The surviving remains of the Gothic Peak Gate. Photo: K. Neubert. Telephone: +4202.6122.5304
View of St Martin's Rotunda at Vyšehrad
Wayside shrines were built sometime before 1685(they are clearly visible on the panoramas of Prague by F. van Ouden-Allen).Photo NKPV.
"Gorlice", the largest space in the Vyšehrad casemate, now home to the original statues from Charles Bridge.
The dictionary defines casemates as passages within fortress ramparts serving as hidden mustering points for troops, allowing them to manoeuvre in secret. Construction of the Vyšehrad fortress began in 1654 on the orders of Emperor Ferdinand II, marking the definitive end of Vyšehrad as a civilian township. The plans for the development of the Vyšehrad citadel were grandiose, and not limited to the immediate area of the stronghold; fortunately, the entire scheme was never put into practice, and the New Town thus escaped catastrophic disruption. By 1678 the perimeter fortifications had attained an appearance virtually the same as that of today. The first test of the citadel was in 1742, with the arrival of a French army of occupation under the command of General de Berdiquiera, who ordered his soldiers to modify the ramparts, build a ravelin facing the New Town and construct casemates. The slow pace of construction resulted in its being overtaken by the development of new military equipment, and its later history is thus one of attempts to gradually improve its defensibility. Like all the other newly-built Baroque fortresses in Bohemia, the Vyšehrad citadel never participated in military action and had no decisive influence on the military campaigns of the 18th and 19th centuries. After the destruction of the greater part of Prague's Baroque fortifications, Vyšehrad became a self-contained and important example of the city's defensive architectural development after the Thirty Years' War.
The casemates, and Vyšehrad as a whole, narrowly escaped total destruction at the end of the First Silesian War in 1742. The Prussians placed 133 barrels of gunpowder within the casemates, with the intention of their being ignited by a slow fuse lit by the last soldier in the garrison to leave. Three locals from Podskálí managed to reach the fuse before it was too late, thus averting disaster.
Entrance to the casemates is gained from the Brick Gate, built 1841-42 to plans by J. Weiss for the Vice-regent K. Chotek. Casemates lie on both sides of the gate, those on the right opening out into the underground Gorlice hall, which served as a muster point, and also as a storeroom for food and munitions. Both lengths of casemates are around 1km long, and are never less than 2m high or 1.5m wide.
The Gorlice hall was built as a component part of Bastion XXXIII in the Baroque fortifications, and with an approximate area of 330 m2 and a height of over 13 m, it is the largest space within the casemates.
For many years the Gorlice hall served as an air raid shelter, and as a potato and vegetable store for Prague. After being cleared and reconstructed, it was opened to casemate visitors at the beginning of the 1990's. Since 1992 it has housed original sculptures from Charles Bridge, namely: St Bernard with the Madonna (M.V.Jäckel, 1709), St Augustine and St Nicholas of Torentino (J.B.Kohl, 1708), St Adalbert (F.M.Brokoff, 1709), and the recently added St Anne (M.V. Jäckel, 1707) and St Ludmilla with the Young Wenceslas (M.B.Braun, 1720-24).
Since the mid-1990's the casemates have also housed thematic modern art exhibitions during the summer. The casemates and Gorlice have been under the management of the administrators of the Vyšehrad National Cultural Monument since 1971.
The Brick Gate from the north, present state. Photo: NKPV.
Vyšehrad & the history of Prague's fortifications
A view into Permanent Exhibition.The permanent historical exhibition in the Brick Gate aims to present the development of Vyšehrad fortress in the context of the fortifications around Prague. It was opened in 1993, and is a collaborative project with the City of Prague Museum and the Military Museum of the Czech Army's Historical Institute. Conceptually, the exhibition follows three chronological threads:
1. The history of the Vyšehrad fortress 2. The history of Prague's fortifications 3. Excursions into various historical contexts on
The graphical differentiation of these themes on the exhibition panels - which include two-dimensional exhibits, pictures and period texts - make orientation straightforward. Particularly for later periods, the historical interpretation is illustrated with (primarily military) three-dimensional objects, including replica equipment, uniforms etc. All explanatory texts and captions are given in both Czech and English. The exhibition is accompanied by a multilingual flyer with a short history of the fortifications of Prague and Vyšehrad, and a guide is available for the casemates and the unique Gorlice hall; the latter now houses original Baroque statuary from Charles Bridge.
