9th International Symposium
on Ecosystem Behavior
August 20-24, 2017

Sightseeing Tours Itinerary

Guided Tour I - The Castle

Route: Strahov Monastery – Czernin Palace – Loreto Shrine – Hradcany Square – The Prague Castle – St. Vitus’s Cathedral – The Old Royal Palace – Golden Lane – The Castle Gardens

  • Strahov Monastery

    The Romanesque Strahov monastery was founded in 1140 by the second Czech King Vladislav II. It belongs to Premonstratensians, the white monks of St. Norbert. The Belgian founder of the order, St. Norbert, is buried at Strahov. The monks were known for their traditional devotion to scholarship. Their great Philosophical Library was put together in 1780 to persuade the monk-hating Emperor Joseph II that this particular establishment served a useful purpose. Much of the collection came from monasteries that Joseph was abolishing by the dozen. The communists evacuated the monastery in 1951 and converted it into a museum of national literature. The Library consists of an ornate Early Baroque Theological Hall (1671) and the more impressive Philosophical Hall furnished in the style of Classicism (1782). The vast ceiling composition depicting the Mankind’s Efforts to Achieve Enlightenment was painted by Franz Maulpertsch, an outstanding painter of Viennese Rococo when he was more than 80 years old. The main Church of the Assumption of Our Lady buries a 12th century basilica under a surfeit of baroque accretions. When visiting Strahov in 1787, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart played on the church organ which is considered the finest in Prague.

  • Czernin Palace

    The imposing Czernin Palace was built after 1669 for the Imperial Ambassador to Venice, Humprecht Czernin of Chudenice. The early Baroque fasade, a work of an Italian master Francesco Caratti, is decorated by 30 tall half-columns with picturesque capitals. It is rumoured than in building this palace, competing in its grandeur with the very Castle located at the other end of the Castel Hill, the Czernin family financially ruined themselves. The Palace now serves as the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

  • Loreto

    Over 60 Loreto shrines were built around Bohemia and Moravia in thanksgiving for the Virgin’s help in granting a Catholic victory at the battle of the While Mountain (1620). Princess Benigna Catharina of Lobkowitz instituted in 1626 the famous one in Prague. Over the years, the Prague Loreto became one of the most fascinating embodiments of Baroque piety and a major place of pilgrimage. According to a legend, angels transferred in the 13th century the authentic little house where Virgin Mary had lived from Nazareth to Italy, the town of Loreto. The reason was that Israel was then in the hands of infidels. The main fasade of the Prague Loreto is a work of Kilian Ignaz Dienzenhofer. A 1694 spire has a carrilon that plays Hail Thee Mary a Thousand Times on the hour. At the center of the cloisters stands the Santa Casa, a quasi-Roman temple that replicates Bramante’s vision of what a Nazarene carpenter’s hut should look like. The Church of the Nativity of Christ (1734) is one of the finest Rococo interios in town. There are over 120 sculpted angels, frolicking, twirling, playing at various instruments or tumbling in free fall. The treasury upstairs offers a collection of gold and silver reliquaries, chalices, monstrances and votive gifts of exquisite workmanship. The monstrance known as the The Prague Sun is decorated by 6 222 genuine diamonds. Originally, all these diamonds were decorating the wedding dress of a wealthy Noblewoman, Eve of Kolowrat.

  • The Hradcany Square

    The monumental space outside of the main gate of the Prague Castle is dominated by residences of Habsburg aristocracy. The architecture dates largely from the aftermath of the great fire of 1541. Outstanding buildings include the Archbishop’s Palace with a freshly restored Rococo fasade (1756), the Renaissance Schwarzenberg Palace (1545) with envelope-shaped black and white sgraffiti covering its whole fasade, and Toscana Palace (1689) with an French-style early Baroque fasade designed by J. B. Mathey, a Burgundian painter.

  • The Castle

    The Castle dominates the skyline of Prague, rising high above the Vltava River in a cluster of spires, towers and Classicist masonry. Once the residence of Bohemian kings, it now holds the offices of the Czech President and a splendid range of architecture spanning 11 centuries. The castle was founded by Duke Borivoj in c. 870 AD. Today, it consists of three couryards, and as we proceed, we will be coming to older and older parts. The facades of a medieval castle were architecturally unified by the Viennese architect Nicolo Pacassi after 1765.

