Charles Bridge marks 660 years

The bridge will see some special events throughout July 9

Charles Bridge celebrates 660 years since the cornerstone was laid at 5:31 am on July 9, 1357. The anniversary will be marked with the program for the public.

The festivities will start at 6:30 am and run all to the evening. The day will begin with fanfare from the Malá Strana Bridge Tower and end with a film projection of Night at Karlštejn in front of the Rudolfinum at na náměstí Jana Palacha at 9:30 pm.

“This year's celebration will not take place at 5:31, but an hour later due to the introduction of Summer Time. At that moment trumpeters will sound a fanfare from the Malá Strana Bridge Tower and a member of the Order of the Red Cross, Marek Pučalík, will bless the bridge,” City Councilor Jan Wolf (KDU-ČSL) said on the City Hall website.

“Locals and visitors who are not discouraged by the early morning weekend time will have the opportunity to become part of another historical milestone for the bridge” he added.

The events will be a bit low key and rely on creating a mood.

“We are not preparing a spectacular event, but we want to bring people to the particular atmosphere of the whole place and show it differently than they know it,” he added.

Prague in cooperation with the Prague Information Service and boat operator Pražské Benátky have prepared several tours of the Charles Bridge and trips on the Vltava River, but even though extra tours have been added they are all booked out. The tours, in Czech, will give some of the mystical and esoteric history of the bridge. The founding date and time, at least according to legend, was picked by astrologers and can be written 135797531 for the year, day month and hour. This makes a palindrome of odd numbers. Such puzzles were charms that were thought at the time to ward off ill fortune. The date was recorded in a chronicle by Beneš Krabice z Veitmile. Many of the figures, reliefs and other details on the bridge towers also have hidden meanings.

The foundation stone of Charles Bridge was laid near a church whose location is identical to today's Křížovnické náměstí. The plaza was built later and used to be open water. A boat landing is still in use under the plaza.

The bridge will see more work done to it. "Everyone remembers the extensive renovation of the bridge in 2006–10. But few know that at that time only the upper structure, deck and railings were repaired. In the future, we will reconstruction the pedestals of statues and other substructures. These include all the arches of the bridge,” Deputy Mayor Petr Dolínek (ČSSD) said.

Charles Bridge, known simply as the Bridge or Stone Bridge when it was built, took the place of the previous Judith Bridge, which was damaged in 1342 in a flood. The route of the bridge changed. The Malá Stana side remained the same, and one of the towers on that side is from the Judith Bridge era. But on the Old Town side, the bridge was moved a few meters downstream.

Architect Petr Parléř was responsible for designing both Charles Bridge and St Vitus Cathedral in Prague Castle. The two structures line up with the sun on the summer solstice.

The bridge is known for its religious statues. Those were added later, starting with the bronze statue of St John Nepomuk in 1683. The rest are stone with some metal details. Almost all of the sandstone bridges are copies.

A wooden cross had been on the bridge since it was completed has been replaced several times, lastly in 1861 with a statue depicting the crucifixion.

Detailed information about the program is at www.karluvmost660.cz.

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