2017 Prague Candy Festival

Charles Square and its history I

Prague 2 - Charles Square

Karlovo náměstí (former Cattle Market) is one of the largest European squares. It was founded by Charles IV, the Emperor and King of Bohemia. Let´s explore the history of the square and its attractions.

All about: Charles Square

Foundation Charles Square and  New Town Hall in behind
On occassion of the foundation of the New Town of Prague on March 8th, 1348 when the Emperol  Charles IV. “ with good foresought and healthy advice“  issued the foundation charter, the Charles Square was one of the three central squares of the generously designed town. The construction of the New Town was doubtlessly the most extensive urbanistic action of the contemporary medieval Europe and this enormous territorial extent of Charles´ foundation plan whose dimensions were sufficient for the town for another 500 years until the 19th-century industrial revolution is still related to many questions that have not been answered by generations of historians and archivists. Charles Square covers an area of  80.550 square metres making it not just Prague´s largest but also one of the most extensive squares in Europe.

The Prague´s largest square was originally called Tržiště velké, rynk Novoměstský (Big Market Place, New Town Square) or rynk Hořejšího města (Upper Town Square), its more familiar name Dobytčí trh (Cattle Market Place) became fixed in the second half of the 15th century due to the tradition of markets with beef cattle already mentioned by the Cosmas Chronicle. Karlovo náměstí received its current name in honour of its founder on occassion of the  500th anniversary of the foundation of the New Town.

Unpreserved buildings of the Charles Square Corpus Christi Chapel (kaple Božího těla) in  Cattle Market Place (nowadays Charles Square)
The actual square had been through relatively substantial changes concerning both the territorial (in the past its northern boundary stretched to Lazarská street) and the building estates. There used to be several buildings that have not been preserved until these days directly in the square such as e.g. the completely forgotten kaple Božího těla (Corpus Christi Chapel).

This significant sacral object is closely related to Charles´ effort to found the capital city of the Holy Roman Empire and once a year the Imperial crown jewels were displayed here and the pious Emperor gathered the remains of the saints brought here on this occassion from Karlštejn. This sacrament day was so significant that the contemporary chronicles refer to about 100 thousands pilgrims in 1369 and so many pilgrims in 1398 that the town supply of bread was not sufficient.

Charles Square is part of the educational route Prague City Line Praha 2.

New Town and Cattle Market Place (nowadays Charles Square) about 1685 The originally wooden tower with a gallery was at the end of the 14th century replaced by the stone eight-sided central building with a wreath of chapels on the perimeter and the King of Bohemia Wenceslas IV in person became its patron saint. When the Hussite rebellion was over the Four Compactata (Articles) were inscribed into a stone plaque confirming that the Czechs communing under the both kinds are the true sons of the church. After the Battle of White Mountain the chapel had fallen to the Jesuits and after the abolishment of the order the chapel was finally deconsecrated in 1790 and torn down to the ground. The material such as tombstones was used for paving of the sidewalks and a large marble plaque of the main altar was even used as a table in front of a coaching inn behind the church of St. Pancras. Only the plaques with the inscribed compactata were saved and still are part of the exposition of the Museum of the capital of Prague.

New Town Market Place alias Ungelt
Another building situated in the square was the New Town´s Ungelt, a mercantile storehouse, founded during Charles IV´s rule period as the opposite of the commercial Týnský dvůr of the Old Town. After the reconstruction of its Gothic appearance a market selling salted herrings and other sea and domestic fish operated in this great brick house until the New Town´s people had a monopoly on this type of goods. After the restriction of the fish import by the Emperor Joseph II the herring shed – as it was familiarly called – lost its purpose and was sold by the town council to the military charioteership. Finally in the next century the general opinion prevailed that the building located in the northern part of the square was not representative and so it was pulled down in 1863. Twenty years prior to it, the same fate had affected also the low houses defacing mainly the centre of the still unpaved and muddy square.

Charles Square and  New Town Hall in behind Transformation into urban park
A decision concerning the further appearaance of the Charles Square was taaken in 1843 when its sourthern part was partly turned into gardens and a lime-tree alley from Ječná street to Všeobecná nemocnice was planted. After the plan to built a military training ground had been cancelled the entire square was turned into gardens in 1870 and its final appearance is related to the name of an excellent garden architect František Thomayer. Using 100 thousand of ducats he managed to modify nearly 42 thousands of square meters of gardens into appearance which had lasted until today . The park numbering 350 trees in 48 species is nowadays part of the urban monument preservation.

Jiří UNGER

Address:
Karlovo náměstí
120 00 Praha-Nové Město

Transport connection:
Subway/Underground line  B -  stop  Karlovo náměstí
Tram – 3, 4, 10, 14, 16, 18, 24, 52, 53, 54, 55 – stop  Karlovo náměstí

Transport connection:
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Barrier-free access: yes


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