Maria Theresa’s liberal policies, especially in religious matters, were to a great extent influenced by her son Joseph II, who became emperor & co-regent (of the Austrian domains), after the death of his father in 1765. Raised with the writings of Voltaire and the Encyclopédistes, Joseph II was a proponent of enlightened absolutism and very often went against the decisions of his narrow-minded mother in a number of occasions. A few months after Maria Theresa’s death, on October of 1781, the people of Prague are announced the Edict of Tolerance according to which, Lutherans, CalvinistsOrthodox were granted equality before the law and freedom to privately exercise their religious beliefs.

In 1784 a court decree issued by Joseph II unified the four independent urban areas of Prague, Staré Město , Malá Strana, Hradcany, and Nove Mesto into one single administrative unit. The rest of the suburbs along with Vyšehrad quarter would join in a century later. The recovery of the civic life, the construction of the magnificent Nostitz Theatre & the evolution of its opera orchestra into one of the greatest orchestral ensembles in central Europe by the conductor Johann Joseph Strobach would pave the way for the coming of  the most important composer of all times, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The interest for Mozart’s compositions started almost immediately after the opening of the theater with his opera Die Entführung aus dem Serail in 1783 knowing a tremendous success. The composer himself started visiting Prague in January of 1787, after his second successful premiere of the opera The Marriage of Figaro. Mozart visited Prague five times in total with two of his operas, Don Giovanni & La clemenza di Tito & the Prague Symphony having their premiere in the Estates Theater.

At the time of Mozart’s death on December of 1791, the grief exhibited in Prague far exceeded the one witnessed in any other European city, including Vienna. The memorial service given in his honor was a lavish Requiem mass performed by over a hundred musicians and attended by thousands. The early 1790’s was the period that the Czech National Revival (národní obrození) movement started to bring Czech language, culture and national identity to the forefront. The most prominent figures of the movement came from the fields of Czech-language journalism, literature and drama with the prominent linguists Josef Jungmann and Josef Dobrovský and historians like František Palacký  taking the prominent place of the modern fathers of the Czech nation. All of them lived, worked and associated with each other in the Bohemian capital.


In 1796 a group of noble Czech patriots along with several middle-class intellectuals from the ranks of the Enlightenment movement established the first National Gallery in Prague in an effort to “elevate the deteriorated taste of the local public.”

A few years later, in 1818, the most iconic symbol of the Czech National Revival, the Czech National Museum is established. It was not however housed in a building of its own until the completion of the Neo-Renaissance landmark on the upper end of Wenceslas Square (1891). Ten years before the grand opening of the national museum, another embodiment of the strong will of the Czech nation for self-determination, national identity and independence, the National Theater of Prague was inaugurated (1881).

Within the course of the 19th century, industrialization moved a significant part of the Czech population from the countryside to the cities and of course the capital, raising Prague’s overall population to 160.000 by 1880. The influx of Czech laborers decreased the percentage of the German speakers in Prague from a majority to 14% in only few years. New towns began to grow outside the city’s fortifications while older settlements like the one around Vyšehrad castle became officially incorporated in the expanding city. The fortifications between the Old & the new towns were razed after a decision taken by Emperor Franz Josef I on October 30th, 1866 and were turned into a new promenade road. A new embankment was built along Vltava River (Smetana Embankment) and new Neo-Renaissance buildings were erected along its line.

After its dissolution by Napoleon in 1806, the umbrella of the Holy Roman Empire had given its place to the Austro-Hungarian Empire. World War I & the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire would open the way for the long-awaited Czech independence that came in the form of a single federal state of two equal republics (Czecho-Slovakia) with Prague as its capital.

Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk was elected President of the Czechoslovak Republic by the National Assembly of Prague, on November 14, 1918, one month after the official proclamation of the state’s independence from the newly built Municipal House of Prague. As the capital of the new state, Prague began its transformation into a modern & functional metropolis. The new metropolis became the incubator of new architectural styles, like Czech Cubism, invented by architects and artists living in the city of Prague. It also gave vent to other modern styles like the Art Nouveau which was starting to transform other European capitals at the time as well.

The years of the First Republic (1918-1938) became a bright period for business & culture with Czechoslovakia being among the world’s most advanced industrial countries in the world. In fact the country was among the 10 richest of the world at that time, based on the substantial inheritance of Austro-Hungary’s industrial base. It was also a period when the city’s most famous son & writer, Franz Kafka, published most of his works along with several other important writers of the time, such as Karel Capek (best known for his science fiction works/coined the word robot) & Jaroslav Hasek (Good Soldier Svejk) who all lived and worked in Prague at that time. The large number of Germans living inside the country’s borders gave Adolf Hitler the excuse he needed to first annex several Bohemian territories in September of 1938 and then establish the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia by a personal proclamation from Prague Castle, on 16 March 1939.

The German occupation was a period of brutal oppression, political persecution and murders when almost the entire population of the particularly large Jewish community of the city was completely annihilated (at the outbreak of WWII over 92.000 Jews lived in Prague, almost 20% of the total population).

Towards the end of the war the air raids of the Allies reached Prague, with the US Army Air Forces dropping about 152 tons of bombs on many populated areas of the city, totally destroying 100 houses & historical sites & heavily damaging 200 more. 701 civilians were killed & 1.184 more wounded. On the 5th of May 1945 the Czech Resistance would make an unsuccessful attempt to liberate the city from the German occupation. It would end with a German victory and a ceasefire on the 8th of May. It would fall short for just one day, as in the morning of May 9, 1945, the Soviet tanks reached Prague.

About 50.000 people of German origin fled or were expelled from Prague after the liberation, with their property and rights declared void by the Constitutional Decrees of the President of the Third Republic, Edvard Benes. The Third Republic proved to be a very short-lived regime, as in February 1948, the Communists took power after the successful Czechoslovak coup d’état that declared Czechoslovakia a people’s democracy & put the country under the communist umbrella of the Soviet Union.'

