia and the capital on August 21, 1968 by tanks, suppressing any attempt at work.

Era after the Velvet Revolution
In 1989, after the riot police beat back a peaceful student demonstration, the Velvet Revolution crowded the streets of Prague and the Czechoslovak capital benefited greatly from the new mood. In 1993, after the split of Czechoslovakia, Prague became the capital city of the new Czech Republic. In the late 1990s Prague again became an important cultural centre of Europe and was notably influenced by globalisation. In 2000 anti-globalisation protests in Prague (some 15,000 protesters) turned violent during the IMF and World Bank summits. In 2002 Prague suffered from widespread floods that damaged buildings and also its underground transport system. Prague launched a bid for the 2016 Summer Olympics,[18] but failed to make the candidate city shortlist. Due to low political support, Prague's officials chose in June 2009 to cancel the city's planned bid for 2020 Summer Olympics as well.[19]

Main sights
 
An accordion busker practicing his trade on Charles Bridge. 
The Astronomical Clock. 
Milunić and Gehry's Dancing House. 
Powder Tower 
Prague ViewSince the fall of the Iron Curtain, Prague has become one of Europe's (and the world's) most popular tourist destinations. It is the sixth most-visited European city after London, Paris, Rome, Madrid and Berlin.[20] Prague suffered considerably less damage during World War II than some other major cities in the region, allowing most of its historic architecture to stay true to form. It contains one of the world's most pristine and varied collections of architecture, from Art Nouveau to Baroque, Renaissance, Cubist, Gothic, Neo-Classical and ultra-modern. Some popular sights include:

Old Town (Staré Město) with its Old Town Square
The Astronomical Clock (Orloj) on Old Town Square
The picturesque Charles Bridge (Karlův Most)
The vaulted Gothic Old New Synagogue (Staronová Synagoga) of 1270.
New Town (Nové město) with its busy and historic Wenceslas Square
Malá Strana (Lesser Quarter) with its Infant Jesus of Prague
Prague Castle (Pražský hrad - the largest castle in the world) with its St. Vitus Cathedral
Josefov (the old Jewish quarter) with Old Jewish Cemetery and Old New Synagogue
Jan Žižka equestrian statue in Vítkov Park, Žižkov - Prague 3.
The Lennon Wall
Vinohrady, a sightly quarter in the centre
Museum of Decorative Arts in Prague - huge collections of glass, furniture, textile, toys, Art Nouveau, Cubism, Art Deco and so on.
The museum of the Heydrich assassination in the crypt of the Church of Saints Cyril and Methodius
National Museum
Vyšehrad Castle & Cemetery where many famous Czechs are buried including the composers Antonín Dvořák & Bedřich Smetana.
Písek Gate, last preserved city gate of Baroque fortification
Petřínská rozhledna, an observation tower on Petřín Hill, which resembles the Eiffel Tower
Anděl. Probably the busiest part of the city with a super modern shopping mall and architecture
Žižkov Television Tower (Žižkovský vysílač) with observation deck - Prague 3.
The New Jewish Cemetery in Olšany, location of Franz Kafka's grave - Prague 3.
The Metronome, a giant, functional metronome that looms over the city
The Dancing House (Fred and Ginger Building)
The Mucha Museum, showcasing the Art Nouveau works of Alfons Mucha
The vast cemeteries that are also used for walks by the locals, such as Olšany Cemetery
Places connected to writers living in the city, such as Franz Kafka (One popular destination is the Franz Kafka Museum, also his grave at the New Jewish cemetery near the metro station Želivského)
The Prague Zoo elected as the 7th best zoo in the world by Forbes magazine
 
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