Judith Tower to be repaired

Prague 1 and monument caretakers disagree on how to proceed

The Judith Tower, the smaller of the two towers on the Malá Strana side of Charles Bridge, is in need of repairs.

The Prague 1 administration, which is responsible for maintaining the structure, says it is in poor technical condition. The Club for Old Prague (KSP) and the National Heritage Institute (NPÚ) say the planned repairs are too invasive.

Damaged wood, cracks and leaks threaten the tower according to Prague 1. “We as a good manager have not only the right but also the duty to intervene. We do not want to wait for the tower’s condition to continue to deteriorate. We do not want the monument to fall like the Troja footbridge,” Prague 1 Mayor Oldřich Lomecký (TOP 09) said, according to daily Pražský deník.

The Troja footbridge, connecting Stromovka to Troja, collapsed Dec. 2 injuring four people.

The Club for Old Prague agrees that the Judith Tower needs some work, but disagrees about how it should proceed.

“The planned reconstruction of the national cultural monument is overly invasive and jeopardizes the historical value of the building,” the Club for Old Prague said.

The National Heritage Institute (NPÚ) also is critical. “We do not agree with the planned reconstruction of the Judith Tower of Charles Bridge. The renovation of the national cultural monument is likely to threaten its historical authenticity,” NPÚ spokesman Jan Cieslar told the daily. The NPÚ position is only advisory, and not binding on the city.

Monument experts are most concerned over the proposed renovations to the Romanesque parts of the tower, such as replacing roofing beams. The Club for Old Prague is also concerned about other work on the interior that will change the character of the building.

City conservationists say repairs are necessary. When they should start has not been decided and permits have not been issued. The city’s Department of Monument Care is seeking more opinions on how to proceed, which will take several months. The renovations should cost millions of crowns, but no closer estimate can be made until a plan is agreed on.

The Club for Old Prague has a special interest in the tower. They have been renting it from the city since 1927. The club claims the renovation is an attempt to evict them. Mayor Lomecký said that was not true, as their was a binding lease. The Prague 1 district plans to offer the club alternative space during the reconstruction. The club signed a 99 year lease in 1927 and renewed the lease for 100 years in 1994.

The Judith Tower is older than Charles Bridge. Construction on it began in 1159, and it was the entry earlier Judith Bridge, which was badly damaged in 1342 and replaced by Charles Bridge in 1357. It is named for Queen Judith, wife of King Vladislav II.

The basement contains fragmentary depictions of the Judith Bridge and a relief sculpture believed to be King Vladislav II and a servant.

The tower was remodeled in Renaissance style in 1591, and sgraffito illustrations, some of which still exist, were put on the facade. One of the images of the devil Baphomet, who looks oddly like Shrek from recent animated films.

Next to the Judith Tower is an arched gateway that provides access to Charles Bridge. On the other side of the gate is Higher Bridge Tower, which is open to the public. It was completed in 1464 and remodeled in the neo-Gothic style in 1879–83.

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