Old Town Bridge Tower to undergo extensive renovation
The Old Town Bridge Tower, a gateway to Charles Bridge, which dates back to the 14th century, is to undergo extensive renovation. The tower is steeped in history, having witnessed the coronation procession of Czech kings on their way to Prague Castle.
Hailed as one of the most beautiful Gothic gateways in the world, the Old Town Bridge Tower was conceived as a symbolic victory arch through which Czech kings passed on their coronation processions. Work on the tower, along with that on Charles Bridge, started under Emperor Charles IV according to designs by Master Otto from Prague‘s Lesser Town and was finished by Petr Parléř in the mid-14 th century during the reign of Charles‘ son Vaclav IV.
Apart from witnessing the coronation processions of Czech kings, the tower has witnessed several momentous events. At the end of the Thirty Years’ War in 1648, Prague’s townspeople managed to fend off Swedish troops, partly thanks to the Old Town Bridge Tower. Nevertheless, as a result of Swedish cannon fire, the rich Gothic decorations of the western side of the tower were extensively damaged. The tower made history for the second time during the 1848 uprising, when the rebels repelled Austrian troops trying to cross the bridge. Extensive renovation work had to be carried out to save the monument in later years.
The tower has three floors and a gallery at the top offering incredible panoramic views of the Old Town. 138 steps lead to the top. The first floor of the tower has statues of Charles IV, St. Vitus, and Wenceslas IV below the pointed arch with 24 decorative crabs that represent 24 hours of the day. The top floor has 24 stars and Czech patron saints Adalbert and Sigmund.
The building is exceptional for its rich sculptural décor and its timber structures, especially the roof beams arrangement, from 1387. It has a statue known as the Tower Keeper. Visitors can also admire a beautiful stained glass window with a kingfisher.
The reconstruction of the Old Town Bridge Tower will include replacing some of the sandstone pillars that are in bad shape and new roofing as well as renovation of the interiors. It should start in the autumn of next year and may take up to four years. Although parts of the tower may be closed to visitors as work progresses, Charles Bridge will remain open throughout the renovation. The reconstruction should cost several hundred million crowns.