Current Affairs

Charles Bridge

One of Prague's most celebrated historical monuments, the Charles Bridge, is in dire need of repair. The 600-year-old bridge has been thoroughly renovated only once in its long history, and is starting to feel the pressure from the tramping feet of thousands of tourists. There is not enough money for the government to take on the massive renovation project, so in an unprecedented move, a nation-wide collection will be taken up to repair Charles Bridge. Helen Belmont has the story.

UNESCO has deemed the Charles Bridge to be one of the most important Gothic monuments in Prague, and it is a major destination for tourists. This symbol of national pride, however, is in need of massive restructuring. It has only been repaired once in its history, and until a few years ago, it was even used by trams and cars.

The first of several stages of repair will cost an estimated 128 million Czech crowns. The Mayor of Prague, Jan Kasl, announced that the city would not have enough money to pay for the massive project. Instead, Mayor Kasl is hoping that the general public support for the rebuilding work will translate into monetary gifts to alleviate the government's financial burden.

Not everyone, however, agrees that Charles Bridge is in need of such an extensive project. Critics complain that the project is far too expensive, and not really necessary. I spoke with the Director of the State Institute for Care of Historical Monuments, Dr. Stulc, about his views on the way that this reconstruction project will be funded:

"The state should contribute partially to the cost, but reasonably. I am a bit puzzled, or even horrified by the view that Mayor of Prague will ask the nation, ask the people, to contribute. He will appeal on their patriotism and so on and so on. All this for the benefit for the lobby of big-building contractors."

Dr. Stulc also believes that a major reconstruction project would be a waste of money, since partial repairs were done on Charles Bridge during the 70s. He recommends that only minor repairs be done, to preserve the original medieval material.

Author: Helen Belmont
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