A historic gas lamp brought back to life

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In spite of the torrential rain on Tuesday evening, a small crowd gathered outside the gates of Prague Castle to witness the reactivation of a newly-restored Prague landmark: the historic five-armed candelabrum on Hradcanske Namesti, the cobbled square in front of the castle.

Photo: CTK
As dusk faded into dark, the rain abated and all emerged from under their umbrellas to listen to introductory speeches from Deputy Mayor Jan Burgermeister and representatives of the RWE Transgas Company, who financed the lamp's restoration. Like the town lamplighters of old, the five speakers struggled in turn to light the high-up lanterns using wicks atop wavering bamboo poles.

The return to gas-powered lighting in some historic districts is just one part of the city's ongoing attempt to recreate the romantic atmosphere of Old Prague. At its peak, gas fueled 600 such lamps throughout the city; however, today, the lamp on Hradcanske Namesti is one of only two of its kind remaining in the Czech capital.

Photo: CTK
It is a stunning work of street architecture. Standing alone in the middle of the square and measuring approximately 8.5 meters in height and 4 meters in width, it is difficult to miss. At its base is a massive stone plinth supporting the central column, which is ornamented with caryatid figures and no less than eight separate lanterns on cast iron arms. The candelabrum was originally constructed in 1868, at the famous Komarov Iron Works near the town of Horovice. It remained the last gas-powered lamp in Prague until it was finally converted to electricity in 1985.

Radio Prague spoke to a representative of RWE Transgas, Martin Chalupsky, about the importance of restoring this public monument.

Photo: CTK
"We had a little celebration tonight to mark the lighting of this very special street lamp. It took nine months to repair it, as 150 years on the square had taken their toll and it had become seriously corroded. So we had to invest quite a lot of money into renovating this architectural gem. I ought to add that in the communist period all of the street lighting in Prague was electrified, but now we've brought back a traditional gas lamp for this particularly historic place near Prague castle, which helps to give Prague its special atmosphere."

The restoration process proved especially difficult not only because of the lamp's state of decay, but also because of its sheer size. The candelabrum weighs in at an impressive 5 tonnes, making its dismantling, cleaning, and reassembly a complicated affair indeed.

The lamp on Hradcanske Namesti was the most difficult to restore, and accordingly, was the last to be turned back on. The relighting ceremony marked the completion of the gas lamp project launched by town hall in 2005. So, after a 21-year absence, a soft flickering glow will illuminate the square once again, bringing renewed ambience and charm to the square.