Celebrations are taking place to mark the 650th anniversary of Prague’s famous Charles Bridge. Ceremonies began on Monday morning at exactly 5:31. Legend has it that the Bohemian King and Roman Emperor Charles IV decided to start construction of the bridge at 5:31 am on July 9, 1357, after consulting astrologers and astronomers. When all the dates and times are lined up in order they read the same backwards and forwards – this is what’s known as a palindrome.
The bridge is one of Prague’s most visited tourist attractions and is the oldest preserved bridge in the city. There are two days of festivities, complete with battle reanactments, to celebrate the 650th anniversary.
Originally called Prague Bridge and then Stone Bridge, it was designed by the royal builder Peter Parler. It is considered an outstanding example of Gothic architecture. At 515 metres long and 9.5 metres wide, it became a pedestrian bridge in the 1960s. An estimated four million tourists visit the bridge every year, but it is also treasured by locals. “We were both born in Prague and the significance of the bridge is enormous,” said one woman visiting the Charles Bridge. “It’s historic and amazing. We all love it.”
The bridge has certainly seen its share of both joyous but also gruesome events, including battles and executions. Today, though, it is a place of relaxation and pleasure. A renovation project, expected to last 13 years, is due to be launched this year. Use of the bridge will be restricted but it will stay partly open to tourists.