Archaeologists reveal existence of hidden chambers in Charles Bridge

Anyone who has ever visited the Czech capital will have visited the 14th century Charles Bridge; but if you think you know the city’s most famous landmark, think again. You may be surprised to learn that part of the structure houses two hidden chambers - large enough for dozens of visitors. The areas, not surprisingly, remain off-limits and even their very existence until now was known only by a very few.

Zdeněk Bergman, photo: Milena Štráfeldová
The 14th century Charles Bridge is without question Prague’s most famous tourist attraction – a site visited by tens of thousands each year for its Baroque statues and fabulous views. Who knew, though, that the bridge contained two secret chambers dating back more than one hundred years? That information was revealed only recently by archaeologists involved in the bridge’s on-going reconstruction. Zdeněk Bergman of the Charles Bridge Museum; told Radio Prague more about the chambers within the ancient bridge.

“The chambers are related to the flood of 1890. Charles Bridge is solid and was superbly built under Jan Ottl and Petr Parler, but wood transported on the river much later - in 1890 - destroyed three of the bridge’s arches (numbers 5, 6, & 7) and two original pillars. The bridge was later fully restored, but technological advances meant that the areas within the tops of the two pillars could be left hollow. It was no longer necessary for them to be completely filled-in.”

Until now, Mr Bergman says, few outsiders were aware of the chambers’ existence, though there have been exceptions: a number of people, mostly squatters he said, found their way in in the 1990s, holding, one source reported, “underground concerts”. Since then the entrance above the rooms has been closed.

“The entrance is monitored and the way in is welded shut. Also, the shaft to get in is itself very narrow. The rooms themselves are about 15 by 9 metres, and once inside it is difficult to stand because the floors are largely uneven.”

Despite obvious difficulties in allowing viewers, city officials would at some point like to open the rooms to the public, if only for a limited time. Before they can do that, though, safe access will have to be guaranteed.