Search for class enemies, interrogations, surveillance by secret police, house searches for illegal literature, shuttered citizens’ privacy and inability to express oneself openly was the reality the Czech people had to adjust themselves to. People were imprisoned for filing complaints or signing petitions, the long lines at the shops were a daily phenomenon and the communist purges ended with executions even before the trials were completed. Although the influx of residents to Prague continued, the country fell into a rapid economic decline mostly due to the incompatibility of the Soviet model to the Czechoslovakian reality. The outskirts of the city were brutally intruded by buildings of low quality & aesthetics.

The economic downturn of the 1950’s and early 1960’s brought an attempt to implement a new economic model in 1965, which in its turn spurred increased demand for political reform. That change came when Antonín Novotný, (General Secretary of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia from 1957) was forced to abdicate in January of 1968, in favor of the reformer Alexander Dubcek. The liberal turn which included increasing freedom of the press, freedom of speech, and freedom of movement for people and consumer goods and the possibility of a multiparty government was launched by Dubcek in April of 1968. The so-called Prague Spring would be crashed by 200.000 troops & 2.000 tanks of the Eastern Bloc Army (Soviet Union, GDR, Poland, Bulgaria & Hungary) that invaded the country on the night of 20–21 August 1968.,_demonstrace_srpen_1969_(01).jpg

Journalism, literature, even music, fell, along with other essential aspects of civil life, in another dark age of censorship. Fear and suppression, would lead to a previously unseen wave of emigration. It would also lead to numerous spontaneous acts of nonviolent resistance or protest. In one of them, on 16 January 1969, a student named Jan Palach set himself on fire in Prague’s Wenceslas Square to protest against the renewed suppression of free speech. The gloomy days would last until the Fall of the Berlin Wall on 9 November 1989. A few days later the events that remained known as the Velvet Revolution of Prague unraveled in an unprecedented pace. The large student demonstration of November 17 in Prague turned into a crowd of 200.000 on November 19, to an estimated 500.000 on November 20.

On December 10, President Gustáv Husák swears in the first government in 41 years that is not controlled by the Communist Party and resigns shortly after. As the capital of the Czech Republic, after the dissolution of Czechoslovakia in 1993 and in the absence of Soviet control & communism, Prague flourished. Important buildings that had suffered from a criminal neglect of more than 40 years, were reconstructed & new businesses started to occupy them. The economy boomed.

Modern day Prague has more than 1.260.000 inhabitants, 14% of which have a national origin, other than Czech. Prague’s economy accounts for 25% of the Czech Republic’s GDP, ranked fifth among Europe’s 271 regions in terms of GDP per capita (Eurostat), well above the Czech state as a whole. A large percent of that income is produced from the constantly rising contribution of tourism with Prague receiving more than 6.7 million visitors in 2018 e.g. The reason is quite simple. Prague is among the most beautiful & mesmerizing cities in the world.

In 1541 a fire on Hradcany Square would spread quickly through the largely wooden houses to many sections of Malá Strana and Hradcany completely destroying large parts of those districts including a great part of the castle. Ferdinand I would introduce the Renaissance & Baroque styles in the reconstruction of the wounded towns with prime examples those of the Belvedere Palace & the Royal Gardens both in the vicinity of the Prague Castle.

In 1547 Prague spearheaded the nobility’s uprising against Ferdinand I after the King’s order to the Bohemian army to move against the German Protestants. Ferdinand was a supporter of the Counter-Reformation which he believed was essential in order to curb the Heretical tide of Protestantism. After suppressing the revolt, Ferdinand retaliated by limiting the privileges of Bohemian cities and introducing a new cast of royal officials that would control the city councilors. He also invited the Jesuits to Prague (1556) and revived the Archdiocese of Prague which had been null for some years (1561). A new bright era started for the city at the time of Ferdinand I’s grandson, Rudolf II (Born 1551, King of Bohemia 1575-1611 & Holy Roman Emperor 1576-1612).,_Holy_Roman_Emperor,_Holy_Roman_Emperor,_Holy_Roman_Emperor

In 1583 Rudolf II moved the imperial court from Vienna to Prague & Prague Castle became the Emperor’s permanent residence after the needed works on the building which was expanded to the north. The majestic Spanish Hall was added to the ensemble for the emperor’s impressive art collections. Rudolf II was a great patron of arts and one of the most important art collectors of all time, especially in works of Northern Mannerist style. His spectacular collection of art & curios was partly inherited by his family and partly given to him by various diplomatic delegations and scientists. Its greatest extent though was purchased by him through his agents abroad. He also invited artists to come and work in Prague, he supported them to live and create and soon Prague became an artistic hodgepodge. Rudolf acquired the reputation of a generous patron of the arts and Prague became an obvious port of call for many wandering artists.,_Holy_Roman_Emperor,_Holy_Roman_Emperor

The emperor did not only transform Prague into the European Mecca of arts & the political epicenter of the continent, he also made it a main attraction for scientists, especially those who specialized in the so called occult sciences. A fervent fan of Astrology (Nostradamus himself had prepared a horoscope especially for him) & Alchemy, Rudolf made his lifelong quest to find the Philosophers’ Stone & spared no expense in bringing Europe’s best alchemists to court.

In his extensive cabinet of curiosities in the northern wing of the castle, a whole micro-cosmos of minerals, plants & animals were displayed alongside the newest scientific instruments of the era. Rudolph even performed his own experiments in a private alchemy laboratory. The mystic Parnassus of the Arts was a city where astronomers like Tycho Brahe & Johannes Kepler, alchemists like John Dee, painters like Giuseppe Arcimboldo & sculptors like Adriaen de Vries, co-existed with musicians, , philosophers, poets, magicians and astrologers in what became one of the most interesting melting pots in European history.

