Showing posts with label Prague attractions. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Prague attractions. Show all posts

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Prague Loreto

Loreta or the Prague Loreto is a remarkable complex of buildings in Hradčany consisting of a cloister, the church of the Lord’s Birth, a Holy Hut and clock tower with a world famous chime. It is a large pilgrimage destination, established more than 300 years ago.The Prague Loreto is an artistic and historical monument, as well as a Baroque pilgrimage site the renown of which in the city can perhaps be compared only with that of the wonder-working statue of the Infant of Prague. Construction of the Prague Loreto Santa Casa began on 3 June 1626, at the instigation of Baroness Benigna Katharina von Lobkowitz. The Loreto arose gradually over the course of the 17th and 18th centuries; the interiors were partly renovated in the 19th century; and in the 1950s and 1960s, a new treasury was built, accessible to the public.The pilgrimage site is conceived as a self-contained complex of buildings around a central Santa Casa, with an oblong, two-storey arcade courtyard (unlike the Italian Loreto, where the Casa is inside the pilgrimage church). The present-day Church of the Nativity of Our Lord and the two chapels were only shallow alcoves with altars in the original design from the 1660s. As the renown of the Loreto grew, the number of visitors increased and it was necessary to enlarge the liturgical spaces of the pilgrimage site. Thus, gradually (by the end of the 17th century) the larger oblong chapels were built in the corners of the courtyard; subsequently, both chapels on the transversal axis were enlarged and the Chapel of the Nativity of Our Lord reconstructed in several phases into a more spacious church.
Christoph Dientzenhofer began the two-phase reconstruction of the church and designed the western façade of the entire complex, which was finished, after his death in 1722, by his son Kilián Ignác, with minor alterations. (The latter is also the author of the design of the terrace with balustrades in front of the façade.) In 1735, Christoph’s stepson, J. G. Aichbauer, finished the final reconstruction of the church, financed (as was most of the interior decoration) by Countess Maria Margarethe Waldstein, née Czernin von Chudenice.The church was consecrated on 7 June 1737, but work on the interior continued until the end of 1738. The principal altar is decorated with an alleged replica of a Renaissance painting of the Adoration (perhaps from the circle of F. Lippi), with a wrought rocaille frame and sculptures of SS Joseph, Joachim, God the Father and the angels, by M. Schönherr (1701-1743). The two side altars of St Felicissimus and St Marcia, with the large reliquary display cases, are located in the chancel. The side altars in the nave have superb Rococo paintings of St Apollonia and St Agatha, by Anton Kern (1709-1747), supplemented at the sides by equally impressive sculptural pairs of cherubs by Richard Prachner.
Santa Casa
The conceptual and actual centre of the complex is the vera effigies, the ‘true form’, of the Italian model (in the Baroque account, the ‘sacrum’ of a cult object was transferred through its external form). The history of the entire pilgrimage site began with the laying of the foundation stone of the house on 3 June 1626. The first patron and founder was Benigna Katharine von Lobkowitz; she chose an Italian in Vienna, G. B. Orsi (died 1641) as the architect of the Casa. The Prague Archbishop, Cardinal Ernst Adalbert Count von Harrach, consecrated the building on 25 March 1631. Originally, the outer walls of the house were decorated only with paintings; it was not until the 1660s and 1670s that the relief panelling of the walls in stucco, made, for the most part, by the Italian G. B. Cometa (1620-1687), was built at the expense of Countess Elizabeth Apollonia Kolowrat. The iconographic program of the decoration (consistently derived from the Italian model) includes reliefs from the life of the Virgin Mary, with an emphasis on the childhood of Christ (the cycle begins on the northern side, turned towards the Chapel of St Francis, and continues counter-clockwise): northern wall – the Nativity of Our Lady, the Betrothal of Our Lady; western wall – the Annunciation, the Virgin Mary visiting St Elizabeth and the Holy Family at the registry in Bethlehem; southern wall – the Nativity of Our Lord, the Adoration of the Shepherds and the Adoration of the Magi; eastern wall – the Death of Our Lady and the Translation of the Holy House from Nazareth to Europe. The relief bays are separated by niches with sculptures of the Old Testament prophets (in the lower storey) and the pagan Sibyls (in the upper storey) – that is, those who foretold the birth of Jesus and the Virgin Mary.The interior is divided into two parts in a traditional manner by a silver (partly wooden) grille partition, with an altar in front. In the smaller space the wonder-working statue of Our Lady of Loreto is situated; made of linden wood, it copies the no-longer extant original made of cedar wood, including the darkening of the original material in the incarnadine parts. The sculpture rests in a rich, wrought silver frame from 1671, with the coat-of-arms of the donor, Countess Elizabeth Apollonia Kolowrat, née Tilly. Most of the objects in the Santa Casa (the reliquaries, obelisks, candlesticks, lamps and liturgical instruments) date from the 17th century. F. Kunz made the artificial fragments of frescoes on the rustic brick masonry of the house. 

