Charles Bridge to be repaired again

The landmark is in very poor condition despite a renovation 10 years ago

Charles Bridge will soon start a renovation that will take two decades to complete. In a recent technical evaluation of bridges, the historic tourist attraction was found to be in a very poor technical state, ranking six on a scale of seven, with seven being a danger of collapse. Work will start at the end of 2019 or start of 2020.

The bridge underwent an extensive renovation between 2008 and ’10 that caused some controversy. UNESCO's World Heritage Committee criticized it for being poorly planned. The bridge is part of the city’s UNESCO's World Heritage Site and is a protected landmark.

City Hall will examine the state of the bridge’s stone blocks and start with repairs to wooden ice guards and the 14th arch, which goes over Kampa on the Malá Strana side, where the joints between the stones are crumbling and there are some cracks.

Then the rest of the arches will be repaired, which will take about 20 years. Each arch will cost Kč 45 million to 60 million to repair. The work will be done in an unobtrusive manner that should not interfere with the view of the bridge.

The city is looking for a source of suitable stones. One of the criticisms of the previous renovation was that the new stones don’t match the old ones.

The wooden ice guards, those logs that jut out of the river in front of the arches, will be replaced first. The current ones are 20 years old but were made of poor quality wood. The new ice guards will be made from Czech trees.

The pillars on the bridge are in good condition. They were examined in 2016.

Construction on Charles Bridge started in 1357 on the 9th day of the 7th month at 5:31, making the numerical palindrome 135797531. The time was selected by astrologers, as Emperor Charles IV was a strong believer in superstition. The original architect was a master named Otlín. Petr Parléř, who also worked on Prague Castle, took over when Otlín died.

The bridge replaced the Judith Bridge built 1158–1172, which had been badly damaged by a flood in 1342.

A story says that Emperor Charles IV called for eggs to be used to help to strengthen the cement. Research on the cement conducted during the last renovation has had mixed results. Some scientists claimed in 2008 that there were traces of egg protein, but in 2010 the same university said these results were a mistake.

It was the only bridge across the river in Prague until 1841. The statues on the bridge were not part of the original design but were added starting in the 17th century.

The bridge has been damaged several times in floods. A flood in 1432 damaged three pillars. In 1496, the third arch from the Old Town side collapsed during efforts to reinforce a support pillar. Repairs were finished in 1503.

On September 2–5, 1890, another flood damaged it. Logs and debris caused three arches and two pillars to collapse, while others were partly damaged. Two statues fell into the river. One was replaced with a copy, the other with a new statue of a different saint. Repairs lasted for two years and the bridge was reopened on November 19, 1892.

After repairs, all original stones are stored for future use. A warehouse in Prague 8 has some 500 stones from when the railings were repaired.

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