In 1609, the emperor would give one more reason, the last of his reign, to Praguers to hold a special place for him in their hearts. In his Letter of Majesty Rudolf II granted religious freedom to his Bohemian subjects & created a Bohemian Protestant State Church, in a move unprecedented in Europe at that time. Despite his bold move, Rudolf’s concessions were judged as unsatisfactory by the Czech Protestants who appealed to the emperor’s younger brother Matthias for help. Matthias’ army then held Rudolf prisoner in his castle in Prague, until 1611, when Rudolf was forced to cede the crown of Bohemia to his brother.,_Holy_Roman_Emperor,_Holy_Roman_Emperor#/media/File:II._Rudolf_II._M%C3%A1ty%C3%A1s_1608.jpg,_Holy_Roman_Emperor

Rudolf II’s death in 1612 marked the official ending of the most glorious period in Prague’s history, the end of Rudolfine Prague that would be immortalized by the loads of artwork and the series of surviving buildings of the old city. Soon Rudolph’s collections & court entourage were largely dispersed. Matthias extended the religious concessions to Bohemian subjects prompting many Protestants, mostly German to move into Bohemia & Prague. Things would change dramatically when the next Habsburg in line, took over the helms of the kingdom in 1617. An inflexible Catholic & proponent of the Counter-Reformation, Ferdinand II was elected king by the Bohemian Diet, when his childless cousin Matthias fell ill earlier that year.,_Holy_Roman_Emperor,_Holy_Roman_Emperor

The predestined tension between the two sides wouldn’t take long to unravel. In 1618 the new king, forces the ailing & practically powerless Emperor Matthias to order the stopping of the construction of several Protestant chapels on royal land. When the Bohemian estates protested against this order, Ferdinand II had their assembly dissolved. In May of 1618 Ferdinand II sent two Catholic councilors as his representatives to Prague Castle. On the 23rd of that month, the members of the dissolved assembly of the three main Protestant estates gathered at the meeting hall of the Bohemian Chancellery. Soon after, the two Regents were thrown out of the third floor window along with the Regents’ secretary in what is known as the Second Defenestration of Prague that would open the curtains of the Thirty Years’ War.

Events started to take the course of a snowball effect as the two sides (the Protestant Estates & the Catholic Habsburgs) counted their allies for war. Ferdinand strengthened his position by typically taking Matthias place as Holy Roman Emperor, after the latter’s death in 1619, with the Protestants answering with his deposition from the throne of Bohemia & his replacement by the Calvinist Frederick V, Elector Palatine.,_Elector_Palatine,_Elector_Palatine

Because the Protestants had deposed a properly elected king they were not able to succeed in the formation of a significant alliance for war as opposed to the Catholics who managed to win the support of Catholic Spain, Poland & Bavaria, of Austria and Protestant Saxony in what became an unequal contest. On 8 November 1620 in the Battle of White Mountain just outside the city of Prague the Protestant army of 15.000 mostly Bohemians was crashed by the 27.000 men of the Catholic Imperial army in a battle that sealed the fate of the Czech Protestants for the next 300 years.

The victorious imperial army entered the defenseless city of Prague while King Frederick V with his wife and a number of estate politicians left the country. He would remain known as the Winter King (he ruled for just one winter). Emperor Ferdinand II became King of Bohemia & immediately ordered the imprisonment of the remaining leaders of the insurrection. Forty-seven of them were put on trial & twenty-seven were executed (12 beheaded & 15 hanged) in the Old Town Square of Prague (27 crosses have been laid into the cobblestones as a tribute to those victims, at the exact point of execution). The heads of the beheaded were put on display on the Old Town Bridge Tower.  The Bohemian Catholics rejoiced with the restoration of Roman Catholic rule while the execution was followed by reprisals against Protestants throughout the city and the country.

The penance fell hard on the shoulders of the defeated who had to convert to Roman Catholicism the official state religion or leave the country. All lands & properties of the Protestant leaders and their supporters were to be confiscated & returned back to the church or the crown. An estimated five-sixths of the Bohemian nobility went into exile soon after the battle. Prague had entered its  doba temna (Dark Age). Czech national identity was sidelined in favor of a general  Germanization in the content of the whole Counter-Reformation wave that swept the country. A major campaign of re-conversion to the Catholic faith was taken on by the newly elected Archbishop of Prague Ernst von Harrach who was also appointed Chancellor of the University of Prague.  The University was in essence merged with the Jesuit Academy. The entire education system was placed under Jesuit control while all non-Catholic priests were expelled by a royal decree. The void left by the displaced local nobility was almost entirely filled by a new wave of German immigrants, this time Catholics from the southern German territories. They received most of the confiscated land & became the new ruling nobility. In the context of the Thirty Years’ War between Protestant and Catholic states (1618 and 1648), Prague itself was taken over two times, first by the Protestant Saxons (1631 to 1632) and again by the Protestant Swedes who managed to seize Hradcany but were repulsed on Charles Bridge before reaching Staré Mesto (Old Town) in the Battle of Prague of 1648, the last act of the Thirty Years’ War.

The Peace of Westphalia in 1648 would end a devastating war for the Bohemian Kingdom which was officially incorporated into the Habsburg Imperial system. The seat of the empire was moved from Prague to Vienna, giving another powerful blow to the wounded Czech capital, which would fall into a state of a provincial decline in the following years.

The disaster that hit Prague after the battle of White Mountain was portrayed in a very clear way, in the city’s population that fell from 60.000 in 1620 to 20.000 in 1650. Another outburst of the whole ominous momentum came in 1689 with a great fire that burnt down great parts of the Old Town, of the Jewish district & the adjoining areas with the gloomy epilogue written with a plague epidemic that wiped out more than 12.000 of the city’s inhabitants in 1713-1714.,_Prague.jpg

Despite all the setbacks Prague saw a serious inflow of people, especially of Jewish descent, in the second half of the 17th century, pretty much related to the danger posed by the Turks in the south and the expulsion of Jews from Vienna in 1670. In addition the large fire of 1689 became the cause that spurred a wide range of restorations which beautified the city’s image and introduced it into the new fad of Baroque architecture.