Karlštejn Castle

Karlštejn Castle 
(Czech: Hrad Karlštejn;) is a large Gothic castle founded 1348 AD by Charles IV, Holy Roman Emperor-elect and King of Bohemia. The castle served as a place for safekeeping the Imperial Regalia as well as the Bohemian/Czech crown jewels, holy relics, and other royal treasures. Located about 30 km southwest of Prague above the village of the same name, it is one of the most famous and most frequently visited castles in the Czech Republic.
Founded in 1348, the construction works were directed by the later Karlštejn burgrave Vitus of Bítov, but there are no records of the builder himself. Some historian speculate that Matthias of Arras may be credited with being the architect, but he had already died by 1352. It is likely that there was not a progressive and cunning architect, but a brilliant civil engineer who dextrously and with a necessary mathematical accuracy solved technically exigent problems that issued from the emperor's ideas and requests. Instead, Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV personally supervised the construction works and interior decoration. A little known fact is that the Emperor hired Palestinian labour for the remaining work. Construction was finished nearly twenty years later in 1365 when the "heart" of the treasury – the Chapel of the Holy Cross situated in the Great tower – was consecrated. Following the outbreak of the Hussite Wars, the Imperial Regalia were evacuated in 1421 and brought via Hungary to Nuremberg. In 1422, during the siege of the castle, Hussite attackers used biological warfare when Prince Sigismund Korybut used catapults to throw dead (but not plague-infected) bodies and 2000 carriage-loads of dung over the walls, apparently managing to spread infection among the defenders. Later, the Bohemian crown jewels were moved to the castle and were kept there for almost two centuries, with some short breaks. The castle underwent several reconstructions: in late Gothic style after 1480, in Renaissance style in the last quarter of the 16th century. In 1487 the Big tower was damaged by fire and during the 16th century there were several adaptations. During the Thirty Years' War in 1619, the coronation jewels and the archive were brought to Prague, and in 1620 the castle was turned over to Ferdinand II, Holy Roman Emperor. After having been conquered in 1648 by Swedes, it fell in disrepair. Finally, a neo-Gothic reconstruction was carried out by Josef Mocker between 1887 and 1899, giving the castle its present look. The nearby village was founded during the construction of the castle and bore its name until it was renamed to Buda in the wake of the Hussite Wars. Renamed to Budňany in the 18th century, it was merged with Poučník and called Karlštejn (Beroun District). There is a golf club named after the castle nearby.
Architectonical description
The castle was built upon a promontory from the south side of Kněží hora hill, divided from it by a narrow sag. The first gate, a square, two-storey tower with a tall hip roof, stood above a moat at the western slope of the promontory. It was connected with the rampart traverse by means of a small portal. The traverse was protected by battlement and divided by a covered bastion in the middle. The second gate led to the Burgrave House (Purkrabství) courtyard. Drawbridges closed both entrances. The Burgrave House formed the Karlštejn settlement, it was fortified with a two meters wide rampart, the Well Tower stood slightly lower. In the burgraviate's rampart a third gate was staved - the main entrance into the inner castle.The core of the castle consisted of three parts placed on three levels-differentiated terraces; every level express different importance. On the lowest terrace there stood the Imperial Palace (Císařský palác), above it there was the Marian Tower (Mariánská věž) and the Big Tower (Velká věž) stood the highest. The Palace is a single-tract building, about 12,5 m wide and 46 m long, closed in the east by a semi-cylinder tower, had – aside of the cellar dug in the rock – the ground floor and two walled floors; the third floor under the roof was built from half-timbered work. The ground space is open to the courtyard, the rest was occupied by a granary. Three rooms form the first floor; largest is the central room, the so-called Knight Hall (Rytířský sál). The emperor inhabited the second floor of the palace; the floor was divided into four rooms by self-supporting partitions. A spiral staircase connected it with the third floor in which – according to the record from the 16th century – there was a residence of the "empress with her female retinue". The layout and equipment of the second and third floor was approximately the same: bedrooms on the eastern side, then the stateroom, a hall and the rooms in the west.The central area of the 60m high and separately fortified (4–7,5 m thick walls) Big Tower is the Chapel of the Holy Cross (kaple sv. Kříže); it has no analogy in concept elsewhere in the world. In the safety of the chapel, behind four doors with nineteen locks to each key was guarded independently, the valuable documents of the state archive were kept along with the symbols of the state power – the Czech Crown Jewels.The Well Tower (Studniční věž), being the logistical centerpiece the castle could not function without, was the first part of the castle to be built. Miners were brought in from the mining town of Kutná Hora, however, water was not encountered even after the depth of the well was 70 meters, well below the level of the nearby Berounka river. An underground channel was therefore excavated to bring in water from a nearby stream, yielding a water column of 25 meters, sufficient to last for several months. The reservoir had to be manually refilled roughly twice a year by opening a floodgate. Considering the significant strategic weakness incurred to the castle by the lack of an independent water source, the existence of the underground channel was a state secret known only to the Emperor himself, and the burgrave. The only other persons aware of its existence were the miners, who were however allegedly massacred on their way from the castle after the construction, leaving no survivors.

