October 23, 2012

CZECH REPUBLIC (Prague) - Historic Centre of Prague (UNESCO WHS)

One day, at the beginning of the new reign of laws, the aforesaid Libuše, excited by prophecy, with her husband Přemysl present and other elders of the people standing nearby, foretold thus: "I see a burg, whose fame touches the stars, situated in a forest, thirty stades distant from the village where the Vltava ends in streams. From the north the stream Brusnice in a deep valley strongly fortifies the burg; from the south a broad, very rocky mountain, called Petřín from petrae (rocks), dominated the place.

The mountain in the that spot is curved like a dolphin, a sea pig, stretching to the aforesaid stream. When you come to that place, you will find a man putting up the doorway of a house in the middle of the forest. From that event - and since even a great lord must duck under a humble threshold - the burg you will bild, you will call Prague (Praha, from prah, threshold). In this burg, one day in the future, two golden olive trees will grow up; they will reach the seventh heaven with their tops and glitter throughout the whole world with signs and miracles.

All the tribes of the land of Bohemia, and other nations too, will worship and adore them, against their enemies and with gifts. One of these will be called Greater Glory, the other, Consolation of the Army. More was to be said, if the pestilential and prophetic spirit had not fled from the image of God. Immediately passing into the primeval forest and having found the given sign, in the aforesaid place they built the burg of Prague, mistress of all Bohemia."

So says the legend - transcribed by Cosmas of Prague (1045-1125) in Chronica Boëmorum (Chronicle of Bohemians) - that it was founded the Prague, in 7th century. Libuše was the youngest daughter of the mythical Czech ruler Krok, who was chosen by her father as his successor. Although she proved a wise leader, the male part of the tribe forced her to choose a male prince. Possessing prophetic powers, she related a vision where she saw a farmer with one broken sandal, ploughing a field. Her councilmen found this man, named Přemysl, and the duchess married to him.

This was the beginning of the Přemyslid dynasty, which reigned in Bohemia and Moravia until 1306, and partly also in Hungary, Silesia, Austria and Poland. Therefore Libuše is considered an ancestor of this dynasty and of the Czech people as whole. The prophecy about the city has come true, because Prague was and is the undisputed political, ecclesiastical, economic and intellectual capital of the Czech Lands, being along time the seat of two Holy Roman Emperors, and later an important city to the Habsburg Monarchy and its Austro-Hungarian Empire.

UNESCO considers that this city "represents one of the most prominent world centres of creative life in the field of urbanism and architecture across generations, human mentality and beliefs", and therefore included its historic centre in the list of World Heritage Sites in 1992. Built between the 11th and 18th centuries, the Old Town, the Lesser Town and the New Town speak of the great architectural and cultural influence enjoyed by this city since the Middle Ages.

The Prague architectural works of the Gothic Period (14th and 15th centuries), of the High Baroque of the 1st half of the 18th century and of the rising modernism after the year 1900, influenced the development of Central European, perhaps even all European, architecture. On the other hand, the role of Prague in the medieval development of Christianity in Central Europe was an outstanding one, as was its formative influence in the evolution of towns. Since the reign of Charles IV, Prague has been cultural centre of its region, and is indelibly associated with famous names as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Franz Kafka.

The famous landmarks of the Historic Centre of Prague present on the postcards of my collection are:
Old Town Square  
Church of Our Lady before Týn
Charles Bridge
Prague astronomical clock

The Chronicle of the Czechs, by Cosmas of Prague (translated by Lisa Wolverton) - Google Book
Historic Centre of Prague - UNESCO official site

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