In 1723, Prague would witness the most elaborate festivities of its history, on the occasion of Emperor Charles VI’s coronation as King of Bohemia in a series of ceremonial shows that were remembered for many decades by the people of the city.,_Holy_Roman_Emperor

The Emperor stayed in Prague for two months during which the Baroque sense of pomposity reached its apogee in a program filled with theatrical & musical festivals, feasts and processions of the court around the richly decorated streets. A year later Count Sporck, a leading nobleman of German ancestry would open the first public opera house of Prague in his palace, where a series of Italian operas were produced regularly, attracting some of the most prominent singers & composers (among them Antonio Vivaldi himself, who visited Prague in the early 1730’s) from Italy to Prague, contributing a great deal to the spread of opera in central Europe.

The accession of Maria Theresa to the imperial throne in 1740 would implicate Bohemia in the War of the Austrian Succession (1740-1748) and bring the foreign armies in Prague, three times in only few years. In the night of 25/26 November 1741, the Franco-Bavarian troops manage to take Prague by surprise and proclaim Charles Albert of Bavaria King of Bohemia at the beginning of December of 1741.,_Holy_Roman_Emperor

At the end of 1742 the Austrians manage to recapture the city after a siege that first took place in June and then again in December. The latter managed to drive out the French forces that held Prague. Finally in the summer of 1744, after two weeks of havoc wreaking bombardment by the Prussian artillery, the commander of the defending Austrian army, signed a surrender and King Frederick the Great of Prussia with his generals entered the city of Prague which changed hands once more.

The city was plundered by the Prussian soldiers and in the same time it was forced to pay high war contributions and deliver food and horses to the occupiers. By the end of the year, the pressing Austrian army led the Prussians to the exit. The trampled Praguers channeled their frustration towards the Jewish population after a rumor of their alleged collaboration with the Prussian army. The rumor was endorsed by Maria Theresa herself who sent a decree from Vienna ordering the expulsion of all Jews from Prague. Although the decision was revoked three years later it inflicted a severe blow to the well established Jewish community of the city that had climbed to a percentage of 30% of the total population and was the second largest in Europe after Thessaloniki up to that point.

In 1756 Prussia’s war against the Austrians was renewed for a third time, with King Frederick of Prussia marching an army of 100.000 to Prague. In the Βattle of Prague οn 6 May of 1757 that took place in the village of Šterboholy part of the metropolitan area of Prague today, the Prussian army managed to win a Pyrrhic victory & take Vítkov Hill. In the second bombardment of Prague by the Prussian artillery, more than one quarter of the city was destroyed & St. Vitus Cathedral was heavily damaged. Despite the relentless fire the city held until the siege was finally lifted under the pressure of an Austrian relief army that victoriously fought the Prussians at Kolín, not far from Prague, on 18 June 1757.

After 1757 things started looking better for Prague. The city entered an era of economic progress mainly due to the mitigation of the guild restrictions and the new mercantile policies implemented by Maria Theresa. Her policies managed to increase commerce and steer Prague’s baby steps towards industrialization. The disbanding of the Jesuit order by the Queen in 1773 was another significant that not only removed the tight Jesuit grip, it also liberated their significant wealth that could be now reclaimed by the government for the benefit of the people. Cotton weaving facilities, paper mills and copper workshops developed very quickly creating the need for working hands, catapulting the city’s population from 50.000 in 1754 to 78.000 in 1784. New grandiose palaces like Kinský Palace were built to house the thriving merchants and new landmark buildings like the Nostitz Theatre (later Estates Theatre) lined the city’s streets.


A whole new chapter opened with John the Blind’s oldest son with Eliska Premyslovna and heir to the Bohemian throne Charles IV. Born in Prague in 1316 the new King managed to improve the capital’s standing even before his coronation when in 1344 the bishopric of Prague was raised to an archbishopric due to his efforts. Soon after, the French master builder Matthias of Arras is summoned from the papal palace in Avignon to design the new Gothic Cathedral of Saint Vitus, in order for the new church to stand out as the nation’s most prominent cathedral, the family crypt, the treasury for the most precious relics of the kingdom, and the last resting place of the city’s patron Saint Wenceslaus.,_Holy_Roman_Emperor,_Holy_Roman_Emperor

In 1347 right after the death of his father in the Battle of Crécy (Charles escaped wounded from the same battlefield) Charles IV becomes King of Bohemia. A few months earlier he had been chosen by the prince-electors as King of the Romans (title used by the German King after his election) a position that paved the way for his future election as Holy Roman Emperor. Prague was the capital of his Bohemian Kingdom and on the course of becoming the center of the whole empire.,_Holy_Roman_Emperor,_Holy_Roman_Emperor,_Holy_Roman_Emperor

Charles wanted his capital to rise to the level of Paris, the most important European capital at the time and he soon laid out his plans for the establishment of a new royal town that would surpass in glory the ones built by his predecessors. This city would be built outside the walls of the Old Town (Staré Mesto) to the southeast. The building of the New Town (Nové Mesto) commenced on 26 March 1348 with the ceremonial placement of the first building stone by its founder the King. A few days later, on April 7th Charles IV establishes the first university in Central Europe. Charles University would soon provide the much needed bureaucrats and lawyers to the Bohemian Kingdom & would make Prague the intellectual and cultural center of Central Europe.

The 3.5 kilometers long, 10 meters tall, 5 meters wide wall of Nove Mesto encompassed an area of 7.5 km², about three times the size of the Old Town. The problem of housing troubled the citizens of the Old Town from the time of Charles IV’s father. Many people, mostly poor Czechs who came to the capital to find a job, settled in suburbs situated at the base of the old city walls, and the banks of the Vltava cramped in unhygienic conditions. The new city and the 12 years of tax exemption given by the King to whomever managed to complete the construction of a new stone building within one and a half year, answered to the problem very swiftly. The largest urban planning project of the Middle Ages at the time, although it respected the structure of the older settlements on the Vltava it was structured on the undeveloped terrain in such a way (unusually broad streets and squares) that its equal could not be found in Europe.