National Theatre in Prague

The National Theatre 
(Czech: Národní divadlo) in Prague is known as the alma mater of Czech opera, and as the national monument of Czech history and art.The National Theatre belongs to the most important Czech cultural institutions, with a rich artistic tradition which was created and maintained by the most distinguished personalities in Czech society. This tradition helped to preserve and develop the most important features of the nation–the Czech language and a sense for a Czech musical and dramatic way of thinking.Today the National Theatre consists of three artistic ensembles–opera, ballet and drama–which alternate in their performances in the historic building of the National Theatre, in the Theatre of the Estates and in the Kolowrat Theatre. All three artistic ensembles select their repertoire not only from the rich classical heritage, but in addition to local authors they focus their attention on modern world output.
Initial design and construction, 1844 to 1881
The National Theatre is the embodiment of the will of the Czech nation for its national identity and independence. Collections of money among the broad masses of the people facilitated its construction, and so the ceremonious laying of the foundation stone on 16 May 1868, was tantamount to an all-state political demonstration. But the idea of building a dignified edifice to serve as a theatre matured in the autumn of 1844 at the gatherings of patriots in Prague and began to be implemented by an application submitted by František Palacký to the Provincial Committee of the Czech Assembly on 29 January 1845, having requested "the privilege of constructing, furnishing, maintaining and managing" of an independent Czech theatre. The privilege was granted in April 1845. But it was not until six years later – in April 1851 – that the founding Society for the Establishment of a Czech National Theatre in Prague made the first public appeal to start a collection. A year later the proceeds went toward the purchase of land belonging to a former salt works covering an area of not quite 28 acres (11 ha) which determined the magnificent site of the theatre on the banks of the river Vltava facing the panorama of Prague Castle, but at the same time the cramped area and trapezium shape posed challenging problems for the designers of the building.The era of von Bach absolutism brought to a halt preparations for the envisaged theatre and supported the concept of a modest provisional building, which was erected on the south side of the theatre parcel by architect Ignac Ullmann and opened on 18 November 1862. The building of the Provisional Theatre then became a constituent part of the final version of the National Theatre; its outside cladding is visible to this day in the elevated section of the rear part of the building, and the interior layout was only obliterated following the latest reconstruction of the National Theatre in 1977 – 1983. Simultaneously with the realization of this minimal programme asserted by F.L. Rieger and the Provincial Committee, the young progressive advocates of the original ambitious concept of the building (Sladkovský, Tyrš, Neruda, Hálek) launched an offensive. In 1865 these men attained leading positions in the Society and requested the 33-year old professor of civil engineering at the Prague Technical College, architect Josef Zítek, to draft a design for the National Theatre. He then came out on top in a later-declared open competition, and in 1867 construction work began. On 16 May 1868, the foundation stone was laid, and in November the foundations were completed. In 1875 the new building reached its full height and in 1877 the theatre was roofed over. As of 1873 there was an ongoing competition for the interior decoration of the building, the scenario of which had been elaborated by a special commission under the leadership of Sladkovský. On the one hand, the themes were in the spirit of the Neo-Renaissance concept of a classic building. On the other hand, they were inspired by the current enthusiasm for Slavonic mythology and the stories of the Manuscripts; both of these concepts were based on Josef Mánes' paintings and connected with the contemporary style of romantic landscape painting (also linked to Czech history). They provided the fundamental ideology guiding artistic expression, which today is described as the art of the generation of the National Theatre.The theatre includes a triga (a three-horse quadriga) and 10 exterior allegorical sculptures by Bohuslav Schnirch, 10 more exterior pieces by Antonín Wagner, the stone pieces by Max Verich and an interior sculpted pediment group over the proscenium arch by Schnirch.
Grand opening
The National Theatre was opened for the first time on 11 June 1881, to honour the visit of Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria. Bedřich Smetana's opera Libuše was given its world premiere, conducted by Adolf Čech. Another 11 performances were presented after that. Then the theatre was closed down to enable the completion of the finishing touches. While this work was under way a fire broke out on 12 August 1881, which destroyed the copper dome, the auditorium and the stage of the theatre.The fire was seen as a national catastrophe and was met with a mighty wave of determination to take up a new collection: Within 47 days a million guldens were collected. This national enthusiasm, however, did not correspond to the behind-the-scenes battles that flared up following the catastrophe. Architect Josef Zítek was no longer in the running, and his pupil architect Josef Schulz was summoned to work on the reconstruction. He was the one to assert the expansion of the edifice to include the block of flats belonging to Dr. Polák that was situated behind the building of the Provisional Theatre. He made this building a part of the National Theatre and simultaneously changed somewhat the area of the auditorium to improve visibility. He did, however, take into account with utmost sensitivity the style of Zítek's design, and so he managed to merge three buildings by various architects to form an absolute unity of style.
Reconstruction and reopening, 1883 to 1977
The interior artwork was done by Mikoláš Aleš and František Ženíšek. The building of the National Theatre was inaugurated on 18 November 1883. The building, with perfect technical equipment (electric illumination, a steel-constructed stage), served without any extensive modifications for almost one hundred years. It was only on 1 April 1977, following a performance of the Lantern by Jirásek, that the theatre was closed down for six years.
Additional reconstruction, 1977 to 1983 and after
Architect Zdeněk Vávra was appointed to take charge of the overall reconstruction work. This extensive project was combined with the completion of work on the entire setting of the theatre. The work was completed to meet an important deadline, which was the date of the 100th anniversary of the opening of the National Theatre: 18 November 1983. On that day the theatre was handed over to the public again with a performance of Smetana’s Libuše.
Nowadays this historic, extremely prestigious and beautiful building, together with the annex of a modern office building that also includes the main box office, represents the main stage of the three artistic ensembles of the National Theatre: the drama, opera and ballet.
In 1989 the general director of the National Theatre, composer Jiří Pauer was dismissed from his post because of his support for the policies of the former Communist Czechoslovak government. Pauer locked all staff out of the National and Smetana theatres on 17 November 1989 to prevent members of the opera, ballet and drama companies from staging protest performances. After a three-week strike Pauer was replaced by Ivo Žídek.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