  • St. Vitus’s Cathedral

    The Gothic St. Vitus’s Cathedral (1344-1929) is situated in the third courtyard. The eastern half of the Cathedral, including the apsis, choir, transept and southern portal, belongs to the original phase of building that was abandoned in 1419 during the Hussite protestant revolution. The two Medieval architects were Mathias of Arras, and Peter Parler. The nave, twin spires and western portal were added after 1870 in the neo-Gothic style by Josef Mocker and Kamil Hilbert. St. Vitus was a Sicilian youth who was fed to the lions during one of Ancient Rome’s anti-Christian purges. His connection with Prague began in c. 920 AD when King Henry the Fowler of Germany sent a piece of the saint’s arm to Wenceslas, later a saint himself, as a token of his goodwill. The Chapel of St. Wenceslas is the spiritual heart of the Cathedral. This glittering treasure-trove of painted and gold-plated Medieval art was built by Peter Parler in place of the original rotunda where St. Wenceslas had been buried by a fracticidal but remorseful Boleslav four centuries earlier. A chamber above the chapel holds the Crown Jewels of Bohemia, kept under seven locks whose seven keys are in the custody of seven different dignitaries. Ouside, two small windows of the treasure chamber can be seen above the 14th century Golden Gate, breaking into the unique mosaic of Last Judgement. The mosaic consists of more than 1 million pices of glass and has been recently restored in collaboration with Getty Conservation Institute, California.

  • The Old Royal Palace

    One of Europe’s most brilliant examples of Gothic civil architecture took shape under king Vladislav II in the late 15th century. The centerpiece is the Vladislav Hall with a beautiful Late-Gothic curved rib vault and Renaissance twin windows (1493). This enormous room was designed expressly to hold crowds of mounted knights ready for a knightly tournament. The arches of the adjacent Knights‘ Staircase (1500) were designed to achieve sufficient height on a slant to permit knights to ride up without getting off their horses. A passage leads from the Vladislav Hall to the chambers of the Bohemian Chancellery in the Louis’ Wing. The rooms made history on May 23, 1618. From their second-floor windows, the Second Prague Defenestration took place, launching one of the worst wars in European history. Two obelisks mark the spot in the garden below where the three defenestrees came to rest, alive, after a 50-foot fall. The victims were Counts Slavata and Martinitz, the hated vice-regents of the emperor. Their secretary Fabricius followed them after protesting too loudly. The fall ended by a soft landing in a dungheap. The bizarre act was planned a day earlier at a meeting of Protestant conspirators near the Lesser Town Square. Their leader was Count Thurn, who paid for his crime three years later by getting drawn and quartered in the Old Town Square.

  • Golden Lane

    This quaint alley of picturesque miniature cottages originated in the 1540‘s to accommodate the Castle Guards. According to legends, these huts were later inhabited by alchemists, predecessors of present-day chemists, who were attempting to make gold for the Emperor Rudolf II by mixing and boiling of whatever substances they thought would work. Even later, the Golden Lane became a refuge for destitute people because, as part of the Castle, it was exempted from taxes. Residents in the 20th century included Franz Kafka (1917) and the Nobel laureate poet Jaroslav Seifert (1930s).

  • Castle Gardens

    Two gardens on the Southern side of the Castle offer excellent views over the city. The Paradise Garden and the Wall Garden were revitalized by the famed Slovenian architect Josip Plecnik who worked here for the first Czechoslovak President Tomas Garrique Masaryk in the 1920s.

Guided Tour II - The Old Town

Route: Wenceslas Square – Old Town of Prague – Old Town Square – The Astronomic Clock with Horologe – The Tyn Church – The Coronation Route of the Czech Kings – St. Gile’s Church – Krizovnicke Square – Charles Bridge – Lesser Town of Prague – St. Nicolas’s Church

  • Wenceslas Square

    Prague’s response to the Parisian Champs-Elysees and the Viennese Ringstrasse has supplied the stage for the great events of the modern Czech history. An open-air mass celebrated here in 1848 formed the high point of the nationalist revolution which put the Czech nation back on the European map after a break of two centuries. In 1968, the world was treated to images of Warsaw Pact tanks rolling through taunting crowds against the back-drop of St. Wenceslas. In 1989 the same backdrop, the equestrian statue of St. Wenceslas (1913), surrounded the make-shift platform on which much of the drama of the vanishing days of communism was played out. The square was founded as part of the New Town of Prague by the Emperor Charles IV in 1348. Its original name was Horse Market. Its architecture dates mainly from the period 1885-1930.

