655 years ago: Charles IV crowned king of Bohemia

Charles IV

September 2nd marks the day an amazing 655 years ago that one of the most important and influential rulers of the Czech kingdom, was crowned - his name: Charles IV. The son of John of Luxembourg, Charles was named King of Bohemia in 1347; he was the first Czech monarch to become the King of the Romans, and, in 1355, Holy Roman Emperor - effectively making him the secular head of all of Western Christendom.

As a ruler Charles's importance is indisputable: in 1348 he issued a constitutional charter officially joining the Lands of the Czech Crown in one political entity, lands including the Bohemian kingdom and the adjacent Moravia, Silesia, and Siletia. He also defined the role of the Czech kingdom in the Holy Roman Empire in his famous Golden Bull of 1355, which had articles remaining in force until the end of the empire in 1806.

Now, Charles IV's resilience as a ruler is not surprising: for his day he was an intellectual tour-de-force: the monarch spoke five languages fluently at a time when most rulers were not able to read and write. He was also a deeply religious man and a lover of architecture and art. By choosing to reside in Prague Charles IV ensured the city's future beauty and fame: Prague quickly became the most important city in the empire, benefiting from the ruler's commissions that still define it today: the creation of Prague's New Town which Charles himself helped design, the building of numerous Gothic structures, the founding of the first university in Central Europe, and the reconstruction of the royal palace. Finally, one can not forget the building of the Stone Bridge on the Vltava river - the landmark known today simply as the Charles Bridge, which so recently weathered devastating August floods. The bridge survived, and it is through it and other architectural sites in Prague and throughout the country that the memory of Charles IV remains most alive today, a daily reminder and tribute to a great ruler crowned so many centuries ago.