Paternoster to be restored

Rare type of elevator will be put back in service at Law Faculty

Prague has some 30 paternosters in official buildings and schools, and efforts are being made to repair and preserve them. A paternoster is a type of doorless elevator that doesn't stop. People have to jump on and jump off. Students at the Law Faculty of Charles University are among those helping to restore the one in their building.

The paternoster with a dozen cabins has been out of operation since 2008. Dean Jan Kuklík 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 faculties had only heard stories about it but haven't experienced it first hand.

Repairs, however, are quite expensive, and could reach up toKč 8.5 million. A public collection raised some Kč 800,000 for the purpose. Students stepped in with a music festival called Paternoster Fest. So far some Kč 5 million has been raised and work on the paternoster and other parts of the Law Faculty building could start by the end of this year.

Some other paternosters can be seen by the public and today are a bit of a hidden tourist attraction. The golden of paternosters was in the First Republic, from 1918 to '38, when they were installed in larger homes and buildings in the city center. They can still be found 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.

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 stop 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.

A paternoster in an office building on Vodičková Street was repaired five years ago. 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 is currently being repaired and should be finished in April. The repairs should cost Kč 3.5 million.

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