On 5 January 1355, Charles IV is crowned emperor in Rome and Prague becomes the official capital of the Holy Roman Empire. The new imposing tower, the highest in the city, was added to the Old Town Hall by the city councilors as a symbol of the power and pride of the first city of the empire and a new grandiose bridge, the famous Charles Bridge replaces its damaged by a flood predecessor. The old Romanesque Palace was reconstructed and expanded in High-Gothic style and the Vyšehrad complex was refurbished and reinforced with new fortifications. The New Town Hall of Nové Mesto was established along with numerous new parish churches throughout Prague & Bohemia & several new monasteries brought friars and monks from every order and corner of the European continent to Prague.,_Prague#/media/File:Praha,_Nove_Mesto_-_Novomestska_radnice_III.jpg,_Prague's_Church,_Prague

The “Greatest Czech of all time” (according to modern polls) or Pater Patriae (father of the country), a title first coined by Adalbertus Ranconis de Ericinio at Charles IV’s funeral, died in 1378 at his beloved city. He was buried in a crypt in St. Vitus Cathedral.,_Holy_Roman_Emperor

A census commissioned by Charles IV in 1378, just before his death found that Prague had 40.000 inhabitants, making it the fourth largest city north of the Alps after Paris, Ghent and Bruges. Based on the area it covered Prague was the third largest after Rome and Constantinople. The major part of Charles IV’ monumental design, except for St. Vitus Cathedral which remained but a fragment of what we see today for five centuries, was mostly completed under the rule of his son Wenceslaus IV (1378-1419) who did not however succeed in being as effective as his father.,_King_of_the_Romans#/media/File:VaclavaZofie.jpg,_King_of_the_Romans#/media/File:Wenceslaus_IV,_Charles_IV,_Jobst_of_Moravia.jpg

The city entered an era of religious fanaticism in the Easter of 1389, when members of the clergy encouraged their congregation to destroy the Jewish Quarter with the pretext of the desecration of the Eucharistic wafer by the Jews. In what became the first pogrom of its history, the city of Prague lost almost its entire Jewish population of about 3.000 people that had been an integral part of its life for almost half a millennia. In 1391 the Bethlehem Chapel is built in Staré Město for sermons in the Czech language. The chapel would to play a crucial role in the birth of the Hussite movement and the Bohemian Reformation.

Jan Hus, a young Czech scholar of the University of Prague and ordained priest after 1400, starts preaching in 1402 at the newly built Bethlehem Chapel. Influenced by the writings of the English theologian and philosopher John Wycliffe (Catholic Church authorities banned many works of Wycliffe in 1403) he advocated about the urgent need of reformation for the Roman Catholic Church and the moral failings of the clergy, of bishops, even the papacy, from his pulpit.

Despite King Wenceslaus IV’s & Archbishop’s Zajíc’s initial sympathy towards the non-conformist teachings of Hus, the papal irritation led to the confiscation of all the copies of Wycliffe’s writings & the excommunication of Jan Hus & his followers in 1410. Hus’s ideas had become widely accepted in Bohemia and the resentment against the Church hierarchy grew even more after the Pope’s attack. With the King backing him, Hus continued to preach at the Bethlehem Chapel until in 1412 an interdict placed Prague’s churches under a ban. To protect the city, Hus left for the countryside where he continued to preach & write. Towards the end of 1414 Hus agreed to partake in the 16th Ecumenical Council of Constance in order to help put an end to all the dissension. After a few weeks of open dispute Hus was imprisoned and on June of 1415 he was tried as a heretic and burned at the stake a month later.

Hus’s tragic end sparked a flame of indignation throughout the Bohemian country & its people who saw his death as a criminal act and an insult to their country. King Wenceslaus IV, who saw Hus’s death as an act of betrayal by his brother King Sigismund (King of Germany from 1411. He was the one who arranged for the council & invited Hus). The members of the Bohemian government that were avowed Hussites, a large part of Prague’s nobility and many members of the clergy gave free vent to this indignation. Towards the end of the 1410’s King Wenceslaus made a u turn, conceded to his brother side and tried to stem the Hussite movement from Prague. Many town councilors followed suit. On 30 July 1419, the Hussite priest Jan Želivský leads his congregation on a procession through the streets of Prague to the New Town Hall to protest over the imprisonment of some members of the Hussite community. A stone thrown from the window of the town hall at Želivský enraged the crowd that stormed the building & threw 13 members of the town council, the judge & the burgomaster out of the window in what became known as the First Defenestration of Prague.

It is believed that King Wenceslaus’s death a few days after the incident was caused by the severe shock he experienced upon hearing the news. His death in August of 1419 & the prospect of his substitution by his brother King Sigismund, legitimate heir to the throne but in the same time betrayer of Hus according to the Hussites, would escalate things. Many Catholics, mostly Germans, were expelled from Prague while many parts of the city, like Malá Strana were destroyed by fire. The castle of Vyšehrad was conquered & ransacked by the Hussites who fought against the mercenaries of Wenceslaus IV’s widow Sophia of Bavaria in the first year of the so-called Hussite Wars (1419).

After the papal bull of March 1420 that called for a crusade against the Hussite followers, an army of about 100.000 soldiers under the command of King Sigismund reached Prague on June of that same year. In the Battle of Vítkov Hill that followed the Hussite forces under the command of Jan Žižka managed to triumph over the invading army. A second victory on the battlefield against the anti-Hussite crusaders proved to be detrimental for the amity of the Hussite camp which was divided between the radical Taborites and the moderate Ultraquists (also known as Praguers because of their absolute dominance within the capital).

In May 1434 the Praguers allied with the Roman Catholic forces and inflicted the final blow to the opposite camp in the Battle of Lipany, where the Taborite army was almost completely annihilated. The reconciliation with Rome and the recognition of Sigismund as King of Bohemia (he was already Holy Roman Emperor by then) finally took place in 1436 after rivers of spilled blood. Emperor Sigismund would only rule Bohemia for a year. He died in 1437, with Albert V Duke of Austria taking his place. He would also rule for just two years. Sigismund’s grandson Ladislaus the Posthumous took over in 1453 at the age of 13 but he would experience the fate of his predecessors suddenly dying after 3 years.,_Holy_Roman_Emperor

Although the Hussite Wars had officially ended, the division between Bohemians loyal to the Roman Catholic faith and Hussites was far from over. Two years before King Ladislaus’ death and after the successful march with 9.000 strong to Prague, George of Podebrady, the nobleman that led the Hussite party, is entrusted with the administration of the country by Emperor Frederick III, who wants to avoid another bloodshed. Seven years later, in February 1458, George of Podebrady, becomes the first Hussite King in history supported even by the adherents of the papal party.