O2 Arena - Prague

O2 Arena 
(formerly Sazka Arena, stylised as O2 arena) is a multi-purpose arena, in Prague, Czech Republic. Built in time for the 2004 Men's World Ice Hockey Championships, O2 Arena is the home of HC Slavia Prague of the Czech Extraliga and part-time home of HC Lev Prague of the KHL. In the 2012-13 season, three Rytiři Kladno home games were also played there, one of which attracted an Extraliga-record crowd of 17,182. It hosted the Euroleague basketball Final Four in 2006. Also in 2008 arena hosted Floorball Championship.
The idea of building a new arena in Prague came on the heels of the "golden era" of Czech ice hockey: winning 3 gold medals in a row. The arena was proposed to be built in time to host the 2003 Men's World Ice Hockey Championships, but due to unforeseen complications with the investors,[citation needed] the ice hockey governing body had to switch that tournament to Finland. The arena's main backer then became Sazka a.s., a Czech betting company. The construction of the arena (which began in September 2002) was not without problems, but it was finally finished in time to host the 2004 tournament, the 2004 Men's World Ice Hockey Championships. In March 2008, the building was renamed O2 Arena. In March 2011, Sazka filed for insolvency due to debts from building the arena.
Notable events
Visitor record held by Madonna concert in 2006, which was attended by 18 628 spectators.
In October 2008, the New York Rangers and Tampa Bay Lightning opened the 2008–09 NHL season at O2 Arena with two games. Two years later, the NHL returned, with the Boston Bruins and Phoenix Coyotes playing twice. In November 2008, the French electronica pioneer Jean Michel Jarre performed his Oxygène album live at the arena, as part of the second leg of the Oxygène 30th anniversary tour.In December 2008, the arena played host to the playoff matches of the 2008 Men's World Floorball Championships, including Finland's 7-6 victory over Sweden in the final. Sting performed during his Symphonicities Tour on September 22, 2010, along with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.In November 2010 Lady Gaga performed there during her Monster Ball Tour.On December 7, 2011 Rihanna performed there during her Loud Tour
The Czech Republic Davis Cup Team defeated Spain in the 2012 Davis Cup Final.
On November 22, 2012 Muse performed there during their The 2nd Law World Tour.