  • Old Town of Prague

    In the Middle Ages, Prague consisted of four independent cities. The Old Town, chartered around 1230, is the oldest one. The city had its own city walls and administration. King John of Luxemburg allowed the residents of the Old Town to build a Town Hall for themselves in 1338. The best way to enjoy the Old Town (or the Lesser Town on the other side of the river, for that matter), is to walk, more or less randomly. The city is a maze of ancient alleys and passageways, which twist and curve in so many unexpected ways that it is hard for wondering strangers to follow any pre-set route without spending half their time checking a map. Almost every alley hides a few items – a back-street church, an eccentric house sign, a sooty statue – of singular charm and historic value.

  • The Old Town Square

    The oldest literary record about the marketplace dates back to 965 AD. Until today, this lovely old piazza has the right proportions to balance intimacy with grandeur. The appearance of the square has changed little since the late Middle Ages. Grave and curious incidents of Bohemia’s history took place here. Just two examples: Twenty-seven white crosses marked in the pavement outside the Town Hall commemorate the spot where 27 leaders of the Protestant nobility faced the executioner on June 21, 1621. Their crime had been to plunge Europe into the Thirty-Year War, the worst bloodbath in its history before the 20th century. On a snowy morning on February 25, 1948, Klement Gottwald announced the birth of Communist Czechoslovakia from the balcony of the Kinsky Palace. The Jan Hus monument, in the center of the square, shows the reformer in Art Nouveau’ish elongation, accompanied by two groups representing the defeated and the defiant. The memorial was installed in 1915 for the 500th anniversary of Hus’s martydom and represented a veiled protest against Austrian rule. The sculptor was Ladislav Saloun.

  • The Astronomic Clock with Horologe

    One of the best known sights of Prague, the Astronomic Clock on the southern wall of the Gothic Town Hall, delights its viewers as each hour strikes with a morality play performed by a 17-puppet cast. The 12 Apostles parade out of their window, a skeleton representing Death reverses an hourglass, the Greed and the Turk mock him, and a cock crows when it is all over. The clock is also a wonder of technology in its own right. The clock mechanism is a work of Mikulas of Kadan from 1410. The upper dial shows the hour the usual way, as well as the hour calculated from sunset to sunset. The inner dial with zodiac signs shows the current position of the sun, the moon and the planets. The lower dial is divided into 365 ticks, which make a full circle each year. The clock was rebuilt in its current form by Master Hanus in 1490. Legend has it that the Town Hall failed to pay him (others say he was blinded to make sure he did not build a copy of his clock elsewhere), so he scaled the tower, threw a spell in the works, and died on the spot. No one was able to fix the bug until 1572.

  • The Tyn Church

    Prague’s best known visual emblem, the 18-spired Gothic Church of Our Lady Before Tyn was begun under Charles IV in 1365. The construction was completed only after the Hussite revolution in 1490. In the 15th century, the church became the center of Bohemian Utraquism. The Utraquists were the moderate protestant followers of Jan Hus. They administered the sacrament in both kinds – wine and bread – to laymen as well as priests. The famous Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe, the man credited with the most complete observation of the planets before the coming of the telescope, is buried in the church. A quarrel left him without a nose for most of his life, so he carried various prostheses, including one made of gold that he only wore on Sundays and gala occasions. The manner of his death was equally absurd: His bladder exploded at a feast where too much beer was consumed. It was considered bad table manners to leave the room when Emperor Rudolf II was still eating. The highest mountain on the Moon carries the name of Tycho Brahe. The Tyn Church is featured on our Goldschmidt poster poster.

  • The Coronation Route of the Czech Kings

    For 100 years, the Czech Kings did not live in the Castle, but in the Royal Court in the city center (1383-1483). Whenever a new king was to be crowned in the Cathedral, the royal procession passed along what we now call the Coronation Route on its way to the Castle. The route intersects the Old Town Square, heads through Charles street, across the Charles Bridge and passes by St. Nicolas Church in the Lesser Town Square. We will follow this route for the rest of our walking tour.

  • The Coronation Route of the Czech Kings

    For 100 years, the Czech Kings did not live in the Castle, but in the Royal Court in the city center (1383-1483). Whenever a new king was to be crowned in the Cathedral, the royal procession passed along what we now call the Coronation Route on its way to the Castle. The route intersects the Old Town Square, heads through Charles street, across the Charles Bridge and passes by St. Nicolas Church in the Lesser Town Square. We will follow this route for the rest of our walking tour.

