WENCESLAS SQUARE, PRESENTATION

Audio File length: 2.42
English / USA Language: English / USA

Hi, my name’s Rick, and I’m your personal guide. Along with MyWoWo, I’d like to welcome you to one of the wonders of the world: Wenceslas Square.

 

Wenceslas Square is more like an avenue than a square: it’s 750 meters long, with a width of 63 meters at the top end and 48 meters at the bottom end.

At one end, it is dominated by the large National Museum building, and at the Mustek end (meaning little bridge, recalling the bridge that once crossed the medieval moat), by the statue of Saint Wenceslas.

Characterized by long central flowerbeds, it is surrounded by large buildings erected between the late-19th and early-20th century, in styles somewhere between Historicism and Art Nouveau.

 

The square is considered the heart of the New Town.

Until 1348, however, the historic core of the city was closed off to the south by a moat, crossed by a simple little bridge. Charles IV then decided to create a “New Town” along the right bank of the Vltava, at the foot of the fortified Vysehrad hill, to take the pressure off the overcrowded “Old” Town.

The king mapped out an orderly urban structure arranged around large market squares, each of which had a specific purpose: one for horses, one for cattle and one for hay, so it’s important not to be misled by the definition “New”.

 

Used since the Middle Ages as a horse market, Wenceslas Square underwent a radical transformation in the second half of the 19th century, when it took on the opulent, bourgeois appearance of a Parisian boulevard, as well as its present-day name in honor of Saint Wenceslas, the patron saint of Bohemia.

Always bustling with guests from the hotels and restaurants, the square is the center of political life in Prague, forming the backdrop of the demonstrations and events that have left their mark on the city and on the nation. It was here, in 1918, that independence from Austria was proclaimed, while in 1989, 250,000 people gathered here, triggering the revolution that led to the fall of the Communist regime. The square was also the scene of one of the most dramatic gestures against the Soviet invasion in 1968: on 16 January 1969, the 21-year-old student Jan Palach set himself on fire as a protest.

 

An interesting fact: in 1884, Prague’s first tram, drawn by horses, drove through Wenceslas Square.

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