Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Prague Castle

Prague Castle, Czech Republic

Prague Castle, Czech Republic

Prague Castle image courtsey: msu.edu

A mosaic of different styles

The Prague Castle; recorded as the biggest ancient palace by the Guinness Book of World Records; is a medieval structure built during the Roman Empire as residence to the President of the Emperor. For the Present Czech Republic it is its most important monument and the symbol of its statehood. It had been seat to this Republic’s rulers from the time of the erstwhile ‘Czechoslovakia’ and the seat of the Communists during those times when Eastern Europe was under the Communist yoke. After Communism and split of the nation in to Czech and Slovenia, Prague is still retains the status as the capital of Czech Republic as well as the most prominent city of the Republic and Prague Castle as the most important monument of the natin.

Times of construction and a time of destruction!

This castle (palace) is located in the Bohemia in the western region of Czech Republic bordered by Germany and Poland. It was built during the 9th century as a walled Church for Our Lady. The fort was built for the President (representative) of the Empire of Rome. For about three long centuries it was left uncared, the Romanesque Palace was added to it in 12th century. From there the saga of its construction, addition, reconstruction and modification etc stretches several centuries and several generations. During the ‘dark times’ when Russians imposed a Communist regime this complex had undergone a period of ‘destruction’ also!

Charles sets the ball to roll, a non-stop roll!

Prague Castle, Czech Republic Church and monastery of St George, Prague Castle

Since Charles IV set the ball of construction rolling in the 14th century, the ball went on rolling for centuries; undergoing several building, rebuilding as well as destructions. The Prague Castle has seen several ups and downs in its life of long twelve centuries (it was originally a 9th century structure); a large fire that broke out in 1541 destroyed almost all of the structures, the Bohemian revolts 1618 had its impact on this monument, in 1648 the Swedes barged in to the complex and looted all valuables especially those invaluable collection of the Rudolf era. Fortunately all destructions were succeeded by creations and the monument gained new life each time. The role of adding beauty to this castle/palace goes to Ladislaus 11 Jagellos who rebuilt it in to the present style under architect Benedict Rejt, the Vladislav hall is his addition. In 1541 King Rudolf started the work of the Spanish Hall and the work had to be completed by Empress Maria its architect was M. Picassi.

Works that took several generations to complete

Prague Castle, Czech RepublicPrague Castle map courtsey: drexel.edu

This big complex that includes palace, Spanish Hall, President’s office, six gardens, a deer mot, Cathedrals of St. Vitus, St. Wenceslas, St. Albert’s etc.

The original Gothic style St. Vitus Cathedral was constructed by John Luxemburg and his two sons in the 9th century; there after it had undergone many reconstructions, the present structure built on 1929, it is the spiritual symbol of the entire nation of Czech Republic. St Wenceslas Chapel is a brilliantly decorated one using frescoes and precious stones, it was built by Parles. The former Bohemian emperor’s crown and jewels are kept in this chapel. The Royal Palace was residence to the Bohemian kings until 16th century; its beautification and imparting of the Gothic style was done by Czech king Premysl Otakar 2. This structure was built on old Romanesque Palace.

The oldest and most revered structure that stands in the complex is the St. George Basilica a Romanesque structure built in 920 (rebuilt in 10th and 12th centuries very close to the Monastery of Benedict.

The Golden Lane is perhaps the most memorable buildings; a housing complex intended for the accommodation of riflemen of the castle. The significance is that Franz Kafka the ‘existentialist giant of the yesteryears’ lived here during 1916-17.

A mosaic

The entire complex can be compared to huge canvas (570 meters long and 130 meters wide) on which architectural styles of different regions and different eras are drawn by generations of artists thereby making it wonderful mosaic different forms of architectures. Those who stare it with awe are not only ordinary tourists who visit this site in large numbers but even the head of states who pay visit to this republic as part of their official tour.

Preparation for an event

One of the important events of the nation that was planned to take place in Prague Castle was the coronation of Franz Josef 1 in 1860, when the entire palace was readied for it, alas that never took place. Then came the World War1 and the turmoil related with it. After the war when democratic system was introduced T.G Masaryk took over as the president of the Republic of Czechoslovakia (present Czeck and Slovenia) in 1918 and this palace was made the official residence of the President of the Republic. It was golden time for the palace the modification works of the palace was entrusted to Mr. Josip Pleenik a native of Slovenia who had been at Prague during that time. Josip Pleenik executed the work with the help of his disciple Otto Rothmayer.

History never rests

The Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 was a tragedy in all fronts the personal freedom that was lost in the clutches of the communists was one; along with the brutal destruction that inflicted upon the nation’s cultural heritage was equally tragic. For this palace complex it was a time of looting as well as brutal ‘desecration’; the Masaryk’s flat was looted of all its costly furnishings. The most beautiful and invaluable embroidery salon of his daughter Alice was transformed in to toilets! Bunkers and trenches were dug all around the complex and its windows were covered by bricks to resist ‘any invisible army’ that may attack the Republic.

No windows, no tunnels, there may be stooges lurking!

Public were prohibited from entering in to the complex as there may be any capitalistic stooges among them! Huge power generating systems and transformers were installed spoiling the tranquility of the area; for fear of getting the complex surrounded by the ‘bourgeois enemies’. The underground tunnels which accessed the tombs of buried former kings were blocked as bourgeois may sneak in to the fort through them! An aviary with lovely birds was removed from the site and all windows of the cathedral and presidential palace covered by bricks to ensure maximum safety as stooges may peep and leak out official secrets!

No bricks, no barbed wires, could save them!

Prague Castle, Czech RepublicPrague castle image courtsey: ece.utexas.edu

Alas no fort or bricks could save that regime; in the democratic whirlwind that swept all over East Europe during 1989 the Communists had to flee! The democratically elected Vaclav Havel entrusted Mr. Bafek Sipek the job of its face-lift work and opened the entire structures of the complex to the public one by one, even the areas which were not for the public before the Communists also were left open with a vengeance. The Spanish Hall; where the meetings of the ruling Communist Party’s chiefs was made a concert hall. The Rothmayer Hall and Rudolf Gallery are stages for social gatherings. The imperial riding barracks are being used as exhibition halls! People from all around the republic rushed to Prague Castle to have a look at the structures which were denied to them by the Communists.

Prague Castle at present

Prague Castle, Czech RepublicPrague Castle image courtsey: paulsveda.com

At present this site remains as the most sought after location in the Republic of Czech, it houses several museums like National Gallery of Bohemian Baroques (a style that was popular in 17th century originated from Rome) and Mannerisms, exhibition dedicated to Czech History, an elaborate toy museum packed with ethnic toys and a Picture Gallery. Two churches, six palaces, seven gardens, nine other structures of historical importance, a deer park etc make this complex a very elaborate location. Some structures and alternations made by erstwhile Communist Era are also retained for the memory of a bygone time to keep the memory fresh!


santhan said...

hello sasisar,

i have gone throgh your PRAGUE ARTICLE, ITS quite wonderful and
discriptive, hope more attractive castles will shine in future. manoj

santhan said...

hi sasi sir,
gonethrough the article.fine