Strahov Monastery

Strahov Monastery 
(Czech: Strahovský klášter) is a Premonstratensian abbey founded in 1149 by Bishop Jindřich Zdík, Bishop John of Prague, and Duke Vladislav II. It is located in Strahov, Prague, Czech Republic.
The founding of a monastery
After his pilgrimage to the Holy Land in 1138 the bishop of Olomouc Jindřich Zdík took hold of the idea of founding a monastery of regular canons in Prague, having the support of the bishops of Prague and the Duke of Bohemia Soběslav I and after his death, Vladislav II. After his first unsuccessful attempt to found a Czech variant of the canons' order at the place called Strahov in 1140, an invitation was issued to the Premonstratensians whose first representatives arrived from Steinfeld in the Rhine valley (Germany). Thus a monastery originated which has inscribed itself in the Czech political, cultural and religious history for all time.The religious began to build their monastery first of wood, as well as a Romanesque basilica as the center of all spiritual events in Strahov. The building was gradually completed and the construction of the monastery stone buildings continued in order to replace the provisional wooden living quarters with permanent stone. In 1258 the monastery was heavily damaged by fire and later renewed.
During the Hussite Wars 
The monastery continued functioning until the period of the Hussite movement when it was attacked and plundered by the citizens of Prague in 1420. Books, articles of worship and furnishings of both the church and the convent were burned. Although the building did not sustain great damage from the architectural viewpoint, the monastery took a long time to recover from this disaster. The period of the Hussite wars, the years of the reign of George of Poděbrady and the time up to the end of the 16th century meant vegetation rather than life for the monastery. During that time endeavours were made once again to renew the original monastery and life in it, but that did not prove any successful.It was not until the arrival of the abbot Jan Lohelius that a turn came about. This cleric, originally of Teplá Abbey, became the abbot of Strahov in 1586 and all his abilities were devoted to the renewal of Strahov. He tried to raise the spiritual life of the monastery and, as a visitator circarie, also of the Premonstratensian order as a whole in Bohemia, he also devoted attention to the material aspect of things. He reconstructed the church, renewed the abbey buildings, established workshops, built a new dormitory and refectory and had the monastery gardens newly laid out. He regained many of the monastery estates and thus built up material base of the monastery, so necessary for its maintenance and further development. Proof of his enormous endeavours and untiring activity also lies in the fact that already in 1594 a twelve-member community of religious could live in the monastery.
During the Thirty Years' War
In 1612 Jan Lohelius became the archbishop of Prague, his work at Strahov then being continued by the new abbot, Kašpar Questenberg. He continued in the expensive work started by Lohelius, completed the lower cloisters and prelature and even erected a new building in the form of St. Elizabeth's Hospital as well as out-buildings and a brewery. Furthermore, he founded the Norbertine seminary in the New Town, which was intended for the theological studies of members of the order. All this was achieved during the Thirty Years' War, when Kašpar Questenberg himself was forced by the violence to flee from Prague. The financial account of the costs incurred by his building activities amounted to about 100,000 tolars, which at that time was a very repectable sum for any building work. In this respect Kašpar Questenberg could calmly compete with such builders as his contemporary Albrecht of Wallenstein. One of the biggest events in the history of the Premonstratensian order, namely the transfer of the remains of St. Norbert, the founder of the order, from Magdeburg took place under Questenberg's abbacy. This came about in 1627, and since then the remains of the saintly founder have laid at rest in the abbey church. During Questenberg's time the Church of St. Roch was also completed. Originally it was a votive church whose construction was started by the Emperor Rudolph II in 1602 as an expression of thanks for the end of the plague in 1599. After numerous changes of fortune the church was completed, including its interior, by 1630.When Kašpar Questenberg died in 1640 his successor was Kryšpin Fuk, who continued in his work. Moreover, he gained renown for himself through his participation in the making of the river Vltava navigable in the sector called St. John's Rapids (Svatojánské proudy). During his period the abbey was plundered by Swedish troops towards the end of the Thirty Years' War. The church and the library were looted. After the departure of the Swedes, Kryšpin Fuk had the damaged abbey repaired again, his work being continued by the Abbots Ameluxen, Sutor and Franck. The last-mentioned had the prelature reconstructed and a new St. Elizabeth's Hospital built, because the original one built by Kašpar Questenberg was demolished during the construction of Baroque fortifications in Prague.
The Theological Hall
In 1670 Jeroným Hirnheim, a philosopher and theologian became the abbot of Strahov. His greatest work, which has survived to the present days, was the building of the new library, so-called Theological Hall (Teologický sál) completed in 1679. During the 17th and the early 18th century other abbots continued in the reconstruction of the monastery. They also cared for the church, which was repaired and decorated several times during the given period. The monastery experienced other great building activity namely after the assault of French and Bavarian troops in 1742, when whole Prague was bombarded and seriously damaged. After this destruction of the monastery the abbot organized building works again in the course of which the church was rebuilt along with the monastery area.
The Philosophical Hall
In 1779 Václav Mayer occupied the abbot's throne and was the last to carry out great building activities. His most outstanding work was the building of the new library, now in Classical style. Today it is called the Philosophical Hall (Filosofický sál). This work brought the extensive building activity at Strahov Monastery to an end and the following generations of abbots devoted their attention merely to minor architectural repairs, all under the influence of contemporary fashion, and to maintenance of the area as a whole. The monastery survived in this way until 1950, when it was taken over by the communist regime, the religious being interned and placed in civil employment, very few of them being able to work in the clerical administration as priests of the diocese. The monastery was subjected to thorough archeological research and transformed into the Memorial of National Literature. In the course of the said archeological research the long since forgotten Romanesque form of the monastery was revealed and reconstructed in a sensitive way.
After the Velvet Revolution
After the shackles of communism were thrown off in 1989 the monastery was returned to the Premonstratesian order, which began to realize a costly reconstruction of the building. By 1994 the church had been restored, a new technical network constructed, the Strahov picture gallery newly built and the Strahov library renewed. Other architectural restorations were also carried out.

