Historical development of Prague

Charming Prague Hotels | 22. 6. 2015

Geografical position of Prague offers excellent natural conditions since prehistoric times. Settlements are relatively easy to defend, it has fertile soil and plenty of water.

First inhabitation of Prague dates back to the early Stone Age (aprox. 5500 BC - 4300 BC) and all kinds of prehistoric Central European cultures were partialy present here. About in half of the 6th century AD the Slavs came into Prague location. Slavic settlements existed side by side with German for some time, but the Slavs eventually outnumbered their neighbours. The Slavs built other colonies nearby in 8th century. 

First settlement in place of Prague Castle (find more about Prague Castle) was later built in second half of the 9th century. Then Prague started to grow - the Prague Castle was founded in 870. Later in year 880 Prague became the permanent seat of the czech princes. Premysl Borivoj I. had the Church of Our Lady (Church of Virgin Mary) built here at first. Then followed the construction of the Basilica of St. George and St. Vitus' Rotunda. And the Prague town started to dwell. In this time the Christianity was brought to the Czech lands by Cyril and Methodius, the "apostles of the Slavs". 

Prague was first reported by Ibrahim Ibn Jakub, a merchant in 965. Monastery/bishoprie Vysehrad was built in 973 - important part to the newly established Prague town.
Medieval city began to expand to the left bank of the Vltava River and around a large marketplace - today's Prague Old Town Square (Staromestske namesti) in 11th century. 

In 1085 Prague becomes the residence of the first Bohemian king Vratislav I. Prague was multinational centre from the beginning - street Na Porici was a settlement of German merchants and the oldest reference to a Jewish settlement is from the end of the 11th century. The first stone bridge over the Vltava - Judith Bridge, was built in 1172.

Prague towns

Medieval Prague was an agglomeration of 3 towns and a few smaller settlements of farmers, merchants, and craftsmen.

Prague Old Town
(founded in 1231) grew from the right bank of the Vltava was proteced by stone fortifications.

Prague Lesser Town (originally Prague Smaller Town), officially founded by Premysl Otakar II in 1257 on the left bank and summoned colonists from northern Germany to settle there.

Hradcany (the upper part of the Lesser Town) was founded in the 1320's as town of Prague's subjects under the administration of the burgrave of Prague Castle.

With the Luxembourg family on the Czech throne, the Romanesque city was converted to the Gothic style. John of Luxembourg laid the cornerstone of Prague cathedral and Pope Clement VI promoted Prague diocese to archdiocese in his period. Charles IV (son of John of Luxembourg) transformed Prague into a second Rome, the European centre of politics, commerce and spirituality. He is remembered as the most beloved Czech king. The Old Town Hall was founded in 1338.

He founded Prague New Town (Nove Mesto) in 1348. A modern town surrounding the Prague Old Town, with the oldest Central Europe's university. In 1355 Prague becomes the capital of the Holy Roman Empire as the King Charles IV was elected Holy Roman Emperor. The Prague Charles Bridge (find more about History of the Charles Bridge) construction begins in 1357. After Charles IV death the Golden Age of Prague ends.

University professor, reform preacher and martyr Jan Hus, began to spread his reform-centred teachings (one of first reformators). The Crusaders are in Hussite wars sweeping the country from 1419 to 1437 as a result of religious murder of Jan Hus in Constanc by Roman Catholic Church. Many historical Prague artifacts are destroyed and the Prague Castle deteriorates.

Czech nobility's uprising against the Habsburgs in 1547 weakened Prague position of power, but its royal towns held their key cultural role even with oncomming Renaissance. Start of the reign of the Habsburg dynasty in 1526 moves power to Vienna. In 1583 Emperor Rudolph II moved to the Prague Castle and made Prague centre of European politics, art and science again. Artists around the Emperor court were leading European Mannerism. Prague become a Renaissance city and earns the nickname "Magic - Prague". The Prague Castle was reconstructed in the Renaissance style and other recreational sites were added-( the Belvedere, the Royal Garden, the Ballgame Hall….)

