The Mother of Cities, The Heart of Europe
The Mother of Cities, The Heart of Europe
According to legend, the City of Prague was founded by the wise Princess Libuse, the wife of Přemysl Oráč, on 2nd November 723 AD. Přemysl Oráč was the founder of the family, whose beginnings we can only argue.
With absolute precision, we know that Orač ancestors ruled in our countries for several hundred years. The last Přemyslovec after the sword was Václav III, who was assassinated on 4th August 1306.
Prague began to prosper around the year 880 when Prince Bořislav built the walls of Prague Castle along the Vltava River as a fortress against invaders. The city’s other castle, Vyšehrad, was established in the middle of the 10th century on another section of the Vltava river. Both the fortifications of the castles formed the first rough boundaries of Prague city and also the very beginning of the Přemyslid dynasty.
From 929-929, the famous King Václav became ruler of Bohemia.
You may know him as Good King Wenceslas of Christmas carol fame. Once you make it to Prague city, you will find that he is the very same Václav who gazes out proudly from his horse over Wenceslas Square.
Between the 12th and 14th centuries, Prague’s essential neighbourhoods or “towns” were established. First came the Old Town, followed by the Lesser Town and the Castle Quarter (Hradčany).
By the 1300s, with the Luxembourg dynasty already in power, Prague was putting itself on the map, growing in area and population. A period of great prosperity and grown came with the rule of King Charles IV (1346-1378), who made Prague into a second Rome, a spiritual, political and commercial centre. Charles IV built the stone Charles Bridge (1357), founded the oldest university in central Europe, Charles University (1348), and, during the same year, established Prague’s New Town. In 1355, Charles was crowned as an Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, and so it was that Prague became the capital of the Holy Roman Empire.
After King Charle’s IV death, everything changed. During King Wenceslas IV’s reign, the preacher Jan Hus began to spread his ideas about the reformation of the church. As a result, he was executed. A period of religious conflict followed and, four years later, Jan Hus’s followers ended up throwing members of the council out the windows of Prague’s Town Hall, the First Defenestration of Prague. This event led to the beginning of the Hussite Wars, in which Hussites and King Sigmund´s armies fought over a period of 15 years.
It wasn’t until the 16th century, with the Habsburg dynasty already in power, that Prague managed to regain a more stable status. In the year 1583, Emperor Rudolf II took up residence in Prague Castle, and Prague became the centre of European politics, art and science. This was indeed a prosperous period for the city.
A few years later, when Emperor Ferdinand II came to power, conflicts with the Protestants started up again, bringing on the Second Defenestration of Prague in 1618, when Catholic governors were thrown from the windows of Prague Castle. As a result, in 1621, 27 Protestant leaders were executed on Prague’s Old Town Square. This incident led to the Thirty Years War, one of the most destructive conflicts in European history. The city’s decline from a European powerhouse to a provincial town resulted in an economic collapse and a decrease in population. In 1784, by order of Emperor Joseph II. , the four independent towns of Prague (Old Town, New Town, Lesser Town and the Castle Quarter) were joined to form a single city.
In the 19th century, Prague became part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. After the 1st World War ended with that empires defeat, Czechoslovakia was created, and Prague became its capital city. The transformation into a big modern city continued at a rapid pace, something reflected in Prague’s highly diverse architectural styles. By 1930, the population had risen to 850,000.
In the year 1939, as a part of the Munich Agreement, Czechoslovakia got occupated by Hitler’s German forces.
The occupation, unfortunately, resulted in the decimation of Prague’s Jewish community, with roughly 40,000 jews being murdered.
Prague city citizens were oppressed and persecuted by the Nazis. Politicians, university professors and students and many others were murdered, imprisoned or sent to concentration camps.
Towards the end of the II World War, on February 14th 1945, due to an unfortunate navigation mistake, Prague got bombed by allied US Army Air Force. That mistake, unfortunately, destroyed some parts of the Prague’s city centre.
Prague was finally liberated in March that year when Soviet tanks reached the city after days of Czech resistance to the Nazi army, but consequently, Czechoslovakia became a Soviet satellite. In 1968, there was a hiatus when Alexander Dubček attempted to create a new “socialism with a human face” during what became known as the Prague Spring when there was hope for democratic reform and the restoration of individual freedoms. This effort was suppressed when Soviet tanks entered Prague, capturing Alexander Dubček and occupying the country. What followed was a period of even stronger communist oppression, with the Soviet Union controlling every political decision.