Czech National Museum

The National museum 
(Czech: Národní muzeum) is a Czech museum institution intended to systematically establish, prepare and publicly exhibit natural scientific and historical collections. It was founded 1818 in Prague by Kašpar Maria Šternberg. Historian František Palacký was also strongly involved. At present the National Museum houses almost 14 million items from the area of natural history, history, arts, music and librarianship, located in tens of buildings.
The founding of the National Museum should be seen in the context of the times, where after the French Revolution, royal and private collections of art, science, and culture were being made available to the public. The beginnings of the museum can be seen as far back as 1796, when the private Society of Patriotic Friends of the Arts was founded by Count Casper Sternberk-Manderschied and a group of other prominent nobles. The avowed purpose of the society was “the renewed promotion of art and taste”, and during the time of Joseph II, it would be adamantly opposed to the King. In 1800 the group founded the Academy of Fine Arts, which would train students in progressive forms of art and history.
The National Museum in Prague
The National Museum in Prague was founded on April 15, 1818, with the first president of the Society of the Patriotic Museum being named Count Sternberk, which would serve as the trustee and operator of the museum. Early on, the focus of the museum was centered on natural sciences, partially because Count Sternberk was a botanist, mineralogist, and eminent phytopaleontologist, but also because of the natural science slant of the times, as perpetrated by Emperor Joseph II of Austria. The museum did not become interested in the acquisition of historical objects until the 1830s and 40s, when Romanticism became prevalent, and the institution of the museum was increasingly seen as a center for Czech nationalism. Serving as historian and secretary of the National Museum in 1841, Frantisek Palacky would try to balance natural science and history, as he described in his Treatise of 1841. It was a difficult task, however, and it would not be until nearly a century later until the National Museum’s historical treasures equaled its collection of natural science artifacts. However, the importance of the museum was not in its focus, but rather that it signaled, and indeed helped bring about, an intellectual shift in Prague. The Bohemian nobility had, until this time, been prominent, indeed dominant, both politically and fiscally in scholarly and scientific groups. However, the National Museum was created to serve all the inhabitants of the land, lifting the stranglehold the nobility had had on knowledge. This was further accelerated by the historian Frantisek Palacky, who in 1827 suggested that the museum publish separate journals in German and Czech. Previously, the vast majority of scholarly journals were written in German, but within a few years the German journal had ceased publication, while the Czech journal continued for more than a century. In 1949, the national government took over the museum, and spelled out its role and leadership in the Museum and Galleries Act of 1959. In May 1964, the Museum was turned into an organization of five professionally autonomous components: the Museum of Natural Science, the Historical Museum, the Naprstek Museum of Asia, African, and American Cultures, the National Museum Library, the Central Office of Museology. A sixth autonomous unit, the Museum of Czech Music, was established in 1976.
Collections and Departments
According to their website, the National Museum at present contains several million items of material concerning the areas of mineralogy, paleontology, mycology, botany, entomology, zoology,anthropology; and also archeology which is mostly concerned with the period from Neolithic times to the 10th century CE.
Among the most valued departments of the museum are:
The Department of Prehistory and Protohistory – Contains an extremely rich collection of artifacts which were used daily thousands of years ago. The curators of this collection were also among the first Czech archeologists: J.L. Pic, curator of one of the collection from 1893-1911 is credited with conducting the first system archeological field exploration in Czechoslovakia. The department also maintains collections in the field of classical archeology, however its main value is in the documentation of Greek and Roman arts and crafts. Among its most valuable objects are a painted dish of Nikosthenes, a glass bottle from the port of Puteolo, and a gilded silver rhyton.
The Department of Classical Archeology – Beginning where protohistory leaves off, this department has assembled a numerous amount of objects which trace the development of Czechoslovakia. This is done through the acquisition of objects which recall outstanding figures of Czech culture and leadership, in addition to those objects used in times of distress (part of the Medieval collection is dedicated to weapons used in the Hussite movement of the 15th century). In addition to their historical value, many of the objects held by this department contain a high artistic value. Examples include: a silver tiara from the twelfth century; Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque jewelry; liturgical objects from the Medieval period, which include the reliquary of St. Eligius in the shape of mitre; Gothic and Renaissance glazed tiles and paving stones; precious embroidered Rosenberg antependium dating from the second half of the 14th century, and fine Bohemian porcelain and glass from the 18th and 19th centuries.
