Charles Bridge to get its own museum

Charles Bridge

Charles Bridge is one of the most famous symbols of Prague, but did you know that it was known simply as the "stone bridge" until the 19th century? Or that the statues of saints that line the sides were a late addition in the 18th century? In 2007, a museum of Charles Bridge will open, dedicated to preserving the bridge's history and legends.

Much still remains to be decided about the contents of the Charles Bridge Museum, but it does already have a rough opening date - June 2007, which is also happens to be the 650th anniversary year of the bridge's construction. Founder Zdenek Bergmann explains why he feels the museum is necessary:

"Much has been written about Charles Bridge over the years, but I felt I needed to create a center where one could get information about the bridge. That's the first thing. Number two, I wanted there to be a place where not only visitors but also Praguers and all Czechs could get to know their bridge. And for that reason it will be highly interactive and transparent, and show for example how the bridge was built in the middle ages."

Mr. Bergmann has secured a prime location for his museum: the Square of the Knights of the Red Cross. Naturally, it's a place rich in history.

"Our museum of the Charles Bridge will be located right at the foot of the bridge, to be precise in the baroque seat of the order the Knights of the Red Cross and Star. It's an interesting place because the knights not only built and cared for Charles Bridge, but also did the same for the Judith Bridge which preceded it, and in fact the foundations of Judith Bridge are a part of the foundations of our building."

Charles Bridge
This new museum will consequently include exhibits about the Judith Bridge, in addition to models of Charles Bridge over the ages, and histories of the various statues of saints that line its span.

A museum to Charles Bridge has long been Zdenek Bergmann's dream, nourished over the years he's spent working as a tour guide. He's getting no money from the Czech government or the city government, but says he hopes the museum will still be perceived as a very public insitution, open to all.

"There's a widespread view that if a project like this is public, then it's good, and if it's private, then it's suspicious. But I'm putting my good name on the line here. I've been running boat tours underneath the bridge since 1993, and we provide real academic information about the bridge. So it's my project, I'm financing it, but we're also still looking for sponsors - both media partners and financial sponors."

Besides the opening of the Charles Bridge museum, One other important event awaits the bridge next year- a 100 million crown renovation. Certainly in 2007 no one will be able to say the bridge has been neglected.