The Prague fortification system
The actual City of Prague did not come into being until the 13th century, when the boroughs of the Old Town ("Staré Město", founded c.1231-45), the Lesser Town ("Malá Strana", 1257 onwards) and the castle district, "Hradčany" (first third of the 13th century) were laid out.
Charles IV later determined the boundaries that would confine Prague for successive centuries - he established the Prague New Town of Prague ("Nové Město Pražské", 1348 - 50) and had this and the remainder of the city, i.e. the Lesser Town, Prague Castle and Vyšehrad, newly fortified. In general, On the whole, the city walls kept their Medieval scope and character until the beginning of the 17th century.
Interest in Prague's fortifications intensified during the Thirty Years' War, especially given the sieges of the city in 1632, 1639 and 1648. After the end of the war, in 1648, Count Raymond Montecucoli submitted a design for the fortification of Prague which employed Vyšehrad as its citadel, and in 1650 Count Innocent de Conti drew up a general technical plan.
The actual construction of a Prague fortress in the Baroque style started in 1653-4 and finished in the 1720's. Initially, Vyšehrad was fortified, followed in the city itself by a stretch from the Poříce Gate to the Vltava via the New Town and Karlov, the Lesser Town and Hradčany. The works, directed by Count de Conti, were supervised by G. Priami; other well-known builders involved in the project included Carlo Lurago, Santino de Bossi and later G. Allipardi.
The city walls could not survive the test of the sieges of the 1740's and 1750's. The general defensive concept, which neglected to fortify strategic points in the vicinity, allowed the French, Bavarians and Saxons to capture Prague in 1741 and the Prussians in 1744. The upshot was that attempts to modernise the fortifications were made, the first changes being applied by the French. After the siege of Prague by the Prussians in 1757, in which the walls suffered badly, yet more attempts at improvement can be traced. Ultimately, the search for a new, optimal defensive system for the Habsburg monarchy led to the decision to build major fortresses at Terezín and Josefov; consequently, the Prague fortress lost its priority position.
New developments in the fortifications of Prague were spurred by the Napoleonic threat, with repeated attempts at improving defensibility peaking in 1809. Plans at this time called for Prague to be surrounded by a chain of redoubts on raised ground - these were to have been at Bílá Hora (the ill-named 'White Mountain'), Andělka, Belvedere, Bubny, Invalidovna, Žižkov, Olšany and Vinohrady, but the project was never realised.
June 1848 saw the arming of an anti-government faction in Prague, and the experience of this revolt saw new renovations undertaken to the city's defences. Three sites along the walls were converted into small fortresses with the ability to attack the town itself - Petřín (IV), Letná (XIX) and Vyšehrad.
On the basis of a decision taken by the Emperor Franz Josef I on October 30th, 1866, Prague became an open town and its fortifications were ordered razed. Demolition actually began on July 20th 1874 between the Poříce Gate and Na Florenci ul., and continued until the beginning of the 20th century. The fortress at Vyšehrad was the last section to be handed over to the city, in 1911, and its walls remain to this day in their original state.
The Vyšehrad Fortress
Archaeological research has demonstrated 10th century Slavic settlement at Vyšehrad, and this research - together with analogies drawn from elsewhere - indicates that the first fortifications at the site were of ditch and rampart type, supplemented by a wooden palisade.
New ramparts were built by Prince - later King - Vratislav in the last third of the 11th century, as part of his efforts to turn Vyšehrad into the seat of the Bohemian sovereign. At this time the defences of Vyšehrad were even more advanced than those of Prague Castle, consisting of regular blocks held together by mortar, and with a walkway along the crown. Such walls would be built at Prague Castle only in 1135, during the reign of Prince Soběslav.
