Prague City Gallery – House at the Stone Bell (Galerie hlavního města Prahy – Dům U Kamenného zvonu)
The building, situated on Old Town Square, is one of the most important examples of Gothic architecture in Prague. For many years, this unique structure was hidden behind a Baroque facade. After its removal, the building was one again reconstructed to its original Gothic appearance. Since 1988, the building has served as an exhibition space for the Prague City Gallery. It also features a bookstore, as well as a café at the rear of the building.
- January – December
- Tue, Wed, Thu, Fri, Sat, Sun
- 10.00 – 20.00
- basic 120 CZK
- reduced 60 CZK
One of the oldest and most remarkable monuments in Prague, uniquely preserved house represent exceptional Gothic palace architecture of a tower type. Its front used to be one of the most beautiful in Europe and documents the exhibitory character of the town at the time of Charles IV. Revelation of the house’s Gothic front was a surprising sensation, as the state of conservation and the complexity of composition surpassed all expectations. Rich decorations on the house date back to an era before Parléř, around a quarter of the 14th century. The name of the house At the White Bell or At the Stone Bell first appears in 1417, and came into existence thanks to a stone bell, the copy of which has been preserved on the corner of the house.
The house was built in two constructional stages (second half of the 13th century and first half of the 14th century). It was probably built as a palace for the royal family, especially for Elisabeth of Bohemia (Eliška Přemyslovna). Although there are no documents from that time, the fragments of sculptures discovered during a reconstruction indicate that. Altogether, about 13 thousand fragments of stone decorations were found. The restorer Jiří Blažej tried to put together at least larger parts of statues, which were probably placed on brackets in niches on the facade between the windows, always four on each floor. By putting the fragments together, four statues were outlined more clearly, two of them sitting - a man and a woman, and two of them standing, perhaps the knights. It seems they could have depicted John of Bohemia (Jan Lucemburský), Elisabeth of Bohemia, and their two sons, Charles and John Henry. Also a head of a lion was found with glass eyes, a head of a wild man, and other parts of decorative sculptures - all a top quality work, which used to be richly and brightly polychromed.
The oldest written reference to the house dates back to 1363, when the object was already owned by the burgess. It belonged to a goldsmith named Pecold of Cheb, and later an Old Town council member Jan Ortlin called Domšík (who appears as a character named Janek from the bell (Janek od zvonu) in the novel New epochal journey of Mr. Brouček (Nový epochální výlet pana Broučka) by Svatopluk Čech). Old Prague legends (Staré pověsti pražské) by Adolf Wenig state that supposedly St. Ludmila lived here, the grandmother of St. Václav, when she came to Prague from the castle Tetín, that there was a chapel underground, in which a priest secretly served a mass for St. Ludmila at a time when Christians were persecuted by the ruling daughter-in-law of Ludmila, Princess Drahomíra. The stone bell on the corner of the house supposedly commemorates a rebellion and a victorious battle with the pagans to which its sound called. But maybe the bell commemorates a historical event from 1310 instead, when the parson of Elisabeth of Bohemia named Berenger used the bell to indicate to John of Bohemia that he can come for Elisabeth with his army and occupy the Old Town without violence in this way. Prince Charles probably lived in this house of his mother after 1333 when he returned from France, as the Zbraslav Chronicle (Zbraslavská kronika) states.
The originally Gothic appearance of the house was changed by further reconstructions, namely the Baroque one in 1685. In 1899, the house got a new, pseudo-Baroque facade. Following a constructional research in 1961 it was decided that the house would get back its original Gothic appearance. The actual reconstruction, projected by ing. arch. A. Charvátová and ing. arch. V. Pelzbauer, took place in the years 1975 - 87. The work was very demanding and slow, as it was necessary to be careful so that no precious pieces were destroyed. An extensive stonemasons’ plant was established at the Old Town Square (Staroměstské náměstí), which boldly matched that of the 14th century. Fragments of stonemason decorations as much as 6 centuries old were deposited in the cellar premises. During the reconstruction, the finest stonemason work prevailed, when the old decorative fragments were included in the new parts without risking their damage. The reconstruction abolished the more recent three storeys and renewed the original two, the Baroque roof was replaced with the original chiselled one, the bricked-in Gothic windows were restored, many disintegrating stones were replaced, the original paintings were restored. Painted wooden ceilings were discovered and restored in the halls on both the floors, fragments of wall paintings were preserved in the discovered chapel on the 1st floor as well as in the chapel on the ground floor (the painting Christ the Sufferer under the baldachin).
The House at the Stone Bell was festively opened on the 29th February 1988, it was given over to the Gallery of the Capital City of Prague, and it serves as a venue for exhibitions and concerts. In the underground parts, there is a small lapidary with preserved architectural and graphical fragments of the original building.