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Old Royal Palace - Prague Castle,Third Courtyard

Old Royal Palace

Prague Castle,Third Courtyard

The Old Royal Palace is the most significant secular building of the Prague Castle; it is an extensive complex of buildings, halls and corridors whose origins date back to the very beginning of the Czech state more than a thousand years ago. Until the 16th century Czech rulers stayed there if they were present in the Prague Castle. The highest governmental offices resided there until the 18th century and at present time the most important state events take place there. The Palace is based on a Romanesque palace of prince Soběslav I, built in the first half of the 12th century. It was then extended during the reign of Přemysl Otakar II and then Charles IV had it rebuilt later on. After the Hussite Wars, the Palace was restored by King Vladislav of Jagiello who also had the transverse wing constructed. The last major alterations were done by Ferdinand I Hapsburg after a massive fire in 1541. Let us name the most interesting parts of the many historical premises inside the Old Royal Palace.

The oldest part of the complex are four chambers of the Romanesque castle fortifications, built after 1135 by Soběslav; Soběslav’s Hall with its semicular vault and small windows is the most interesting one. These parts were originally at the ground level, however, now they form the second underground floor – this is how high has the rubble around the palace built up over the centuries.

On the first underground floor of the Old Royal Palace there are remains of the Gothic stage of palace construction. Two most interesting places are two halls of columns: Charles Hall and Wenceslas IV Hall. Here, on the Gothic floor, there is an exhibition installed since 2004, called the Story of the Prague Castle, presenting the history, events, personalities, arts and crafts of the Prague Castle from prehistoric times until present.

The central part of this representative floor and indeed, the whole palace, is the spectacular late Gothic Vladislav Hall, the jewel of Prague’s late Gothic style. It is 62 metres long, 16 metres wide and 13 metres high; in its period it used the be the largest secular hall of Medieval Prague and the whole Europe. It was built in place of three Gothic chambers above the Charles Chamber between 1492 and 1508 by King Vladislav of Jagiello based on a plan by B. Ried. The hall has a breathtaking star-shaped tracery vault. Large windows in north and south sides are some of the first evidences of Renaissance style penetrating this part of Europe. The Hall served as a venue for balls, conventions, court hearings, bazaars, feasts and knightly tournaments. For tournament occasions, the participants could access the hall directly through a portal from the George Square and via the Riders‘ Staircase without having to get off their horses. The Vladislav Hall still serves as a ceremonial venue, used mainly for presidential elections and top state meetings.

From the Vladislav Hall you can enter the Ludvík wing (named after the king Ludvík of Jagiello) which was annexed based on a project of B. Ried in 1503-20. This part of the palace complex protrudes into the Garden on the Ramparts; many architectural elements signify the onset of Renaissance style. In 1618 the governors Slavata and Martinic were defenstrated from the windows of the Czech Chancellery on the second floor; on the floor above in the Imperial Court Council hall 27 representatives of Czech Estates were condemned to death for a participation in a rebellion. Ludvík Wing leads to the Theresian Wing, used for fine art exhibitions; it connects the Old Royal Palace with the neighbouring Institute of Gentlewomen.

All Saints church lies adjacent to the Palace, built by Petr Parléř in place of a Romanesque chapel of All Saints and later annexed to the Vladislav Hall through a portal. Amazing and exceptionally precious interior decorations and very beautiful vault by Petr Parléř were unfortunately all destroyed during a Castle fire of 1541 after which only side walls remained. In the northern part of the church there is a tomb of St. Procopius. The church is open only during services and concerts that take place there.

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