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  Hradcanske Namesti, Czech Republic  
Hradcanske Namesti

Hradčany Square (Czech: Hradčanské náměstí) is a square near Prague Castle in Prague, Czech Republic.


Prague Castle

Prague Castle (Czech: Pražský hrad) is a castle complex in Prague, Czech Republic, dating from the 9th century. It is the official residence of the President of the Czech Republic. The castle was a seat of power for kings of Bohemia, Holy Roman emperors, and presidents of Czechoslovakia. The Bohemian Crown Jewels are kept within a hidden room inside it.

According to the Guinness Book of Records, Prague Castle is the largest ancient castle in the world, occupying an area of almost 70,000 square meters (750,000 square feet), at about 570 meters (1,870 feet) in length and an average of about 130 meters (430 feet) wide. The castle is among the most visited tourist attractions in Prague attracting over 1.8 million visitors annually.

The castle buildings represent virtually every architectural style of the last millennium. Prague Castle includes Gothic St. Vitus Cathedral, Romanesque Basilica of St. George, a monastery and several palaces, gardens and defense towers. Most of the castle areas are open to tourists. The castle houses several museums, including the National Gallery collection of Bohemian baroque and mannerism art, exhibition dedicated to Czech history, Toy Museum and the picture gallery of Prague Castle, based on the collection of Rudolph II. The Summer Shakespeare Festival regularly takes place in the courtyard of Burgrave Palace.

The neighborhood around Prague Castle is called Hradčany.



Hradčany (common Czech pronunciation: [ˈɦrat͡ʃanɪ] ( listen); German: Hradschin), the Castle District, is the district of the city of Prague, Czech Republic surrounding Prague Castle.

The castle is said to be the biggest castle in the world at about 570 meters (1,870 feet) in length and an average of about 130 meters (430 feet) wide. Its history stretches back to the 9th century. St. Vitus Cathedral is located in the castle area.

Most of the district consists of noble historical palaces. There are many other attractions for visitors: romantic nooks, peaceful places and beautiful lookouts.

Hradčany was an independent borough until 1784, when the 4 independent boroughs that had formerly constituted Prague were proclaimed a single city. The other 3 districts were Malá Strana (Lesser Quarter), Staré Město (Old Town), and Nové Město (New Town).

The history of the castle began in 870 when its first walled building, the Church of the Virgin Mary, was built. The Basilica of Saint George and the Basilica of St. Vitus were founded under the reign of Vratislaus I, Duke of Bohemia and his son St. Wenceslas in the first half of the 10th century.

The first convent in Bohemia was founded in the castle, next to the church of St. George. A Romanesque palace was erected here during the 12th century.

King Ottokar II of Bohemia improved fortifications and rebuilt the royal palace for the purposes of representation and housing. In the 14th century, under the reign of Charles IV the royal palace was rebuilt in Gothic style and the castle fortifications were strengthened. In place of rotunda and basilica of St. Vitus began building of a vast Gothic church, that were completed almost six centuries later.

During the Hussite Wars and the following decades, the castle was not inhabited. In 1485, King Ladislaus II Jagello began to rebuild the castle. The massive Vladislav Hall (built by Benedikt Rejt) was added to the Royal Palace. New defense towers were also built on the north side of the castle.

A large fire in 1541 destroyed large parts of the castle. Under the Habsburgs, some new buildings in Renaissance style were added. Ferdinand I built the Belvedere as a summer palace for his wife Anne. Rudolph II used Prague Castle as his main residence. He founded the northern wing of the palace, with the Spanish Hall, where his precious art collections were exhibited.

The Second Prague defenestration in 1618 began the Bohemian Revolt. During the subsequent wars, the Castle was damaged and dilapidated. Many works from the collection of Rudolph II were looted by Swedes in 1648, in the Battle of Prague (1648) which was the final act of the Thirty Years' War.

The last major rebuilding of the castle was carried out by Empress Maria Theresa in the second half of the 18th century. Following his abdication in 1848, and the succession of his nephew, Franz Joseph, to the throne, the former emperor, Ferdinand I, made Prague Castle his home.

In 1918, the castle became the seat of the president of the new Czechoslovak Republic, T.G. Masaryk. The New Royal Palace and the gardens were renovated by Slovenian architect Jože Plečnik. In this period the St. Vitus Cathedral was finished (on September 28, 1929). Renovations continued in 1936 under Plečnik's successor Pavel Janák.

On March 15, 1939, shortly after the Nazi Germany forced Czech President Emil Hacha (who suffered a heart attack during the negotiations) to hand his nation over to the Germans, Adolf Hitler spent a night in the Prague Castle, "proudly surveying his new possession." During the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia in World War II, Prague Castle became the headquarters of Reinhard Heydrich, the Reich Protector of Bohemia and Moravia. He was said to have placed the Bohemian crown on his head; old legends say an usurper who places the crown on his head is doomed to die within a year. Less than a year after assuming power, on May 27, 1942, Heydrich was attacked during Operation Anthropoid, by British-trained Slovak and Czech soldiers while on his way to the Castle, and died of his wounds (which became infected) a week later.

After the liberation of Czechoslovakia and the coup in 1948, the Castle housed the offices of the communist Czechoslovak government. After Czechoslovakia split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia, the castle became the seat of the Head of State of the new Czech Republic. Similar to what Masaryk did with Plečnik, president Václav Havel commissioned Bořek Šípek to be the architect of post-communism Prague Castle's necessary improvements, in particular of the facelift of the castle's gallery of paintings.


Deer Moat around the Prague Castle

The deep natural gulch that surrounds the Prague Castle got its name after the deers, that used to be kept there since the 16 th century. It is spanned by a big Powder Bridge from 1770, which connects the Royal Garden on one side with the Prague Castle on the other side.


Animals Raised in the Deer Moat

Originally, the purpose of the Deer Moat was to protect the Prague Castle. In the middle ages, there were vineyards on the southern slope of the moat. The deers were raised there from the end of the 16 th century until 1740s and it was also used for hunting. In 1741-42 all the deers were shot by the French army that occupied Prague at the time.

The Emperor Rudolph II. kept lions in the Deer Moat in the 16 th century, as a symbol of the Bohemian Kingdom (a lion is pictured on the Bohemian national emblem).

There used to be a wooden Powder Bridge over the Deer Moat since 1534, then it was replaced by stone dyke in 1770. It probably got its name after the Powder Tower nearby. It divided the gulch to Upper Deer Moat and Lower Deer Moat.


Secret shelter of the Communist representatives

During the Communist era, the pavements disappeared from the Deer Moat, because it wasn´t accessible to public. Thanks to that, there are many kinds of animals still preserved there nowadays. A secret subterranean shelter for the representatives of the Communist regime was built deep in the hillside of the Deer Moat at the time.

At the present, the Deer Moat is open to public and various cultural events take place there in the summer.


Werewolf in the Deer Moat

There is a legend about a werewolf from the Deer Moat, that goes back to the era of Rudolph II. in the 16 th century. A man called Jan used to take care of the Emperor´s predatory animals and most of all of his two wolves. He was mute, but learned to howl as a wolf and one day he disappeared. Suddenly, a new big wolf was found in the Deer Moat, even the Emperor himself came to see him. The wolf´s behaviour was strange and people were afraid of him, because his eyes resembled Jan's eyes. Nowadays, the legend advises not to walk through the Deer Moat in the night, the werewolf is dangerous for dogs and for people moving quickly.


Hradcany Prague Castle District
Crown of Bohemia


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