Czech Open Information Project


This square has been the hub of the Old Town ever since it was founded. It has undergone many alterations in the course of the intervening centuries and echoes of every historical style can be caught here. Among the oldest parts are the eastern facade of the square, the Kinsky Palace, the house "At the Stone Bell" and the Tyn School. Behind this facade there rises like a monumental backdrop the Tyn church and the former Ungelt building, which was a customs house already existing in the 12th c. The north side of the square is taken up by houses built mostly after the slum clearance of 1897, and is overshadowed by the baroque church of St. Nicholas built by Kilian Ignac Dientzenhofer in 1732-1735. Its portals and facade were adorned with statues from the workshop of Antonin Braun who was nephew of M. B. Braun. At the time of the slum clearance an adjacent baroque house belonging to a Benedictine monastery, for its prelates, was pulled down. On the opposite side of the square is a row of houses with medieval foundations. Until 1918 there was a column of Our Lady in the middle of the square, erected in commemoration of the peace of WestPhalia with sculptures by the well-known Czech early baroque artist Jan Jiri Bendl. Another splendid work of art formerly in the square was the bronze fountain set up in 1591-1592 by the mayor Vaclav Krocin of Drahobejle destroyed in 1861. The square is now dominated by the sculptured monument to Jan Hus by Ladislav Saloun dating from 1903- 1915. The most important edifice in the square is the Old Town Hall, the centre of Prague Old Town self-government ever since 1338, and later, when the Prague owns were made into one unit, the centre for the whole city. The Town Hall complex arose by stages from the 12th to the l9th c. The original core was the late 13th c. house of Wolflin of Kamen, which together with another house was made into the Town Hall. The tower was added in 1364, also the oriel chapel with the famous Madonna-of-the-Old Town statue. The clock was added to the tower in 1402 and in 1409 came the first simple horologium, to be replaced in 1490 by a more complicated one built by Master Hanus of Ruze, to which, several centuries later, Josef Manes added the calendar table in 1865. Further enlargement of the Town Hall was carried out under King Jiri of Podebrady, and in 1520-1528 a splendid Renaissance window was added with the inscription PRAGA CAPUT REGNI. Minor structural alterations were effected in the 17th and 18th c. but more farreaching changes were made in the 19th, when one wing was rebuilt in neo-Gothic style to the designs of Peter Nobile with its facade facing on to the square. This was destroyed in an air-raid in May 1945. The most striking part of the interior of the building is the Old Council Hall with its late Gothic wooden pannelling and ceiling and a statue of the Sorrowing Christ (the work of the Master of the Tyn Crucifixion dating from the second decade of the l5th c.). It was placed on a console dating from about 1460. There are also statues of St. Wenceslas and the Virgin crowned by angels from the end of the 15th c. In the new council chamber there are large canvasses on the walls with scenes from Czech history by V. Brozik, e. g. Jan Hus at the Council of Constance and Jiri of Podebrady chosen as Czech king. The Old Town Hall has witnessed within its walls some of the happiest as well as some of the darkest moments in Czech history. It was a focal point in the turbulent Hussite period and its importance was underlined in 1458 when it became the scene of the election as king of Jiri of Podebrady. After the unsuccessful rebellion against the Habsburgs in 1547 the importance of the Town Hall declined and took on a darker hue in 1621 when at the foot of the tower twenty-seven leading figures of the anti-Habsburg resistance were executed. Today its rooms and halls perform ceremonial functions for the City Mayor and also for the citizens, and serve as an exhibition space for the capital.