The Fascinating History of Prague Castle

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With its origins dating back to the 9th century, Prague Castle is one of the oldest castles in Europe and has been a crucial part of the city’s history.

This castle has faced many challenges and setbacks, from war destruction to fires, attacks, robbery and more.

Today, we will know how this castle emerged as one of the most popular attractions in the country even after facing many setbacks.

This article is a detailed guide to the history of Prague Castle and covers everything from its construction and transformation to the reasons behind its popularity.

Prague Castle History Timeline

9th century: Prince Bořivoj built the Church of the Virgin Mary, laying the foundations for Prague Castle.

10th Century: The Basilica of Saint George and the Basilica of St. Vitus were constructed and the castle became an important educational and cultural institution.

14th century: Emperor Charles IV started the Gothic-style St. Vitus Cathedral.

16th century: Prague Castle became the power center under the Habsburg dynasty and underwent Renaissance renovations.

17th century: The castle suffered major damage due to the Thirty Years’ War and also underwent baroque reconstruction under Emperor Ferdinand II.

1918: The castle became the seat of the President of Czechoslovakia, symbolizing the country’s independence.

1929: The construction of St. Vitus Cathedral was completed after six centuries.

1992: Prague Castle was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

2024: The castle continues its restoration work and amazes visitors with its stunning architecture.

History of the Foundation of Prague Castle

Origin of Prague Castle
Image: Wikimedia.org

On the basis of many ancient written sources and some archeological research, it is believed that Prague Castle was founded around the year 880 by Prince Bořivoj.

Borivoj belonged to the Přemyslid dynasty and was Bohemia’s first historically documented Duke.

He and his sons moved their residence to the Hradčany mountain and laid the foundation of the castle’s first walled building, the Church of the Virgin Mary.

After Brivoj’s death, his son, Vratislaus I, founded the other two churches, the Basilica of Saint George and the Basilica of St. Vitus, in the first half of the 10th century.

As a result, in the 10th century, the castle became important both as the head of state’s seat and as the church’s highest representative, the bishop.

Since the 11th century, the Basilica of St. Vitus has become the main Prague Castle Cathedral, housing the relics of the patron saints SS. Vitus, Wenceslas and Adalbert.

During the 12th century, a palace was built next to the Church of St. George.

Golden Era: Transformation to Gothic Style

In the 14th century, during the reign of Charles IV, Prague Castle underwent significant transformations.

The Royal Palace was reconstructed in the Gothic style, and the castle fortifications were reinforced for added strength.

Notably, the construction of a grand Gothic-style Church of St. Vitus (that we see today) began, replacing the previous one, which took nearly six centuries to complete.

Charles IV’s era marked a prosperous period for Prague Castle, as it became the imperial residence and the seat of the ruler of the Holy Roman Empire.

This period is often called the Golden Era.

Subsequent to Charles IV, during the reign of his son Wenceslas IV, the castle faced challenges due to the Hussite wars, leading to the deterioration of buildings.

After 1483, renewal started, and defense towers on the northern side, such as the Powder Tower, the New White Tower, and Daliborka, were built.

The reconstruction and expansion of the royal palace were done.

A remarkable achievement was the building of the Vladislav Hall, which stood as the largest secular vaulted hall in Europe during that period.

The hall’s large windows are also recognized as one of the early examples of the Renaissance style in Bohemia.

After all the construction, a large fire broke out in 1541 and destroyed large parts of the castle.

Rebuilding of Prague Castle

Journey through time
Image: Wikimedia.org

In the 16th century, the kings of the Habsburg dynasty began reconstructing the castle.

They added the Royal Garden, featuring structures like the Summer Palace, which serves as a Prague Castle Entrance, Ball Game Hall, and Lion’s Court. 

After this, Rudolph II also played a crucial role in the castle’s history during the late 16th century.

He made Prague Castle his permanent residence, turning it into the grand center of the empire.

During his time, the northern wing, including the Spanish Hall, was founded to house Rudolph’s extensive art and scientific collections.

However, the 17th century brought some challenges. In 1618, a dramatic event named the ‘Defenestration’ led to the Thirty Years’ War.

Defenestration means throwing out of the window, and two Catholic governors were thrown out of a window of the castle, which ignited a big conflict.

The castle was damaged and robbed. It didn’t remain the seat of power and was rarely used by the kings.

In the 18th century, Empress Maria Theresa completed its last major reconstruction work but with Vienna being the capital, Prague Castle was still neglected.

Later, in 1848, Ferdinand I transferred his throne to his nephew and made Prague Castle his home.

He also restored various parts of the castle, including St. Vitus Cathedral.

Seat of President 

In 1918, Prague Castle again became the seat of the head of state after the foundation of the independent Czechoslovak Republic.

However, the work of the St. Vitus Cathedral, started by Emperor Charles IV, was not completed until 1929.

Later, in 1992, Prague Castle became a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Today, Reconstruction and alterations are still ongoing in the castle.

You can book your tickets now and witness this stunning castle with an incredible centuries-old history, which makes it a must-visit attraction.

FAQs

Why is Prague Castle so famous?

Prague Castle is famous for its historical significance, architectural beauty, and role as a symbol of Czech history and royalty.

It has been a seat of power for various rulers and features iconic structures like St. Vitus Cathedral and the Royal Palace. 

Who ruled at Prague Castle?

Various monarchs and emperors have historically ruled Prague Castle. Some of them are Vratislaus I, his son St. Wenceslaus, Emperor Charles IV, Ferdinand I etc.

Who was the architect of Prague Castle?

There was not one but many architects who played a crucial role in building it.

Architect Petr Parléř gave the late Gothic style, and architect Josip Plecnik was entrusted with the necessary alterations in 1920.

How old is Prague Castle?

Prague Castle is over 1,000 years old, making it the world’s largest ancient castle. It has a rich history that dates back to the 9th century. 

What is the history of the Prague Castle architecture?

The architecture of Prague Castle reflects various styles, including Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque.

Its construction began in the 9th century, evolving over time with contributions from different rulers.

What to know about Prague Castle?

Prague Castle is an iconic landmark with a rich history. You must know the fascinating history of Prague Castle before visiting it.

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