When on a time, in a land in the centre of Europe, a princess named Libuše achieved a ploughman, Přemysl. The two fell in love, and launched not just a dynasty – the Přemyslids, who dominated Bohemia (in what is now the Czech Republic) for some five hundreds of years – but also the settlement on the River Vltava that turned the town of Prague.

That’s the legend, in any case. Like most medieval dynasties, the Přemyslids desired that minimal hook of mythology to justify their rule. But at least some surviving actual physical remains backlink that tale to historical point.

Prague and the Přemyslids

The Přemyslid dynasty was apparently launched in the eighth century Advertisement, but in prehistoric instances the area was inhabited by the Celtic Boii tribe, from which the title Bohemia is derived. Hundreds of years later on, Germanic invasions of other sections of Europe, notably the campaigns of Attila the Hun in the mid-fifth century, sparked big-scale actions of a variety of peoples close to Europe – like Slavs, who settled in this area.

The bastion established, in accordance to custom, by Libuše continue to stands on an outcrop above the Vltava, south of the town centre: it is known as Vyšehrad, or “castle on the heights”. Absolutely, proof indicates the website was fortified from at minimum the 10th century, although significantly of the latest edifice dates from later on eras. It does, having said that, encompass the 11th-century Romanesque Rotunda of St Martin, and the great graveyard hosting these types of luminaries as composers Antonín Dvořák and Bedřich Smetana, and artist Alphonse Mucha, whose glorious artwork nouveau paintings are nonetheless utilized in countless adverts.

The jewel of Bohemia

As Bohemia grew in significance through the later Middle Ages, so did Prague, its riverside locale giving superb connections. As early as Advert 965, a Jewish service provider named Ibrahim ibn Yacoub explained Prague as a busy buying and selling centre. In Ad 973, Prague received its personal bishopric, Christianity obtaining been promoted previously that century by Duke Václav I (Anglicised as Wenceslas, of ‘Good King’ carol fame). That introduced Bohemia underneath the auspices of the Holy Roman Empire, which assisted grow trade but additional.

The institution of productive silver mines close to the metropolis also boosted Prague’s prosperity. In the course of the later Middle Ages, that was mirrored in significant making jobs. The ruling Přemyslids set up the castle on top rated of the Hradčany hill, on the left financial institution of the Vltava, in the late ninth century.

That progressed into the sprawling advanced that now encompasses several palaces, church buildings, museums and other web-sites in Hradčany and nearby Malá Strana district. Present day-day site visitors really like to stroll Golden Lane, the really avenue occupied by goldsmiths in the 17th century, and later dwelling to writers together with Franz Kafka.

On the reverse financial institution, the Aged Town (Staré Město) made. The initial bridge was constructed all around 1170 to facilitate movement involving the castle and cathedral district, home of the monarchs and city authorities, and the Staré Město, exactly where most of the outlets and commerce ended up centered. That bank was also residence to the thriving Jewish neighborhood, in the Josefov district you can nonetheless stop by the Previous New Synagogue (Staronová synagoga), built c1270, within the larger Jewish Museum elaborate that also encompasses the Old Jewish Cemetery, established in the 15th century.

That initial span about the Vltava was replaced in 1357 by the picturesque Charles Bridge, to which its celebrated statues of saints had been included primarily in the 18th century. The monarch who ordered that bridge, and right after whom it was named, was pivotal in the transformation of the metropolis. The past Přemyslid ruler, Václav III, died heirless in 1306 – just after a four-year tussle for electricity, the throne was taken by John of Luxembourg.

Prague just after the Přemyslids

His son, Charles IV, was an incredibly diplomatic, charismatic and clever gentleman who was crowned Holy Roman Emperor in 1355 – and who was established that the new imperial money really should replicate his lofty status. As effectively as the bridge, Charles revamped the castle and, guaranteeing Prague was promoted to an archbishopric, begun the building of the grand Gothic St Vitus Cathedral in Hradčany.