Vyšehrad was an important strategic point controlling not only the passage up the Vltava but also the roads leading south from Prague. Moreover, the fortifications at Vyšehrad could play a significant role in times of siege. For Charles IV both Prague Castle and Vyšehrad represented bastions of royal power and status as opposed to that of the increasingly powerful middle classes in the city. Both strongholds were therefore made secure against the Prague Boroughs, while the Boroughs themselves were not fortified against the strongholds.
The northern walls of Vyšehrad were thus a thorn in the side of the residents of the New Town, and thus it was that they were torn down immediately after the capture of Vyšehrad by the Hussites in November 1420, while control was also seized of the remaining parts of the defensive system.
In 1448 George of Poděbrady succeeded in capturing Prague having penetrated Vyšehrad's poorly maintained defences. Sometime after 1450 he established a new borough here, and due to the lack of walls between it and the New Town, the Town at Vyšehrad Mount soon merged with the settlement beneath the stronghold. The southern and eastern walls remained, however, and the Gothic "Špička" (Peak) Gate remained its dominant landmark until as late as the 17th century.
The occupation of Prague by Saxon forces during the Thirty Years' War (1631-2) brought a Saxon garrison to Vyšehrad. The fortifications were further damaged by Swedish assaults during the sieges of 1639 and 1648.
New fortification works at Vyšehrad began in 1653 as part of renovations undertaken to the defences of the whole city; they were for the most part complete by 1678. These interventions determined the appearance of Vyšehrad today, and only minor alterations were made later. The typical Baroque fortress had a total of six bastions and a hornwork protecting the most exposed location - the approach from the Pankrác plain. Construction was heavily influenced by Colonel Giuseppe Priami of Roverato, while the main contractor was Giovanni Capauli. The Tábor Gate was built in 1665, followed in 1670 by the Leopold Gate (named after the Emperor of the time) - both can still be seen. Also in 1655, an armoury was established at Vyšehrad; this was destroyed by a fire in 1927 and never rebuilt.
The 18th century saw only minor changes made at Vyšehrad, although many improvements were made by the French, who occupied the fortress from 1741. A ravelin in front of the Jerusalem Gate was completed, the defences of the Tábor Gate improved, and casemates were finished. In 1722 a new road was built leading from the hornwork to the fortress core.
During the Napoleonic Wars entrances no longer used were bricked in (e.g. the Leopold Gate and an opening for a new North Gate), outlying ramparts were built to strengthen the hornwork, and the overall defensive capabilities revised and improved. On the basis of decisions taken by the military authorities in Vienna major renovations of the ramparts were undertaken 1838-44. A new road was opened in 1841 leading through the New Gate (which replaced the older Jerusalem Gate), while improvements to the city's defences 1849-50 also included Vyšehrad - an artillery redan was built under bastion XXXVIII, covering Podskalí, the Vltava and part of the New Town. The Vyšehrad fortress remained under military administration until 1911 and was the last borough to formally become part of the city. With the exception of the lost armoury, it has survived in authentic form down to the present.
Pavla StátníkováCity of Prague Museum
View into exhibited remains of the Basilica of St Lawrence.
The Basilica of St. Lawrence (sv. Vavřinec) is one of the Early Medieval buildings to have survived at Vyšehrad even in part. Its remains lie in the foundations of the Baroque residence at 14, Soběslavova ul., close to the princely and royal acropolis that was the heart of the stronghold in the Middle Ages. The first finds were made in 1884 during the sinking of a new cesspit on the south side. The first archaeological excavations began in 1903 under B. Matějka, and revealed that the tiles discovered previously came from a three-aisled, transepted basilica; at the east end were semi-circular apses, while the nave terminated in a square choir, again with a semi-circular apse. The church was 20.6m long, and the transepts too its width to 15.8m. The walls of the nave and transepts were 96cm thick, as they were at the Rotunda of St Martin. Excavation also showed that the north aisle was slightly narrower, and was preserved to the height of the first floor.
