Sunday, May 20, 2018

Elegant Elbe: Prague 1b (5/20/2018)

Sunday, May 20, 2018 (continued)
We continued around the the Old Town Square/Staroměstské náměstí.
Old Town Square with Church of St Nicholas and the Hus Monument
Old Town Square (12//24/1981
House at the Stone Bell/Dům U Kamenného zvonu,
the only building in Prague to
maintain its original Gothic appearance
The Old Stone Bell
Church of Our Lady before Týn/
Kostel Matky Boží před Týnem (present church from
1390-1450s with additions and alterations) is
partially  hidden behind a Romanesque
arcaded building with an 18C façade 
On the façade of Our Lady before Týn is a large golden medallion of the Virgin Mary that was made in 1626 by melting down a huge golden chalice (the symbol of the Hussites who took control of the church in the early 15C) that previously occupied the spot. The church was taken back by the Catholics after the Battle of White Mountain in 1620. One principle of the Hussites was that everyone should be able to partake of both bread and wine at communion, where at the time only the Catholic priests had the wine, thus the symbol of a chalice.
Although the church was closed, we could enter the vestibule and see the nave with many side chapels and the 1649 Baroque paintings of the Virgin Mary on the main altar. Also noted the double-eagle crest of the Habsburgs in the flag of the statue of a knight on the altar.
Took a detour behind the church.
House at the Golden Ring/Dům U Zlatého prstenu,
with preserved Gothic entrance portal (KSS)
Entrance to 11C Ungelt Courtyard/Týnský dvůr-Ungelt,
which was once the center of international trade
Ungelt Courtyard
Koh-i-noor shop in the courtyard (KSS)
Dragon marionette in the courtyard (KSS)
Basilica of St James/Kostel svatého Jakuba Většího
(original built 1232 at the Minorite Monastery
founded under King Wenceslas I and used as a
Royal Cathedral; after a fire in 1689 it was
rebuilt in Baroque style
The Basilica of St James was locked up, so we missed seeing the mummified arm of a thief who dared to attempt to steal the jewels from the Madonna Pietatis on the high altar. Legend has it that it was the Virgin herself who grabbed the arm of the thief, and another story is that the church was protected by the Guild of Butchers (with their butcher knives...).
"Salon of Intellectual Gifts" at Malá Štupartská #5 (KSS)
Back to the Old Town Square, where across the S end are numerous Romanesque and Gothic buildings once identified by façade decorations, rather than house numbers.
On the right is #16/Štorch House (Neo-Renaissance,
the stork painting is under the top window) with
the late 19C painting of St Wenceslas on horseback
by Mikuláš Aleš, and a steepled bay window
#17/At the Stone Ram (early 16C), sometimes called
At the Unicorn because the ram has one horn;
Franz Kafka attended Berta Fanta's literary salon at
the Stone Ram with others who wrote in German,
and Albert Einstein lectured here
#20/At the Golden Unicorn with
Virgin & Child in golden frame, where composer
Bedřich Smetana opened his first music school
A panda and polar bear in the square
Preparing to become a bear
At the Ox named after its 15C owner Ochs,
with early 18C corner statue of St Anthony of Padua
Old-Town Town Hall (est 1338 in a
patrician house, tower added 1364) 
Old-Town Town Hall (12/24/1981)

Alas, the great 15C Astronomical Clock
on the Old Town Hall was being restored, so
what you see is painted on the scaffolding screen

Astronomical Clock (12/24/1981)
The story is when master clockmaker Hanuš/Jan Z Růže rebuilt the Astronomical Clock in 1490, the town councilors had him blinded so he could not recreate his masterpiece for others. The clock has since been repaired multiple times and the mechanism was perfected in 1552-1572 by Jan Táborský.
The Old Town Hall includes the adjoining buildings,
this one with a Gothic doorway
Also part of the Old Town Hall, this building has
the Old Town coat of arms
Old Town coat of arms (adopted in 1784
for the whole city), and the inscription
"Prague, Capital of the Kingdom"
At the Minute [very small]/Dům U Minuty, once called
At the White Lion because of the lion sculpture
on the corner, was where Franz Kafka lived
 from 1889-1896, and where his three sisters were born
At the Minute was rebuilt in high-Renaissance style c. 1564, and the sgraffito was added in 1610, depicting rulers from the Habsburg house, Greek mythology as well as references to Biblical and Renaissance legends.
Sgraffito is a technique of wall decor, produced by applying layers of plaster tinted in contrasting colors, then scraping away the top layer in such a way that a design or picture emerges.
Another detour.
This photo was taken because of Hard Rock Café,
but it really should be of U Rotta, a former
ironmonger's shop decorated with
19C paintings by Mikuláš Aleš
Okay, this is the site of the Franz Kafka House/Kafkův dům,
the birthplace of the Bohemian Jewish writer
See the posters of Franz Kafka at Náměstí Franze Kafky #1? (KSS)
Back in the Old Town Square.
Festival-like booths set up with food, drink, and souvenirs
Trdelník, a cake made on a spit and grilled;
it is said to have originated in Prague, and is
now popularly served with ice cream
Church of St Nicholas/Chrám svatého Mikuláše
(present church built 1735 by Kilian Ignaz Dientzenhofer
in Baroque style, with the façade covered
with statues by Antonin Braun
During World War II, the Church of St Nicholas was used as a garrison church. A Czech colonel took the opportunity to restore it with troops and artists who otherwise would be sent to the front.
Although closed for a concert, we did get a peek at the
chandelier in the shape of the Tsar's crown, added
when the church was Russian Orthodox from 1870-1914
Dalmation horses? Perhaps a Danish Knabstrupper breed
A bit off center in Old Town Square is the Jan Hus Monument/
Pomník mistra Jana Husa, for the religious reformer and
Czech hero/symbol of Czech nationalism; the 1915 monument by
Ladislav Šaloun was unveiled on the 500th anniversary of Hus's death
Jan Hus, a Roman Catholic priest, was a Czech theologian and rector of the University of Prague, who is considered the first church reformer. He was burned at the stake for heresy in 1415. Hus was influenced by the writings of John Wycliff, who denounced the privileged status of Catholic clergy and translated the Bible into the local language. Nearly a century before Martin Luther, Hus spoke out against indulgences and the immorality of the clergy, including the papacy. He condemned the Crusades, declaring no sword should be taken up in the name of the Church. Hus also began translating theological texts into Czech, and made improvements to standardize the Czech language.
After his execution, his followers, the Hussites, revolted and fought the papal forces in the Hussite Wars. With the 1436 Basel Compacts, the papacy allowed Bohemians to practice their own version of Christianity. This lasted until 1620, when the Protestants were defeated at the Battle of White Mountain and Bohemia came under the rule of the Habsburgs, who forced the return to Roman Catholicism.
The monument includes victorious Hussite warriors on one side, and
Protestants who were expelled after the Battle of White Mountain
on the other, as well as a young mother symbolizing Czech nationalism;
one inscription quotes Hus, stating "Pravda vitězí/Truth prevails"
Or more specifically, "let all the people know the truth." We could use some truth-telling again.
We left the Old Town Square.
More Art Nouveau at Karpova #9?
Karpova #9 detail
Stopped in a small grocery for some drinks and snacks to take back to the hotel. Noticed cannabis lollipops and other such items for sale.
The escalators for the Prague Metro
Old Town/Staroměstská Metro station
Back at the Hotel Meran, we opened all the windows to try to cool off! Although the high temperature today was 68 degrees F, it felt hotter.
Next: Prague 2a.

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