THE CHARLES BRIDGE

The bridge across the Vltava was a crucial element in the development of Prague. The oldest bridge was built out of wood in the year 935, which was also the same year that St. Václav was murdered. The need for a stone bridge was highly promoted by the bishop, Daniel, who served the king, Vladislav II. His wife, Judith of Thuringia, was also a big supporter of the project for the bridge and therefore, when the bridge was finished in 1172 it was named after her, The Bridge of Queen Judith. It was the second oldest stone bridge in central Europe.
The bridge was severely damaged during the floods in 1342 and instead, it was replaced with a new stone bridge, which was built under the patronage of Emperor Charles IV. The bridge was given the name, Charles Bridge, in the year 1870 under the influence of Czech writer, Karel Havlíček Borovský.
The construction of the bridge started in 1357, on the time, which precisely set after astrological research. The bridge was finished in the 15th century. The main builders of the bridge were most-likely Petr Parléř and the mason of Prague, Oto. The bridge is built of sandstone blocks and it consists of sixteen arcs, it is 516m long, 10m wide and 13m high. It is also slightly convex upstream, so that it is impervious to natural disasters.
Originally, the bridge was decorated with just one simple crucifix. However, later on, especially in the Baroque period of the 18th century, it was decorated with unique gallery of sculptures that completed the appearance of the bridge. There is also one older bronze statue of St. Jan Nepomucký from 1683. It is located in the middle of the bridge and on the right side it faces the Small Side. The statue commemorates the death of Jan Nepomucký, who was a Vicar General of the Archbishop, Jan z Jenštejna. The martyr legend states that Jan Nepomucký died because he refused to tell the King the confessional secret of the Queen. The truth is simpler, Jan fell victim to the conflicts of power between the King and the Archbishop. This sculpture is hard to miss because the bronze relief is touched by the tourists in the hopes that it will bring them luck. These spots are shined by the hands of the tourists and they are impossible to miss.
The most valuable sculpture of Charles Bridge is considered to be the St. Luitgarda by Matthias Bernard Braun and it is the twelfth statue on the left side, towards the Lesser Town. Other famous sculptors, who contributed to the decoration of the bridge were, Maxmilán Brokoff and Matěj Jäckl. There are thirty sculptures on the bridge and the youngest one is from the beginning of the 20th century. It is a statue of preachers of St. Cyril and Methodius. They brought Christianity and education to Moravia and Bohemia in the language that local people understood. Near the end of the bridge, on the left side facing the Lesser Town, there is a statue of the Knight Bruncvik and his loyal lion. The legend says that Bruncvik´s miraculous sword, which he used to collect glory around the world, is hidden somewhere in the construction of the bridge. Another legend says that, when Bohemia will have the hardest time St. Vaclav will lead the mythical knights of Blaník to save Bohemia. His horse will stumble on the bridge and he will mark the spot where the sword is hidden.

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