The Charles Bridge is one of the most important and most famous monuments of Prague. It ‘s the second oldest bridge that crosses the Vltava river and was built in the period of greatest development of Prague, at the time of Emperor Charles IV. It replaced the previous wooden bridge called Judith, build in 1172, at the time of the reign of Vladislav II. Judith was the wife of this king. The Judith Bridge was destroyed by a flood in 1342 and Prague was cut in two, without a connection between the river banks. It was then when the Emperor Charles IV decided to build a new bridge.
The first stone was laid by him in person on 07.09.1357, at 5.31. The construction of the bridge lasted throughout 1300 under the direction of the architect Petr Parler, the builder of the St. Vitus Cathedral. The time of laying of the foundation-stone of Charles Bridge was determined by leading astrologers of the time and faced a number consisting of the odd numbers: 1-3-5-7-9-7-5-3-1 (year-day-month-hour). Perhaps the magic has contributed to the exceptional strength of the Charles Bridge, which in 2007 celebrated 650 years since its foundation.
During its existence, the Charles Bridge has survived many disasters, the war of the Hussites at the beginning of ‘400, the invasion army of Passau in 1611 and Swedish troops at the end of the Thirty Years War, that shot with canons against a tower of the bridge and they have completely destroyed the decorations on the western side, the numerous floods including the last, disastrous, in 2002 when the whole island under the Charles Bridge, the Kampa island has disappeared beneath the waters. Only one of the arches collapsed in 1890.
At both ends of the Charles Bridge are towers that were part of the town fortifications. The Old City Tower, built in the second half of ‘300 by Petr Parler, has a rich decoration and is considered the most beautiful bridge tower in Europe. On the eastern side there are figures representing Charles IV.(Left), Wenceslas IV. (Right), the patron Saint of the bridge Vito (center). At the top there are still S. And St. Adalbert Sigismondo, two of the patrons of the Kingdom of Bohemia. Above the door you can see the crests of the countries ruled by the royal family of Luxembourg at the end of 14th Century and the emblem of the Old City. It is interesting to know that the whole Charles Bridge was under the jurisdiction of the Old City.
The tower on the side of the Lesser Town is very simple: dates back to the Romanesque period and the reign of Wenceslas I. In 1310 it suffered damages as a result of a fire and was then lowered. The complete restoration was made in 1591.
During the 18th Century, 30 baroque statues of saints were placed on the Charles Bridge. Today, the original statues are in the National Museum and have been replaced by exact copies of those statues that were placed on the bridge in the period of romanticism.