Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Prague Castle

Monday, 6/29/2015  
Morning saw us boarding a coach for our drive to Prague Castle--the largest castle compound in the world according to the Guiness  Book of Records.  The first fortifications were started as early as 870 ACE. St. Vitus Cathedral, which is inside the palace grounds,  was begun in the 14th century, but was not entirely finished until 1929.  The environs were inhabited over the years by many royals, in later years by the Nazis and Communists,  and now by the democratic government of the Czech Republic.  Click to see  Prague Castle Map

We approached the outer perimeter through a gate and down a walk with gardens and a piece of the old Stag Moat on the left and the riding school and some other buildings on the right.



Looking down into the old moat.

The main gate at the end of this walk was guarded by soldiers in attractive powder blue uniforms.




We passed by the guards and entered the second courtyard. It contained a large fountain, an ancient well, and the handsome circular Chapel of the Holy Cross--now a gift shop.



To the left of the old well was a passage that led to the third courtyard.


Once through that tunnel you are brought face to face with the bulk of  St. Vitus Cathedral.  The photo below was taken from the outer perimeter and you can see the church in its entirety with the two large Gothic towers and just the tip of the great South Renaissance  tower peeking out from behind the roof.

                                 You enter the cathedral through massive doors in the richly detailed Gothic west front.





Impressive gargoyles monitor your passage with dramatic intensity. 

The nave captures all of the things associated with the very best of Gothic architecture. 



            The windows are stunning as well.




 
 
Outside again we walked around the building to take in the more massive blocky renaissance South Tower. It contains the largest bell in the country.
 

Once again there was also a large impressive clock to appreciate, even if without cute mechanical saints marching around.




The tower base containing what is called the Golden Portal features some interesting window treatments  

 

and some colorful mosaics 










An iron fence pretty much closes off this south entrance now, but what struck my fancy were the charming little sculptural depictions of common folk at work or play that were affixed to the bars of the fence. Three are pictured below.

Two butchers

A male and female field hand
and a young flute playing swain serenading a female who may be dancing or just languishing while she listens. 
Another nice sculptural piece is this St. George slaying the Dragon. 



Various old and newer Presidential Palace buildings, some occupied by museums, occupy the space on the south side of the cathedral square.   


 
 

The 18th century part of the palace enclave built during the reign of Maria Theresa is now the location of many current governmental functions and includes the official residence of the president of the Czech Republic.


Our tour never got us around to the scenic front of the Palace that overlooks the city and the Vitava River.  I had to filch this shot from the internet in order to get a sense of what we missed.

 At the furthest end of the courtyard beyond the cathedral choir is the colorful Basilica of St. George. This is the second oldest church in Prague and dates from 920.  Although it has had many alterations and additions since, the oldest parts are in the Romanesque style.

 
Our time was up. It was nowhere near sufficient to see even half of what was available to explore. Allow a good deal more time if you are on your own rather than in a tour.  















 

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