Department of Ethnography – The stated aim of this department is to gather, in a systemic manner, factual material and data about the history and culture of the people of Czechoslovakia and the other nations of Europe, from the end of the 17th century to the present day. It should be noted, however, that much of the focus is placed on Slavic nations. The oldest ethnographic collections of the National Museum were inherited from the Jubilee Exhibition of 1891, with the result being that much of the focus has shifted to the past half-century, and the collections of the department are filled with simple wood and ceramic objects, which show the gradual shift from a rural society to one that has become increasingly urbanized.
Department of Numismatics – Among the oldest departments in the Museum, it was founded through the gift of Count Sternberk. The goal of this department is to achieve a complete collection of legal tender coins used in past and present day Czechoslovakia. In addition, the department has a great amount of foreign coin collections, the most valuable of these being a collection of coins of classical antiquitiy. Along with collecting coins, the department also maintains a large collection of medals. At present day, the National Museum contains approximately half-a million objects.
Department of Theater – Originally part of the National Museum Library, it was set up as a separate entity in 1930. Its first collections were primarily drawn from the archives of two theaters: the National Theater and the theater Vinohardy. In the following years, the collections were greatly expanded by the department's founder, Jan Bartos, and his successor, Joseph Knap. The department today contains extensive exhibits on the history of theater in Czechoslovakia, costume designs by prominent Czech artists, music, memorabilia, and items from the Czech puppet theater. The collections primarily contain stagecraft items from the middle of the 19th century to the present day, with efforts being made to enlarge the department’s exhibits from the 18th century.
Main building
The main museum building is located on the upper end of Wenceslas Square and was built by prominent Czech neo-renaissance architect Josef Schulz from 1885 - 1891;before this the museum had been temporarily based at several noblemen’s palaces. With the construction of a permanent building for the museum, a great deal of work which had previously been devoted to ensuring that the collections would remain intact was now put toward collecting new materials. The building was damaged during World War II in 1945 by a bomb, but the collections were not damaged because they had been moved to other storage sites. The museum reopened after intensive repairs in 1947, and in 1960 exterior night floodlighting was installed, which followed a general repair of the facade that had taken place in previous years. During the 1968 Warsaw Pact intervention the main facade was severely damaged by strong Soviet machine-gun and automatic submachine-gun fire. The shots made numerous holes in sandstone pillars and plaster, destroyed stone statues and reliefs and also caused damage in some of the depositaries. Despite the general facade repair made between 1970 - 1972 the damage still can be seen because the builders used lighter sandstone to repair the bullet holes. The main Museum building was also damaged during the construction of the Prague Metro in 1972 and 1978. The Opening of the North-South Highway in 1978 on two sides of building resulted in the museum being cut off from city infrastructure. This also lead to the building suffering from an excessive noise level, a dangerously high level of dust and constant vibrations from heavy road traffic.
Due to major renovations the museum will be closed until 2016. Some seven million items had to be removed to the museum’s depositories in what has been dubbed the biggest moving of museum collections in Czech history.

Křižík's light fountain

Křižík's light fountain

Křižík's fountain or Křižík's light fountain is a musical and illuminated fountain, which is used for cultural events. The fountain was built by František Křižík in 1891 on the occasion of the World Exhibition. František Křižík (July 8, 1847, Plánice, Bohemia – January 22, 1941, Stádlec; Was a Czech inventor, electrical engineer, and entrepreneur. Křižík was born into a poor family in Plánice, located at the time within the Austro-Hungarian Empire. In spite of this, Křižík managed in 1866 to study engineering at the Technical University of Prague ČVUT. In 1878 Křižík invented a device to protect against collision between trains. His first experiments in Plzeň resulted in invention of the automatic electric arc lamp, the so-called "Plzen Lamp" (1881), for which he successfully defended his patent against Werner Siemens claim to have created it first. The restored and fully functional patented arc lamp with automated electrode adjustment can be viewed at the Museum of Pilsen. In 1884 Křižík set up his own company building tramway lines, street cars, power stations, and electric equipment. A Prague subway station was named after František Křižík – Křižíkova.The Fountain was rebuild in the 1920s by architect Z.Stašek. The bottom of the fountain plate is equipped with 1300 multicolored reflectors and water circuits composed of more than 2 kilometers of pipes with almost 3000 nozzles.