He showered the metropolis with dollars, setting up the impressive Church of Our Girl In advance of Týn on the Old Town Square in Staré Město and founding the city’s university, now termed Charles College. Notably, he set up the New City (Nové Město) in 1348. Prague swiftly grew to become one particular of the biggest and most vital European towns north of the Alps by some means it escaped the worst of the Black Demise, preserving its political, spiritual and professional prominence through the 14th century.

Unrest erupted in the early 1400s when a scholar at the college, Jan Hús, began advertising and marketing a new model of theology influenced by the teachings of John Wycliffe. His function was condemned by church authorities – as was a great deal of the Reformation that followed in western Europe – but he garnered substantial-scale aid ahead of remaining executed in 1415.

In 1419, the motion he kick-began led to the very first Defenestration of Prague, when a mob led by a priest named Jan Želivský threw 7 Catholic town councillors out of the windows of the New City Corridor, marking the start out of what turned recognized as the Hussite Wars. You can continue to take a look at this landmark creating, with its imposing Gothic tower, on Charles Square.

Prague’s Habsburg revival

This upheaval took its toll on Prague’s position, while it remained a wealthy trading centre. It was not till the Habsburg Rudolf II, King of Bohemia and Archduke of Austria as very well as Holy Roman Emperor, came to power in 1575 that the city’s political fortunes definitely revived.

Contrary to other Habsburgs, who observed themselves as tied to Austria, Rudolf cherished Prague. He also cherished art, architecture and various other experiments – he was fascinated by occult sciences. He nurtured a renaissance in the city, embarking on many making projects and bringing in thinkers from throughout Europe, returning prestige as very well as prosperity to Prague. It became a centre for astronomical exploration, and gleaned new tips on science and other subject areas from the Ottoman empire.

Increase time was again, and Prague continued to expand. The populace doubled through the early decades of the 18th century, turning into ever more numerous beneath the Habsburgs. The onset of the Industrial Revolution delivered another increase, with factories springing up in the Karlín industrial quarter, founded in 1817 to exploit the region’s bountiful coal supplies.

By the mid-19th century the populace had swollen to around 100,000, and the metropolis welcomed an influx of students, artisans, artists and intellectuals. This fuelled a nascent Czech nationalism, and whispers of increased independence from the Austro-Hungarian empire that experienced been designed in 1866.

War, occupation and revolution

Through the To start with World War, the Czechs fought as topics of the Austro-Hungarian empire when it collapsed in 1918, a Czechoslovak Republic was launched, with Prague as its cash. This new state was ethnically combined, and residence to some three million Germans. As a outcome, the Munich Agreement of 1938, negotiated concerning Adolf Hitler and the leaders of Britain and France (but not the Czechs), saw a swathe of territory identified as the Sudetenland handed to Germany. Occupied by the Nazis through the 2nd Globe War, Prague prevented the heavy bombing that devastated lots of other European cities, so considerably of its medieval, Renaissance and later on heritage continues to be mostly intact.

After liberation, Prague became the seat of a Communist governing administration which – inspite of a unsuccessful attempt to soften Stalinist guidelines in the so-referred to as Prague Spring of 1968, which was brutally suppressed by Soviet forces – remained in electrical power until the Velvet Revolution of 1989. You can nonetheless see bulletholes pocking the partitions of the Nationwide Museum in Wenceslas Square, reminders of the 1968 Soviet crackdown.

That was adopted by the Velvet Divorce of 1993, producing the modern day Czech and Slovak Republics, and the arrival of mass tourism as people today long excluded from Prague arrived to uncover its historic marvels.

Modern-working day Prague

Now, it is uncomplicated to get a perception of the city’s many golden ages: the progress close to Hradčany and its castle from the ninth century, Charles IV’s creating assignments in the 14th, the creative and architectural heritage of Rudolf II, even the communist style of the second half of the 20th century.

Unquestionably, admire the Astronomical Clock and Old City Square, and stroll over the Charles Bridge to roam the Golden Mile in the castle. But make time to find out the other facets of Prague’s background, far too – the industrial and mental aspects that made it one particular of the greatest metropolitan areas in Europe.

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Dr Eleanor Janega was speaking to Paul Bloomfield


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