Charles Bridge legends

Puente de Carlos

Many of you who live in a city will understand when I say that it's been several months since I last stopped to admire some of Prague's beautiful sights. But the other day, as I was rushing to the Clementinum, something caught my eye at Charles Bridge and I had to stop. It was something shiny on the Bridge Tower on the side of the Old Town. When I came closer, I noticed that the statues of Charles IV, Vaclav IV, the three saints Zigmund, Vojtech, and Vit, and the lion had been replaced.

Apparently, the 1978 copies that stood there before have been replaced by new ones of much better quality made of sandstone. Sandstone, that reminded me of dough - eggs, milk and flour to be precise, and that thought took me back almost 650 years.

When construction of Charles Bridge begun on July 9 1357 at 5:31 am - a quick explanation why I know this down to the very minute: the astronomers in the court of Charles IV are responsible for that. They chose the numbers 1 3 5 7 9 7 5 3 1 or 1357 on the ninth day of the seventh month at 5:31 am as the most suitable and lucky date for the laying of the bridge's foundation stone. The numbers are symmetrical and remain the same in the reverse order i.e. no matter whether read from left to right or right to left.

But anyway, when the bridge was being built, it was not only on a special date but with special "ingredients". The bridge that had stood there before, the Judita Bridge named after the second wife of king Vladislav II, did not withstand the devastating flood of 1342, so the bridge builders decided to use stronger building material. They added eggs, milk, and some legends even say flour and wine, to the mortar to bind the stone blocks with the thick, partially organic, dough. To this day, they say a bit of milk and egg yolk are added to every new copy of a statue.

Charles Bridge is actually connected with a number of legends. I have one more for you. This one takes place in the late fourteenth century. They say when St John of Nepomuk was thrown off the bridge because he refused to reveal the secret told to him by king Wenceslas' wife, part of the bridge broke off at the exact same time. Numerous attempts at repairing the broken off arch had failed - even eggs and milk probably didn't do the trick - until one of the builders made a pact with the devil. He promised him the soul of the first being that crossed the newly repaired bridge in return for the successfull repairwork. When the day arrived, the builder asked the guards to ceremoniously release an ordinary cock over the bridge before anyone would be allowed to cross. But the devil outsmarted him. Dressed as the builder's assistant, he ran to the builder's wife and said her husband had been involved in an accident. She ran to the bridge past the guards and the cock and her soul became the devil's forever.