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  Prague Castle - Hradcany

Prague Castle - Hradcany Quarter

The name Hradcany derives from the Czech word Hrad, which means Castle. In the past there actually was a castle here, founded in the 9th century and, unfortunately, long gone. Today it is a complex of buildings, courtyards, palaces, churches and chapels, with fascinating accessory buildings and side-streets. Hradcany was rebuilt several times under the reign of Charles IV, Rudolf II and the last Habsburgs. From your hotel, we first drive to the upper part of Hradcany, through Strahov, Loreto and then on (and in) to explore the present day Prague Castle.

Strahov Monastery

An enormously important discovery was made in 1140, by King Vladislav I, when foundations of one of the oldest Roman complexes in Europe were discovered beneath the exterior of the Strahov Monastery. Brickwork revealed in numerous parts of the Monastery, clearly shows its Roman origins. Bear in mind, that 'discovery' was made some nine-hundred years ago, an indication of the length and depth of Prague's historic background.

The building passed through several stages of development since 1142; however the original Roman structure has not been entirely erased by subsequent Early-Gothic reconstruction and Baroque alterations.

Strahov Monastery Prague

Loreto Square

Entering Loreto Square you will be stunned by the sheer mass of Cernin Palace, built after 1669 in the style of Italian Renaissance architecture and modelled after a project by Italian architect, Francesco Caratti. You'll note in your tours that a great deal of the architecture in Prague is derivative of the Italian styles of the times.

The whole concept of the building and its grandeur show the influence of the emerging Baroque period. On the opposite side of Loreto Square, you can admire a structure of the Loreto complex containing the Loreto treasury, a carillon, a church and a Santa Casa (in Italian, 'holy house,' the reputed house in which the Virgin Mary lived at Nazareth) surrounded by cloisters which house several chapels. The Loreto was founded during the 17th century by Catharine of Lobkowicz. Loreto contains the well-known Loreto treasure of approximately 350 items of great artistic value, the most precious of which is a diamond monstrance decorated with 6,222 diamonds.

On the stroke of every hour the Marian song rings out from the 27-bell carillon. The core of the building is the above-mentioned copy of Santa Casa, designed by G. B. Orsi between 1626 and 1627.

Loreto Church Prague

Hradcany Square

This accumulation of palace buildings and chateaux leaves no doubt that this is the place where 'representation' was a major concern. At the bottom of Hradcany Square, an impressive grille guards the entry to the castle, adorned by the sculptures of Battling Giants. In the sight of the Castle nobody wanted to be left behind. As a result, splendid noble palaces cluster as closely as possible to its vicinity.

One of them is an Early-Baroque structure with two towers, the Tuscany Palace. The Schwarzenberg Palace, with its rich sgraffito decoration, represents one of Prague´s most beautiful and well-preserved Renaissance structures. The interiors house a representative collection of historic armaments, the property of the Museum of Military History.

The building situated opposite is the Archbishop´s Palace, with a Rococo facade. Passing through the gateway on the left, we come to Sternberg Palace, another Baroque structure that presently houses a permanent exhibition of the National Gallery. The last building in the row is the Martinic Palace, a four-wing Renaissance structure built around 1570.

Proceeding back in the direction of Loreto Square, we pass the Renaissance structure of the Hradcany Town Hall, dating from the end of the 16th century, as well as the Baroque building of the Hrzan Palace.

From Hradcany square we get back in the car, to park near the side entrance of Prague Castle and continue on foot.

Prague Castle Tour

The Royal Garden and Belvedere Palace

The castle is partly surrounded by beautiful gardens, containing many valuable historic monuments, such as the Renaissance Ball Game Hall and The Royal Summer Palace (known as Belvedere). They were built by Ferdinand I., in the middle of the 16th century. He was the first Habsburg on the Czech throne.

The Royal Summer Palace was built for Ferdinand ´s wife, Anne Jagiellon, but the queen did not live long enough to see it finished, as she died in 1547. The palace is considered the purest example of Italian Renaissance north of the Alps.

From there the castle, especially its northern part, offers quite an unusual view. The Renaissance Ball Game Hall, located in the southern part of the Royal Garden, is a long, narrow hall once used for aristocratic sport and proves extremely suitable for summer art exhibitions. On posters, it may be identified only by its Czech name, “Micovna”. On the southern side there are absolutely stunning figural sgraffito works depicting the Four Elements, Virtues and Liberal Arts.

Prague Palace

Now we can enter the Prague Castle itself.

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