Prague Boats

The Royal Route part four – The Lesser Town

chrám sv. Mikuláše091003

After crossing the Charles Bridge the ceremonious procession passed through the Lesser Town Bridge Tower and it continued accross the Lesser Town uphill towards its goal. However, it passed a number of landmarks and matters of interest. that we need to mention.

 

pha1-mala-strana10716_003 The settlement of these parts of Prague dates back to the 9th century already when especially the merchants and tradesmen and also handiscaftsmen and administrative or clerical institutions started to settle down here. The Lesser Town used to be composed of several smaller settlements in the past such as Obora, Nebovidky, Rybáře, Trávník or Úvoz. In 1257 The Bohemian king Přemysl Otakar II. granted the urban status to the Lesser Town. New streets were founded and also a big rectangular square which became the central part of this Prague quarter. However, the major part of the buildings was destroyed during the fire in 1541. At present, significant national organizations reside here and the Lesser Town has become one of the most popular tourist attractions due to a great amout of landmarks.

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Mostecká ulice (Mostecká street) pha1-mostecka-ulice10716_001
After passing through the bridge gate we will get into Mostecká street which is lined by gorgeous historical houses. On the left side you will be welcomed by Saský dům (Saxon House) where a very significant pub and also a bookshop and stationery store used to be in the 19th century. You will find the noted Prague church of the Virgin Mary under the Chain close to the house. There si a pink house U Velryby (House at the Whale), U Černého medvěda (House at the Black Bear) and U Salvátora (at Salvator) standing opposite the Saxon house. There are more important houses in Mostecká street, e.g. U Zlatého řetězu (House at the Golden Chain), U Černého orla (House at the Black Eagle) and furthermore U Tří červených srdcí (House of the Three Red Hearts) and Kounický palác (Kounic Palace).

Malostranské náměstí (Lesser Town Square) – panoramatic picture
(drive your mouse over the picture – if you move the mouse pointer the picture will start to move)

 

Malostranské náměstí (Lesser Town Square) pha1-malostranske-namesti10716_002
Now we will move on and get to the Lesser Town Square, the central point of the Lesser Town. The square can be divided in two parts – the upper and lower part. These parts are separated from each other by the Baroque church of St. Nicholas. The dominating feature of the square is furthermore also the Holy Trinity plague column with the statues of Virgin Mary and Bohemian saints which was placed here in 1717 as acknowledgements for disappearing of the plague epidemy. In the place of the current Sternberg Palace the fire burst on June 2nd, which not only did destroy two thirds of the Lesser Town houses but also ran high to Prague Castle. The square used to serve as a market area and also for all kinds of social events. Besides the markets a gallows or a pillory used to stand here, too.

Significant landmarks pha1-chram-sv-mikulase091003
The square is lined by a row of significant buildings and palaces. The dominant position is taken by the church of St. Nicholas and the neighbouring Profesní dům (the House for the Professed). There is also Grömlingovský palác (Grömling Palace) standing in the centre of the square which is exceptional due its facade decoration with the sculptures of the mythological figures. The house is said to have been a renowned coffee house since 1874. Another dominant construction is the Smiřický Palace which is currently being used for the purposes of the Czech Parliament. The neighbouring Sternberg Palace, where the significant Czech scholars such as Josef Dobrovský or František Palacký used to meet, is important, too. The palace is neighbouring on the Lesser Town Council House, the third Prague council house in sequence. However, concerts and theatre performances instead of councils take place here these days. There used to be a brewery nextdoor in the house U Flavínu (At the Flavins) and the neighbouring Kaiserštejn (Kaiserstein) Palace was famous because many celebrities used to live there. Besides the opera singer Ema Destinová the opera singer M. Sittová-Petzoldová and the geologist a paleontologist Joachim Barrande used to live there. If we continue around the perimeter of the square we should notice the corner house At the Golden Key and the opposite house At the Golden Grape.

Now we will slowly transfer to the other part of the square where on the left we can take a look at the house At the Red Deer, furthermore the house At the Three Golden Stars or the house At the Golden Lion. Right here a renowned winehouse used to be in the Renaissance period which was popular with the great people of that time such as Tycho Brahe and Johannes Kepler. By the way, exactly here the first Prague pawn shop was opened. Another important building is the corner Hartigovský palác (Hartig Palace), the present residence of the Musical Faculty of the Academy of Performing Arts. However, the extensive Lichtenstein Palace is dominant.

Nerudova ulice (Nerudova street) pha1-nerudova-ulice110716_002
The street got the name Nerudova because of Jan Neruda who used to live here in the house At the two Suns. The street became inspiration for many of his works, for instance The Lesser Town Tales. However, the local gorgeous historical houses are exceptional. You can view their well-preserved ancient decorated doors and the historical house signs such as the splendid statues, reliefs and paintings. The paintings are mostly placed at the house entrances. These paintings were used the same purpose in the past for as the house numbers nowadays. The houses usually carried their names according to them. The first Prague bus line operated in Nerudova street from March 3rd, 1908 until November 17th, 1909 – that means basically the first bus line in the Czech lands.

Palaces of Nerudova street
Furthermore, you can see the Baroque Morzinský palác (Morzin Palace). This two storey residence of the Morzin family excels in its weather mouldings and the balcony which is supported by two heraldic statues of Moors. It is interesting that the first Prague Protestant oratory was established in this palace. There was an extensive reconstruction here according to the projects of Jan Santini Aichl between 1713-1714. The facade of the palace is decorated by the sculptures of the Moors that come from the workshop of Ferdinand Maxmilián Brokof.

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However, the most monumental structure of Nerudova street is the palace originally called Kolovratský house Nr. 214. This residence has been called according to its new houseowners Thun-Hohenštejnský palác (Thun-Hohenstein Palace) since 1768. Its origins date back to the years 1721-1726 and it was probably also one of the projects of Jan Santini Aichl. The palace is currently occupied by the Italian ambassy. Furthermore, there is also the church of the Virgin Mary Angelic and of St. Kajetán to be found here. There is a curiosity – the church has no towers. It was built betweeen 1711-1717. There used to stand a monastery at that time, too, where the first public theatre performance on February 22nd, 1835 took place. The theatre had the capacity of one hundred and eighty seat places and the leading persona of the Kajetán Theatre was Josef Kajetán Tyl.

Some more significant landmarks pha1-nerudova-ulice110716_013
Nerudova street is, besides the already mentioned landmarks, framed by the houses At the Red Lion, At the Golden Crown, At the Donkey in the Cradle, At the Three Red Deers, At the Red Eagle, At the Red Lamb, At the Golden Eagle, At the Red Wheel, furthermore the house At the Golden Lion, At the Black Madonna, At the Green Lobster, At the White Swan or the corner Golden Star. For instance, the house At the Three Violins was occupied by three families of Prague significant violin players in the past. And the house At the Golden Cup was occupied by a goldsmith family .

The Royal Procession Coronation procession - Lesser Town Sqaure (czech: Malostranské náměstí)
Another stop during the coronation procession was in front of the church of St. Nicholas. Here the new monarchs were already awaited to be received by the Jesuit fathers and their wards. Then the procession moved on through Nerudova street where the king was welcomed by the inhabitants of the Hradčany quarter. Afterwards the procession continued uphill towards Prague Castle.

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