Troja Palace

The palace's design has been influenced by French and Italian architecture and is mostly the work of French architect Jean Baptiste Mathey. The latter also built the palais Buquoy in Prague, currently the French embassy. Prior to Mathey, Domenico Orsi worked on the castle. Silvestro Carlone was the Master Builder. The stairs between the palace and the gardens are the work of two sculptors from Dresden: Johann Georg and Paul Heermann. They sculpted statues representing the fight of gods and giants. The terrace is decorated with a rare collection of vases made by Bombelli, also active in Slavkov u Brna, at Slavkov-Austerlitz castle (close to Brno). The central axis of the garden projects towards the spires of the St. Vitus Cathedral in the Prague Castle. The palace's main rooms is decorated with a magnificent baroque Habsburg's apotheosis. Many mythological elements are presented in this trompe-l'œil decoration. It was realised by the brothers Abraham and Isaac Godyn, painters from Anvers who arrived at the castle in 1690. Francesco Marchetti and his son Giovanni realised most of the other paintings in the castle. The palace was bought in 1922 by the Czechoslovakian state, which started a restoration in the seventies. Since this period the palace has been hosting an exhibition of Czech paintings of the 19th century: Josef Cermak, Václav Brožík, Julius Marak, Antonin Chittussi, Jan Preisler, Mikoláš Aleš.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Vyšehrad Castle

Vyšehrad Castle

Vyšehrad is a historical fort located in the city of Prague, Czech Republic. It was probably built in the 10th century, on a hill over the Vltava River. Situated within the castle is the Basilica of St Peter and St Paul, as well as the Vyšehrad Cemetery, containing the remains of many famous people from Czech history, among them Antonín Dvořák, Bedřich Smetana, Karel Čapek, and Alphonse Mucha. It also contains Prague's oldest surviving building, the Rotunda of St Martin from the 11th century. Local legend holds that Vyšehrad was the location of the first settlement which later became Prague, though thus far this claim remains unsubstantiated. 
When the Přemyslid dynasty settled on the current site of Prague Castle, the two castles maintained opposing spheres of influence for approximately two centuries. Like this the second seat of the Czech sovereigns was established on a steep rock directly above the right bank of the Vltava river, in the 10th century.The zenith of Vyšehrad was during the second half of the 11th century, when Vratislav transferred his seat from Prague Castle, and the original fort was remodelled as a complex comprising a sovereign's palatial residence, church and seat of the chapter. The period of growth ended around 1140 when Prince Soběslav moved his seat back to Prague Castle. When Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV began to build the Prague Castle in its current dimensions in the early 14th century, the deteriorating castle Vyšehrad was abandoned as a royal home. Later the whole complex was renewed by Charles IV and new fortifications, with two gates and a royal palace were built, while the palace of Saints Peter and Paul awaited repair. At the beginning of the Hussite Wars, Vyšehrad was conquered and ransacked by the Hussites in 1420 and then again in 1448 by the troops of King George of Poděbrady. The castle was then abandoned and became ruined. It underwent a renovation in the 17th century, when the Habsburg Monarchy took over the Czech lands after the Thirty Years' War and remodelled it in 1654 as a Baroque fortress, turning it into a training centre for the Austrian Army, and later incorporated into the Baroque era city walls around Prague. The present form of Vyšehrad as a fortified residence, with powerful brick ramparts, bastions and the Tábor and Leopold gates, is a result of Baroque remodelling. The Cihelná brána (Brick gate) is an Empire-style structure, dating from 1841. The main part of the Špička Gate, parts of the Romanesque bridge, and the ruined Gothic lookout tower known as Libušina lázeň (Libuše's Bath) are the only fragments that have been preserved from the Middle Ages. The Romanesque rotunda of St. Martin dates from the second half of the 11th century. The 11th century of Church of Sts. Peter and Paul, which dominates Vyšehrad, was remodelled in the second half of the 14th century and again in 1885 and 1887 in the Neo-gothic style.Vyšehrad and the area around it became part of the capital city in 1883. The area is one of the cadastral districts of the city.