Vysehrad (58)

Far from the centre of Prague stands a rocky cliff over the River Vltava, whose romantic and mysterious atmosphere has inspired dozens of legends and works of art. It is Vysehrad, which means Castle of the Heights, and is a hill fortified and rebuilt over the centuries.

The legendary origin of Vysehrad is related to the mythical Princess Libuse, who tradition attributes to the founding of Prague. Libuse, daughter of the Prince of the Czechs, was not only a princess but also a prophetess and sorceress back in the 8th century. On succeeding her father to the throne, she founded Vysehrad and also Prague Castle, with the prophecy that here would be raised a city whose glory would be incomparable. Libuse is considered as the founder of the first royal dynasty of Bohemia, that of the Premyslids.

Myth aside, it is believed that the fortification of Vysehrad occurred in the 10th century at the behest of the Premyslids, who wanted to complete the defence of Prague adding another strategic point as well as the castle. Shortly after, it was abandoned until the 14th century, when Charles IV recovered it.

The walls of the Vysehrad complex were extended in 1742 during the French occupation. At the end of the 19th century it came to form part of the Prague administration, since the city, while growing, had reached this point.

The Tabor Gate and the Leopold I gates stand out, both monumental and built in the 17th century. You can see the Gothic Spicka Gate here, of which there is a reproduction on Petrin Hill.

Of the old constructions there remain some Romanesque rotundas, the oldest of which is that of Saint Martin, from the 11th century. There are also remains of the Romanesque basilica of Saint Lawrence, built in the 11th century and destroyed by the Hussites.

The church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul was originally a Romanesque church founded by Vrastislav I and destroyed in the 13th century by a fire. In 1369, Charles IV covered its remains with a neo-Gothic temple, a style which was progressively lost in the successive restorations. In the 19th century, Josef Mocker tried to recover its Gothic style in another reform. Today it has two modern bell towers from the early 20th century.

Inside there are some old works that are well worth looking at, such as the “Madonna of Humility”, from the 16th century, and the Gothic panel of “Our Lady of the Rains”, from the 14th century.

Alongside the church you will be able to see some statues of mythological Czech figures, work of Myslbek, which were moved here after being damaged by bombing in the Second World War.

Your tour of Vysehrad could end in the cemetery dating was originally from 1660 where some great Czech artists are buried. This place was turned into a national cemetery as from 1875, after the construction of a portico with neo-Renaissance colonnades and painted vaults. Since then, leading figures from the world of art and literature have been buried here, such as the painters Ales and Mucha and the compositors Smetana and Dvorák. The Slavín pantheon, which means place of glory, pays joint homage to all these illustrious figures.

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