Rudolph II brought to Prague to work, or to visit many famous people :
sculptors - Giovanni Battista Quadri, Adrian de Vries
painters - Roelant Savery, Jacob Hoefnagel, Josef Heintz, Giuseppe Arcimboldo, Hans von Aachen, Bartholomew Spranger, Hans Mont, Petr Stevens
etcher - Wenceslas Hollar 
composers - Charles Luyton, Filip de Monte, Jakob Handl-Gallus
poetess - Elisabeth Westonia
astronomer and mathematician - Johannes Kepler
mathematician - John Dee
astronomer - Tycho Brahe
physicist - Michael Mayer
physician and alchemist - Anselm Boethius de Boodt
philosopher and theologist - Giordano Bruno
spiritualist - Edward Kelley
scholarly rabbi - Jehuda Low ben Bezalel
gemstone cutter - Ottavio Miseroni
goldsmiths - Anton Schweinberger, Paul van Vianen, Jan Vermeyen
copper engraver - Aegidius Sadeler

The most celebrated period in Prague history ended with death of Rudolph II in 1612 as his successor, Emperor Matthias, returned back to Vienna. Ongoing insurrection of the nobility in 1618 with the slaughter of the Battle of White Hill (Bila Hora) in 1620 was followed by the Thirty Years War and “The Dark Age“. The Saxons plundered the Prague from 1631 to 1632. Then in 1648 the Swedes. Prague fall to a provincial town prompted an economic collapse and a decrease in Prague population.

The restorations after the Thirty Years War were connected with a new style - Baroque. New and reconstructed building enriched the Prague medieval city with new dominant features and accents. Prague's strategic importance concluded in construction of Baroque fortifications and wartime affairs (in 1741 – 1742 French troops occupied Prague, in 1744 and 1757 Prussian troops sieged and occupied the city). Joseph II issues the „Edict of Tolerance“ in 1781, granting political and religious rights to religious minorities.

In 1784, by the order of Emperor Joseph II, the four so-far independent towns of Prague (Old Town, New Town, Lesser Town and Hradcany) were united to form a single city and several new Prague towns began to grow.

The growing industry in Industrial Revolution (1784-1848) results in an increase of Prague Czech population as people move to the city from the countryside in 19th century. With the demolition of the fortifications between Prague Old Town and Prague New Town and the filling of the fortress moat received Prague a new promenade road. A few public buildings, all built in the Neo-Renaissance style, rose along the Prague Vltava River newly built embankment.

Prague baroque fortifications were mostly taken down in 1874. The National Theater opens in 1868 and the National Museum opens in 1890. Prague transformed into a large modern European city, mostly through the coexistence of Czech, German and Jewish cultures.

Cubist architecture was interrupted by World War I positioned Prague as European architecture city. As the Austro-Hungarian empire falls in 1918, Prague becomes the capital of new Czechoslovakia. Prague Castle becomes the seat of Tomas Garrigue Masaryk - first president of Czechoslovakia.

The Law of Greater Prague of 1920 expanded the city. In 1922 it incorporated neighbouring towns with its citizens. Le Corbusier during his visit in 1928 commented with envy Prague large Functionalist buildings.

Prague and the rest of the country are occupied by Nazi Germany during World War II (1939-1945). The Communists comes to power in the February 25, 1948. "Prague Spring" fails and five Warsaw Pact member countries invade with their armies Czechoslovakia on August 21st, 1968.

The Velvet Revolution in Prague on 17th November 1989 brings an end to the communism era. Prague becomes the capital of the Czech Republic on January 1, 1993, when Czechoslovakia splits into two independent countries - Czech Republic and Slovakia - Vaclav Havel is elected first president of the Czech Republic and the Prague Castle becomes his seat. World-famous architects such as Frank O. Gehry, Jean Nouvel, Eva Jiricna, and Ricardo Bofill have placed their works at Prague city - Prague is regaining its international character and beauty. Czech Republic joins the European Union on 1st May 2004.

Prague is above all an outstanding collection of sights of historical interest, a textbook of architecture and display of all architectural styles. Prague has always attracted the most prominent artists of their time.

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