History of Prague Castle | Přemyslid Fort, Medieval Castle, Presidential Residence

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Brief History of Prague Castle

Considered to be the largest ancient castle in the world, Prague Castle is a sprawling monument home to incredible baroque and gothic structures like the St. Vitus Cathedral and the Golden Lane. Its origins date back to 870 AD. Spread over 18 acres, the history of Prague Castle makes it an unmissable landmark. Over the years, Prague Castle has undergone several repairs and reconstructions. Josip Plečnik, the famous Slovenian architect, was responsible for extensive renovations in the time of the First Republic. In the late 9th century during the reign of Bořivoj, the first Christian prince of Bohemia. Prague castle was formerly the seat of the kings of Bohemia.

The castle became the seat of the president of the new Czechoslovak Republic, T.G. Masaryk in 1918. During this period the St. Vitus Cathedral was completed and the New Royal Palace along with the gardens were renovated by Slovenian architect Jože Plečnik. In 1936, renovations continued under  Plečnik's successor Pavel Janák. During the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia, Prague Castle was the headquarters of Reinhard Heydrich, the Reich Protector of Bohemia and Moravia. After the coup in 1948 and the liberation of Czechoslovakia, the Castle became the office of the communist Czechoslovak government. In 1993, after Czechoslovakia split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia, the castle became the seat of the Head of State of the new Czech Republic.

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The History of Prague Castle's Origin and Reconstructions

Over the years, Prague Castle has been built and rebuilt several times owing to a number of reasons. Different rulers and a series of wars were the greatest contributors to the castle's changing architecture over time. Here's more about Prague Castle's origin and its numerous reconstructions.

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The Přemyslid Fort

The history of Prague castle dates back to 870. This is when its first walled building, the Church of the Virgin Mary was built. Following this, in the first half of the 10th century, 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. Prague castle became the site of the first convent of Bohemia that was next to the church of St. George. A Romanesque palace was also erected during the 12th century. 

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Medieval Castle

King Ottokar II of Bohemia rebuilt the royal palace for the purposes of representation and housing. Under the reign of Charles IV, the royal palace was rebuilt in the 14th century in Gothic style. During the Hussite Wars and the decades that followed, the castle stayed uninhabited. In 1485, the castle started being rebuilt under the reign of King Vladislaus II. This was the time when Vladislav Hallwas added to the Royal Palace. In 1541, large parts of the castle were destroyed in a fire. New buildings were then added in the Renaissance style under the Habsburgs. Rudolph II used Prague Castle as his primary residence and founded the northern wing of the palace with the Spanish Hall to exhibit his precious art collections. The last major rebuilding of the castle was done by Empress Maria Theresa in the second half of the 18th century. In 1848, the former  emperor, Ferdinand I, made Prague Castle his home.

Modern Day Prague Castle

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Prague Castle’s history is rich and layered. After the foundation of the independent Czech Republic in 1918, Prague Castle once again became the seat of the head of the state. The Slovene architect Josip Plecnik was given the responsibility to carry out necessary alterations in 1920. Since 1989, many previously closed areas like Royal Garden with its Ball Game Hall and the Southern Gardens have been opened to the public due to successful restoration work. It is home to relics of Bohemian kings, precious Christian relics, art treasures and historical documents.

Prague Castle Legends & Rumors

If you look back on Prague Castle’s history, you will find many legends and rumours. One of the most popular legends is that any usurper who placed the crown on their head would die within a year. During WWII, Prague Castle became the seat of power for Reinhard Heydrich. Heydrich was the Reich’s protector of Bohemia and Moravia. Enthralled by the splendour and magnificence of the castle, Heydrich was known to put the crown on his head and pretend to be the king. Less than a year after usurping power, Heydrich was ambushed by Slovak and Czech rebels, while he was on his way to the castle. He was injured and died a week later. In line with the legend, his son Klaus also died the next year in a traffic accident. Spooky, isn’t it?

Prague Castle Architectural Highlights

Spread over 18 acres, Prague Castle is majestic and grand with numerous architectural delights for eager visitors. Whether it's magnificent Gothic cathedrals, lush gardens or sprawling halls, Prague Castle manages to dazzle in every department!

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Prague Castle Churches

St. Vitus Cathedral and St. George’s Basilica are the magnificent churches you can visit in Prague Castle. St. Vitus Cathedral is a splendid example of Gothic architecture and is one of the most important religious buildings in Prague. It contains the tombs of many Bohemian kings and Holy Roman Emperors. St. George’s Basilica is the oldest surviving church building with Prague Castle. 

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Prague Castle Halls

The Column Hall, the Spanish Hall, Rudolph’s Gallery and Vladislav Hall are some of the major attractions in Prague Castle. Vladislav Hall houses a complex vaulting system that was a refined engineering feat when it was first constructed. It was used for banquets, receptions, coronations, and other events of the Bohemian court. The Spanish Hall is a ceremonial hall and is intended for the reception of official guests of the President of the Czech Republic.

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Prague Castle Palaces

The Old Royal Palace, Queen Anne’s Summer Palace, Lobkowicz Palace and the New Royal Palace are all a part of Prague Castle. The Old Royal Palace’s history dates back to the 12th century and it is designed in the Gothic and Renaissance style. It is home to the Vladislav Hall. Queen Anne’s Summer Palace is a Renaissance building located in the Royal Garden of Prague Castle. It also has a singing fountain from 1654 located in the front.

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Prague Castle Gardens

The Royal Garden, Terrace of the Riding School, Garden on the Bastion, The South Gardens, Hartig Garden, Stag Moat, St. Wenceslas Vineyard, Empire Greenhouse, Orangery and Horticultural Gardens are the range of gardens available for visitors to see in Prague Castle. The Royal Garden is an Italian Renaissance garden and is perhaps the most popular, though every other garden has its own charm.

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Your Prague Castel ticket includes access to all the areas inside the castle that are open to public, and more.
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Frequently Asked Questions About the History of Prague Castle

Q. How old is the castle of Prague?

A. Prague Castle was founded in 880 AD. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, Prague Castle is the largest coherent castle complex in the world.

Q. When was the Prague Castle built?

A:  Prague Castle was built in the 9th century, in the year 880.

Q. How many churches are there in Prague Castle?

A: There are two main churches in Prague Castle - St. Vitus Cathedral and St. George’s Basilica 

Q. What is the size of Prague Castle?

A: Prague Castle is 70,000 m² and coves 18 hectares

Q. Who built the Prague Castle?

A: Prague Castle was built around the year 880 by Prince Bořivoj of the house of Premyslides

Q. Who currently resides at Prague Castle?

A:  In the present day, Prague Castle has become the official residence of the president of the Czech Republic. 

Q. Is the Prague Castle tour open now?

A: Yes, Prague Castle tours are open now. You can book your Prague Castle tickets to enjoy amazing discounts and deals.

Q. Is it safe to go for Prague Castle tours post COVID-19?

A: Yes, Prague Castle is following all the required COVID-19 safety measures.

Q. Are guided tours available for Prague Castle?

A: Yes, guided tours are available for Prague Castle. Make sure to check your Prague Castle tickets before you purchase.

Q. Do my Prague Castle tickets provide access to the gardens?

A: Yes, your Prague Castle tickets provide you access to the garden and several other monuments as well. 

Q.Who founded the Prague Castle?

A. Research suggests that Prague Castle was founded by Prince Bořivoj of the house of Premyslides.

Q. Why is Prague Castle important?

A. Prague Castle is the seat of the head of the state and is also an important cultural monument. Many art treasures and historical documents are preserved at the Prague Castle.