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Charles Square (Karlovo náměstí)

The largest historical square in Prague was established by Charles VI in 1348 in connection with the foundation of Prague's New Town. Among the oldest buildings on the square are the New Town Hall building, dating back to the time of Charles IV, and the Mladota Palace (Faust House); other significant buildings include the Early Baroque Church of St Ignatius and the neo-Renaissance Czech Technical University building. The majority of the square consists of a park with seven sculptures and a Baroque fountain.

Charles Square (Karlovo náměstí), Karlovo náměstí, Praha 2 - Nové Město, 120 00

Object history

After the foundation of the New Town (Nové Město) by Charles IV (Karel IV) the place was called the Big Market (Latin: Forum Magnum), the New Town Square (Latin: Circus Novae Civitas) or the Upper Town Square. The importance of the square was supported by location of the New Town Hall (Novoměstská radnice) in its northern part. In the 15th century it was already known as the Cattle Market (Dobytčí trh). In the years between 1393 and 1791 in the centre of square used to stand the Divine Body Chapel with a small cemetery where Jan Kampanus Vodňanský was buried. It was abolished and demolished in 1784 under Joseph II. Before the construction of the chapel there was a tower where every second Friday after Easter imperial crown jewels and relics of saints were shown, which attracted many visitors from all the country and abroad. In the southern part of the square there was a prison hospital and thirteen old houses. According to the legend, by one of them there was a big marble stone with a carved cross, death’s head and year 1627. The stone is supposed to mark the place of executions where condemned spirituals and nobles were secretly executed at nights. Supposedly, the first execution in above mentioned year was carried out on several protestant priests who plotted a conspiracy against the emperor. In the northern part of the square stood a herring stall where dried fish, herrings and salt were sold. Before its demolition in 1862, it was known as Salle Romaine, which in French means the Roman room, and rented to various artistic groups, circuses and amateur companies.

In the middle of the 19th century the square we renamed as the Charles Square. Earl Charles Chotek is credited for improving the appearance of a muddy area, preserving its integrity and the first tree planting. In 1876, works on the square landscaping in the English style were completed according to the architect Frederick Wünscher’s design. The work was led by the top Czech gardener Josef Fiala. In the years between 1884 and 1885 the plan of František Thomayer, a new director of the Prague gardens and parks, was implemented. He architecturally united both parts of the square and planted the outer alley while using particularly resistant sophora japonica, silver maple, bur oak and London plane.

 

A monumental plane in the central part of the park is the oldest and supposedly comes from the previous arrangement by the architect Wünscher. In the centers of two major parts of the park there are two water reservoirs. Up to now the park composes one entirety in spite of being crossed by two busy streets (Ječná and Žitná Streets). In the northern part of the park in front of the courthouse there is a memorial of Vítězslav Hálek with a fountain by Bohuslav Schnirch from 1881. Near the New Town Hall there is a Baroque fountain with a statue of St. Joseph by Mathias Jäckel from the year 1698. In both corners of major parts of the park next to Resslova Street there are two underground exits. Near the building of Czech Technical University stands a statue of Eliška Krásnohorská (by Karla Vobišová, 1931) and across the street a memorial of Karolina Světlá (by Gustav Zoula, 1910). In front of the Church of St. Ignatius stands a memorial of Jan Evangelista Purkyně (by Oskar Kozák and Vladimír Štrunc, 1961) and finally against the Faust House there is a memorial of the botanist Benedikt Roesl (by Čeněk Vosmík and Gustav Zoula, 1898).

 

Charles Square is considered to be the largest square in Prague with the largest number of sculptures. According to Emanuel Poche, its area is 80.500 square meters (8.05 hectares). According to the publication The Gardens and Parks of Prague (Pražské zahrady a parky, 2000), the area of park itself is 3.85 hectares and with perimeter sidewalks and parking areas 4.63 hectares.

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