Although a moderate in religious matters and a visionary in politics (one of the first to envision a European Union of peace, common parliament & common institutions) George was faced with the intransigence of two different Popes (Pius II & Paul II), who both campaigned for his deposition. Pius II‘s plan of a crusade against Bohemia remained unaccomplished but Paul II would prove to be more efficient by excommunicating & calling his subjects to be free of their heretic king. King Matthias Corvinus of Hungary who led the campaign against the Hussite King joined by the insurgent Bohemian nobles managed to take over the southern & eastern parts of the country but never managed to seize Prague. The Hussite Praguers would never accept Matthias Corvinus as their king so after George’s death in 1471 and after the arrangements of their late king his followers chose Vladislaus II of the ruling Jagellon dynasty of Poland as their new king instead.

At the time of his arrival in Prague, Vladislaus II was only fifteen years old and to a great extent clung to his advisers. In addition his place was disputed by Matthias Corvinus who also used the title King of Bohemia. The succession conflict was settled with the Peace of Olomouc, which gave Vladislaus II the sole rule of Bohemia and the throne of Hungary, after the death of Matthias Corvinus in 1490. That same year the astronomical clock was placed on the southern wall of Old Town City Hall (Old Town Square). The calendar dial was added and the clock facade was decorated with Gothic sculptures. It was the third-oldest of its kind in the world & is the oldest one still working. The end of the 15th century was also the time the Prague Castle entered into a phase of reconstruction and the massive Vladislav Hall was added to the Royal Palace, while new defensive towers were added to the north side of the castle.

In August of 1526, the last Jagellonian King, the twenty-year- old Louis II (only son of Vladislaus II) dies after the disastrous Battle of Mohács with the forces of Suleiman the Magnificent, without securing a legitimate heir. Ferdinand I of the Habsburg Dynasty, husband of the late king’s sister Ann Jagellon and future emperor would become King of Bohemia, commencing a new era that would last until 1918. Adulthood,_Holy_Roman_Emperor

King Vladislaus I’s son Ottokar I managed to take advantage of the volatile situation within the Empire and have himself declared a hereditary King in 1212 after a decree known as the Golden Bull of Sicily issued by the Holy Roman Emperor, Frederick II. The decree recognized Ottokar and his heirs as Kings of Bohemia who were no longer exposed to the whims of the Emperor and were only required to attend Imperial Diets close to the Bohemian borders. Although typically still a subject of the Holy Roman Empire, the Bohemian King took on a leading role as a prominent electoral prince of the empire.

The good relations between the German Emperor and the Bohemian king played a key role to an invitation sent by the latter to the people of the Empire to settle into Bohemia. What followed was the birth of the first group of ethnic Germans in Prague, which were added to the already existing Jewish population of the city who had already made Prague a sort of a Jewish cultural polestar after the start of the 12th century. In 1230 Stare Mesto (Old Town), the town on the right bank of Vltava River that had started to evolve after 1000 AD and was by then encircled by stone fortifications and a protective moat was bestowed with royal privileges of township by the King just before his death later that year. Stone buildings began to replace wooden ones as a result of the influence of the new German settlers that kept coming in, encouraged by Ottokar I’s son, King Wenceslaus I (r. 1230 to 1253) who followed his father’s footsteps. In 1257 King Ottokar II (r. 1253 to 1278) establishes Mensi Mesto Prague’s Smaller Town, later renamed Malá Strana or Lesser Town on the left bank of the River, by basically merging a number of already existing settlements into one administrative unit. A new invitation is sent out again, this time to merchants and craftsmen from Northern Germany that were summoned to make use of the benefits bequeathed to the new royal town by the King.

Under King Ottokar II the Premysl Dynasty reached the peak of its power with its lands stretching from modern day Silesia (Czech-Polish border) to the Mediterranean Sea. The Golden King was the mightiest of all within the Holy Roman Empire and second only to the Emperor. In 1270 one of Prague’s first Gothic buildings the Old New Synagogue  highlights the overall integration of the Jewish population which had been further proped-up by a charter of special privileges to the Jews issued by King Ottokar II in 1254, a few months after his rise to the throne.

After only one year on the throne the young King Wenceslaus III is murdered on 4 August 1306 without having secured a male heir to the kingdom. During his short and precarious reign Wenceslaus III lost the control of Hungary and Poland. His death put an end to the Premysl Era of Prague and Bohemia after hundreds of years. A brief period of power grab ensued with the House of Habsburg claiming and succeeding to take the throne of Bohemia from Henry of Bohemia by wielding its immense political power and targeting its military might towards the Bohemian capital. However the man who became king,  Rudolf of Habsburg died soon thereafter, so Henry of Bohemia retook his throne in Prague Castle, only to lose it again this time by John of Luxembourg (John the Blind), eldest son of Holy Roman Emperor Henry VII, who became King of Bohemia after marrying Wenceslaus III’s sister Elyška and capturing Prague with the help of the Czech nobles in 1310.,_Holy_Roman_Emperor#/media/File:PEAKE(1874)_p156_Heinrich_VII.,_der_Luxemburger.jpg

At the time of John the Blind Prague Castle was uninhabitable so the new king made residence in one of the houses of the Old Town Square. With the help of his advisers John managed to stabilize the affairs of the Czech state and soon (1321), following the tradition of his predecessors he gives orders to the commander of Prague Castle to establish his own royal town. Hradcany (Castle District) would evolve around a central marketplace, the core around which the new town was built. As a tributary town, all power was vested in the hands of the supreme commander of the castle. He would collect the taxes from Hradcany‘s residents who would also be burdened with certain jobs such as guarding imprisoned criminals, or harvesting hay in exchange for his protection.,_od_Velk%C3%A9_strahovsk%C3%A9_zahrady_(02).jpg

John of Bohemia was disliked by the simple people who saw in him an alien king. The dislike proved to be mutual with John soon giving up the administration of Bohemia to his wife and the local barons. In 1338 the councilors of the Old Town (Staré Mesto) buy a magnificent patrician house and remodel it in order to serve as their town hall. The house was extended on its western side with the incorporation of the adjoining house and a stone tower was added. The tower—the highest in the city in the Middle ages—was completed in 1364. The following centuries hardly left any traces on the shape of the structure of the Old Town Hall of Prague.

