Law Faculty paternoster to reopen in February

Doorless elevators that never stops are odd tourist attractions

One thing that never ceases to amaze visitors is the paternoster, a type of elevator that never stops. It has no doors, and people jump on and jump off when they reach their destination floor.

They can no longer be built, but a handful of old ones are still in operation.

One is located at the Law Faculty of Charles University, and it is currently being renovated so a new generation can experience the thrill. It will open in February after 13 years, and both the students and the public will be able to use it. The renovation will cost almost Kč 9.8 million. The Paternoster has been in the Law Faculty building since it was completed the 1930s.

Currently, there is a start date scheduled for mid-February, when a test drive will take place, and in the event of trouble-free operation the paternoster available to the public.

Dean Jan Kuklík previously told daily Mladá fronta Dnes that the paternoster is not only a historical symbol of the school, but it would also help to better move students and staff in the busy building, one of the university's largest. He added that it was a shame that newer students and staff had only heard stories about it but hadn't experienced it first hand.

The Paternoster had been shut down in 2005 due to technical issues. The funds to fix it needed to be raised, which took some time. A combination of sources was used. The bulk, some Kč 7.5 million, came from the faculty. The city contributed Kč 600,000 and the ČEZ Foundation gave Kč 500,000. Another Kč 1.4 million came from fundraising events such as the Legal Ball and Páternoster Fest. The latter was organized by law firm Elsa Praha.

“Students and teachers will undoubtedly appreciate the lift because they have been calling for it to be restarted for many years. It was also one of my top priorities after my appointment as Academic Senator in 2014,” Jakub Horký told daily Pražský deník. He is a member of the Law Faculty’s Academic Senate, an autonomous academic authority of the law school. The Senate has 13 elected members, with eight members being from academic staff and five students.

The renovation of the paternoster began in September. When completed, there will be another event where people can ride the elevator and take guided tours of the Law Faculty building.

The paternoster is made up of a series of cars suspended just behind each other on a chain that never stops. Some are still afraid to ride to the last floors in case of the car flip over. On the top floor, however, the elevator moves horizontally, so people can travel in a full circuit safely.

In Prague, you can find about 28 paternosters. They are in City Hall, several ministries, Lucerna passage, the YMCA on Na Poříčí Street, the Financial Office on Štěpánská Street and Škodův palác at Jungmannová Street. Not all are accessible to the public.

The golden age of paternosters was in the First Republic, from 1918 to '38, when they were installed in larger homes and buildings in the city center.

Paternoster means Our Father, as in the prayer. The religious-sounding name is because the chain of elevator cabins resembles rosary beads, though some say it because many people pray before stepping in. When they were invented in Britain in 1877, they were significantly faster than elevators. Eventually, elevator technology improved and people preferred the kind that stops and start rather than the paternoster.

The EU has banned building new ones for safety reasons, but old ones can remain in operation under certain conditions.

A relatively large number of paternosters exist in the Czech Republic and Germany, but they are rare elsewhere. Several unfortunately were destroyed in the 1990s and start of the 21st century, but now more people are concerned about saving and restoring the remaining ones.

The oldest one in the country is at the Czech Radio building on Vinohradská street and it was repaired in 2007–09. The one in Prague City Hall was repaired this year at a cost of Kč 3.5 million.

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