The second series of excavations at the basilica took place 1924-26 under K. Gutha, and described further details of the development of the structure and its relationship to the Deanery, which lies to the north.
The third phase of excavation was undertaken in 1968 by the Institute of Archaeology of the (then Czechoslovak) Academy of Sciences, under B. Nechvátal; it was oriented towards the verification of the stratigraphy of the tile finds, and demonstrated that these must be presumed to have been contemporary with the foundation of the basilica in the last third of the 11th century. One of the most important finds made was the foundation wall of a building even older than the Early Romanesque basilica, lying beneath its foundations.
The original function of the basilica is still not reliably known, although it clearly served as a parish church. It was probably destroyed in 1420 during the Hussite revolutionary uprising, and later (during the 15th century) replaced by a canonry that gradually began to serve as the Deanery. St Lawrence's Basilica at Vyšehrad is the oldest building of the Hirsau type in the Czech Lands. The influence of Cluniac reforms from late 10th/early 11th century France, coming via Saxony, is clear in the structure. The use of piedroits in 11th century Bohemia was very unusual (cf. St Vitus' Rotunda at Prague Castle). St Lawrence's Basilica seems typologically to be contemporary with the similar church at Würtenberg in Germany. The five types of relief tiles, the oldest such finds from the Western Slavic cultural region, date to the same period
The original portal was at the west end, but this was removed during the devastation of the church, and its appearance is unknown. The present portal is a modern work of the architect A. Baum; the decorative motifs employed are stylised versions of those in the Vyšehrad Coronation Evangeliary of the first King of Bohemia, Vratislav (r.1061-92), who made Vyšehrad his permanent seat and the foremost location in the Přemyslid state. B. Matějka and J. Herain arrived at a late 11th or early 12th century date for the building of the Basilica.
The pre-Romanesque building found beneath the foundations of St Lawrence's is the earliest building known from Vyšehrad. It was cruciform in plan, and perhaps had the same dedication as its successor; it is dated to the late 10th century. In all, 20.4m of walls were revealed, 135-150cm thick. The greatest quantities of masonry were found beneath the nave and south aisle of the basilica, immediately beneath the Early Romanesque tiling.
In interpreting the plan of the earlier cruciform structure, analogies were sought with the Ottonian church in the central stronghold of the Slavník dynasty at Libice near Poděbrady, where a similar structure existed 962-995. The reconstructed plan of that at Vyšehrad indicates wings 15-17m long and a building length of 17-18m. On the basis of the archaeological context and finds, three reconstructions were made:
a. with closed, rectangular transepts b. with an apsidal end c. with an apsidal end and turrets over a victory arch
R. Turek, who reconstructed the church at Libice, notes that the closest analogy is to be found in the Palatine chapel at Werla, while other similar churches were those at Gernrode, Hildesheim, Walsbeck, St John's at Johannisberg, St Magnus' (the second building) at Worms, the later St Salwator in Cracow etc.
PhDr. Bořivoj Nechvátal, CSc.Institute of Archaeology, Czech Academy of Sciences
The Old Burgrave's ResidencePhoto:NKPV.phone:+420.222.513.503 (management); +420.222.513.505 (ticket-office)
e-mail: email@example.com (management)firstname.lastname@example.org (ticket-office)
Permanent exhibition The historic faces of Vyšehrad Open daily from 9,30 A.M. to P.M. (November – March) and 9,30 A.M. to 6 P.M. (April – October)
Vyšehrad-new face.pdf NCM-rekonstruction.pdf
J. V. Myslbek, four groups in the Vyšehrad park, 1889-97, originally made for the Palacký Bridge, they were brought to Vyšehrad in 1945.
View of the Slavín (Pantheon), located within the Vyšehrad cemetery.
More info: SLAVIN
View of the entrance to the Vyšehrad cemetery.Detailed information regarding this monument can be obtained from:Prague Cemeteries AuthoritySpráva pražských hřbitovůVinohradská 294/212Prague 10Czech RepublicTe: +420.(0)2. 774. 835More info: SLAVIN