After the murder of his brother, Boleslaus I took control of the duchy. Ιn 955 after a decisive victory over the Magyars in the Battle of Lechfeld, he managed to gain increased autonomy for his duchy which was also rewarded with the annexation of Moravia by Emperor Otto I. It was around that time that the second seat of the Czech sovereigns, Vyšehrad Castle was first erected on a steep rock directly above the right bank of the Vltava river. The connecting road between Prague Castle and Vyšehrad Castle would develop into one of the most important routes of the Czech capital.,_Duke_of_Bohemia#/media/File:ZapichnutiVaclava_liberviaticus.jpg

In the year 965 a Jewish merchant and traveler refers to Prague as a city “built from stone and lime” and “the biggest trade center” in the region while in 973 the city’s crucial role in the formation of the nascent Czech state is supplemented with the establishment of Prague’s episcopacy. The Bishop’s palace would be located in the grounds of Prague Castle. After the year 1000 AD the medieval city started to expand on the right bank of the Vltava River around a large marketplace that would later evolve into the Old Town’s Square or Staromestske namesti.


It was evident by then that the ones who controlled Prague, controlled Bohemia, with the Czech rulers re-asserting their power whenever they ensured the control of Prague. In 1085 Prince Vratislaus II rises to the title of the King of Bohemia and transfers the ruler’s seat from Prague Castle to the castle of  Vyšehrad after he remodels it as a large complex, made up of a palatial residence, a church and a seat of a chapter, richly endowed, independent from Prague’s bishop and subjected directly to the Holy See.

The title of the Bohemian duke had only been lifted to the royal dignity ad personam for Vratislav II  by Emperor Henry IV and that title was therefore not hereditary. It would be upgraded again in the time of  Vladislaus II in 1158 by Emperor Frederick Barbarossa as a reward for the military support in the Imperial expeditions in Northern Italy. King Vladislaus I (or Duke Vladislaus II) founded Premonstratensian Abbeys like the Romanesque Strahov Monastery and constructed the first stone bridge across Vltava River in 1172, the second to be constructed in Central Europe. The bridge was named Judith Bridge in honor of his second wife. That bridge collapsed in 1342 and was replaced in 1357 by the world famous for its beauty today Charles Bridge.

The first masonry on the site of the castle appears towards the end of the 9th century with the first walled building being that of the Church of the Virgin Mary. The church was built by Prince Borivoj I, head of the Premyslids who ruled  Central Bohemia under the over-lordship of the King of Moravia Svatopluk I. Prince Borivoj I had become a fervent Christian after his baptism by Saint Methodius of Thessaloniki around 883.

The new castle became the permanent seat of Prince Borivoj I who controlled the Vltava basin until his death in 890. Borivoj’s son Spytihněv I,  managed to take Central Bohemia from the hands of his overlord King Svatopluk I of Great Moravia who had briefly taken control after Borivoj’s death. Spytihněv I managed to take control after swearing allegiance to the East Frankish King Arnulf of Carinthia. The pact with the East Frankish Kingdom protected Bohemia from the ravages of the invading Magyars and paved the way for the eventual triumph of Roman Catholicism in Czech spiritual affairs. Prague castle was extended as the administrative center of the rising Premyslid duchy with St. George’s Basilica being the second church built on the site around 920 AD while in the same time a new settlement started to form at the feet of the hill castle.,_ex_priscis_numismatibus_ad_viuum_delineatae,_and_breui_narratione_historic%C3%A2_(1645)_(14560036650).jpg

In 921 AD the ruling duke Vratislaus I was buried in the newly erected St. George’s Basilica at Prague Castle while his son Wenceslaus I (later elevated to sainthood, patron saint of the Czech state) took the helms of the duchy. The latter is the one who built the Romanesque rotunda dedicated to St. Vitus that would evolve into St. Vitus Cathedral, the most important cathedral in the history of the Czech nation.,_Duke_of_Bohemia,_Duke_of_Bohemia,_former_Basilica_of_St._Vit_in_Prague,_crypt,_end_of_11th_c,_Lapidary_of_NM_Prague,_175705.jpg

Wenceslaus I’s piety, his assassination after a plot in which his brother Boleslav I played a key role and the biographies/hagiographies that came in circulation soon after his death, contributed in the conceptualization of the idea of the righteous king in the Middle Ages. The Wenceslaus Cult that was born in Bohemia and reached all the way to England, led to the canonization of the Czech king soon after his death and his idealization through stories like Good King Wenceslas, a Christmas carol, written 900 years after his death.,_Duke_of_Bohemia,_Duke_of_BohemiaChildhood

The Boii gradually left Bohemia after 200 BC with the Germanic tribes of Marcomanni and other Suebic ethnic groups taking their place in the beginning of the first century AD, after being pushed away by the Roman legions. Their king Maroboduus, the first documented ruler of Bohemia, founded or changed the name of a pre-existing settlement at the site of modern Prague into Maroboden, after his own name.

A few years later, in the 2nd century AD, in one of his maps, Ptolemy mentions a Germanic city on the site, this time under the name of Casurgis. After the collapse of the Western Roman Empire in the late 5th century many of the Marcomanni migrated southwards along with other Germanic nations like the Lombards, while many Slavic tribes started settling in the region of modern day Prague during the so called Great Migration of Nations that lasted until the beginning of the 10th century.,_Bohemia,_La_T%C3%A8ne_culture,_NM_Prague,_188051.jpg

The Slavic settlements were established alongside the Germanic ones that still existed in the region of Bohemia and for almost two centuries the two peoples, the Germanic Marcomanni (among them many of the Boii that had not left the region) and the Slavs interconnected until sometime in the late 7th century when the latter became the largest population group in the area. By the beginning of the 9th century a new settlement this time with the name of Praha (práh = threshold in Czech) came to occupy about two thirds of the hilltop later taken by Prague Castle. The settlement was fortified and packed with timber structures & wooden buildings.  The Czech tradition refers to a Czech duchess and prophetess named Libuše who married Přemysl the Ploughman, the legendary founder of the dynasty that ruled Czech people for hundreds of years. According to the legend she prophesied the glory of a future city on a rocky cliff above Vltava River and ordered the building of a castle by the name Praha sometime in the 8th century.


The earliest signs of human presence in Prague basin go back to the Old Stone Age and the first groups of roaming hunters about a million years ago. Archaeological finds of long-term habitation around modern day Prague and Vltava River take us back to the the Late Neolithic period (5500 BC-4500 BC) when various tribes made use of the fertile soil and abundant fresh water of the area.

The Celtic nation of Boii which settled in the wider region around 500 BC, were the ones who gave their name to the country (Bohemia=home of the Boii) and the ones who named River Vltava (probably derived from the old Germanic words “wilt ahwa” meaning “wild water”). Around 200 BC the Boii established two fortified settlements (oppidums), the one on the north, outside the borders of today’s capital, on top of the steep hill of Hradiště was called Závist. The second just south of Prague, was called Šance. The two settlements were connected by a line of fortifications nine kilometers long,  the extent of the area being about 170 hectares in total.

A few blocks south of the Museum of Communism lie two of the most important squares of the city. In the heart of Nové Mesto (New Town) the 750 meters long Wenceslas Square (Václavské Námestí) is in reality more of a main avenue today than a classic square. It was established along with the rest of Nové Mesto by King Charles IV in 1348, a few months after his coronation as Bohemian King, according to his plan for a new city that would rise to the grandeur of Paris, the greatest of the European capitals at the time. The rectangular square covers an area of 45.000 square meters in total and widens from 48 meters wide in the bottom part to 63 meters wide in its southeastern edge that slopes upward as we approach the towering Neo-Renaissance building of the National Museum that dominated the horizon. The square is lined with beautiful Art-Nouveau & late Art Nouveau in their majority buildings, a style that was extremely popular in the the beginning of the 20th century that most of them took their present form. However we can also find buildings that follow the Neo-classicist, Neo-Renaissance, Neo-Baroque, even Cubist & Czech functionalist styles. The square was initially intended for trading horses and it was called accordingly for more than 500 years. The Horse Market changed into the more noble Wenceslas Square in 1848 during the Czech national revival. A few years later, in 1887, the construction of the 5.5 meters high (7.2 m with the pike) equestrian statue of the patron saint of Bohemia would seal the new name. The monument, with the statue of St. Ludmilla on the left (when looking from the front), of St Agnes behind St. Wenceslas, St Prokop on the right front and behind it the statue of St Adalbert was finally completed in 1924. Not far from the monument, in front of the National Museum, another more modest memorial in the form of a fallen cross, honors the memory of a Czech student that set himself on fire right on the spot, to protest the Soviet occupation in 1969.

The imposing Neo-Renaissance building of the National Museum or Národní muzeum sits on the site of a former gate of the old wall of Nové Mesto. The Horse Gate, delimited Wenceslas Square until it was demolished in 1875. A year later a proposal for a new building that would reflect the Czech National revival at the advantageous piece of land that was now free at the upper corner of the square was put on the table for the constantly relocating up to then National Museum. On June 1885 the proposal of the winner of the competition, proponent of the Neo-Renaissance style architect Josef Schulz, gets permission for building to begin.

From the first earthworks that started in July 1885 to the opening ceremony in May 1891, Prague had welcomed one of its more impressive landmarks after just six years. The museum rises 70 meters above the ground, in the shape of a regular rectangle with 104 meters long and 74 m wide frontage. 338 stairs lead from the fountain to the tower while there are a total of more than 3.500 doors and 562 windows.The imposing staircase decorated with 16 paintings of Czech castles and historically burdened places leads to the most spectacular hall of the museum, the Pantheon. More

The 400 m2 Pantheon, covered with the indoor glass dome is the most distinctive & impressive hall of the building. It serves festive occasions. The walls are decorated with four pictures of significant historical events: the message of Libuše and St. Methodius translating the Holy Scriptures (by František Ženíšek), foundation of the Charles University and J. A. Comenius in Amsterdam. Unfortunately due to a major renovation that started in 2015 and will be completed in 2018 the museum is closed to the public. However a part of the museum’s collection is exhibited in other buildings, including the former seat of Parliament and current seat of the Radio Free Europe that will be linked together with an underground tunnel, creating a modern museum complex.

Three minutes west of the Municipal House lies a museum dedicated to the country’s and the city’s recent past. The Museum of Communism at V Celnici 1031/4. The museum provides a suggestive view of the following aspects of life in Communist-era Czechoslovakia: daily life, politics, history, sports, economics, education, art (specifically Socialist Realism), propaganda in the media, the People’s Militias, the army, the police (including the secret police, the StB), censorship, and courts and other institutes of repression, including show trials and political labor camps during the Stalinist era. It focuses in particular on the totalitarian regime that ruled the country from the February putsch in 1948 until the Velvet Revolution in 1989.

Housed in a space of nearly 1,500 m2, the museum provides visitors with an authentic feel of the era that is enhanced by the incorporation of short videos, posters, and artifacts. The exhibit includes interestingly designed spaces, where visitors can walk through mock-ups of a shock worker’s workshop, a school classroom, a child’s bedroom, and an interrogation room. We have also selected interesting items from our vast collection of materials that illustrate what daily life under Communism was like. Everything is described on 62 panels divided into thematic sections, which are enriched with a great amount of photographic material from the Archive of the Czech News Agency, the Security Services Archive, the Archive of the Association of Forced Military Camp Laborers, and the personal collections of leading Czech photographers.