  • St. Gile‘s Church

    One of the off-the-beaten-tracks charms of the Old Town. The imposing Gothic structure (139-1371) has a distincly simple, even severe exterior. St. Gile’s church, part of a Dominican monastery, badly suffered from the Hussite anarchy in 1420. The interior was given a Baroque treatment in 1733-1735 with splendid ceiling frescos by Vaclav Vavrinec Reiner. Reiner, the best painter of vast ceiling frescos in the 18th century, is buried here. In the 1980s, this church was known as a place where many dissidents would worship. The Domincan friar Dominik Duka be-friended the playwright Vaclav Havel in prison. After the Velvet Revolution (1989), Havel became President (1989-2003), while Duka now serves as the Archbishop of Prague. Also here, the American Czech-born movie director Milos Forman filmed Mozart’s wedding for his Oscar-winning film Amadeus.

  • Krizovnicke Square

    Located in the vicnity of Charles Bridge, this square, named for the Knights with the Red Cross, the only Czech monastic order, is probably the most beautiful medieval square in Prague. Saviour‘s Church (1578-1640), forming one side of the space, is part of Clementinum, the third largest Jesuit College in the world. Another splendid early Baroque church in the square is that of St. Francis (1679-1689), a masterpice by J. B. Mathey. Outside of the church is a bronze statue of Charles IV depicted as the founder of the oldest University in Central Europe (1348). The Old Town Bridge Tower encloses the square in the West. Peter Parler was the architect of this spectacular defence tower with its pointed cap and rich Gothic decoration. Statues of Charles IV and his son Wenceslas IV are a major attraction on the front side of this bridge tower. For 10 years after 1621, the tower served the grizzly purpose of displaying the chopped heads of some of the 27 Bohemian nobles who had led the revolt against the Habsburgs. In 1648 it was the site of the heroic stand of university students and Old Town Jews, which saved the Old Town from the Swedish army, which had occupied – and thoroughly looted – the left bank.

  • Charles Bridge

    This wonderful old bridge, possibly the most beautiful in Europe, has been a landmark of Prague since 1357. Charles IV commissioned it from Peter Parler at a time of his grandiose plans to develop Prague to the permanent capital of the Holy Roman Empire. For nearly 500 years afterward, it was the only bridge on Vltava and thus a critical point of Central European trade and invasion routes. Decorated with 30 groups of statues after 1683, it became one of the greatest showcases of Baroque sculpture on the continent. Charles‘ original bridge was adorned with a simple crucifix. After the Thirty-Year War, Prague became affluent, and noblemen and civic bodies started to subscribe to individual monuments. Top sculptors of the time were set to work; Ferdinand Maxmilian Brokoff, the greatest of them, contributed eight statues. When the program reached completion in 1714, the bridge was a gallery of 26 ecstatic, gesticulating, wriggling, exhorting saints. Three statues deserve special attention: St. John of Nepomuk is the oldest statue on the bridge (1683), and also the only one cast in bronze. John was martyred in 1393 by being thrown into the Vltava by the king’s men at this precise spot. He incurred the royal wrath by refusing to disclose the intimate details of the confession of the 21-year old Queen Sophia. He may also have antagonized King Wenceslas IV by appointing an abbot against his wish, while serving as a deputy of the momentarily untouchable Archbishop Jan of Jenstejn. St. John of Nepomuk was canonized only in 1729 and his statue can now be found in hundreds of replicas from Sicily to Scandinavia. The Vision of St. Luitgard surpasses all other statues on the bridge in its sensuous intensity. It is a masterpiece of the young Mathias Bernard Brown from 1713. Luitgard, a Cistercian nun, is shown in ecstasy as Christ bears down from the Crucifix to embrace her and she reaches over to kiss His wound. The largest and most popular group of statues (St. John of Mathy, Felix of Valois and Blessed Ivan) shows a potbellied Turk and a dog keeping several hapless Christians in jail. The onlooking friars are founders of the Trinitarian Order, which specialized in ransoming Christian captives from Muslim hands. Charles Bridge was not the oldest bridge in Prague. The first stone bridge, commissioned by Queen Judith in 1158, was the second bridge in Medieval Europe after that of Regensburg. It was destroyed by a flood in 1342.

  • The Lesser Town of Prague

    The second oldest of the four medieval cities of Prague was founded at the foot of the Castle Hill in 1257. King Premysl Otakar II invited German colonists to settle the castle slope, marking the beginning of Prague as a bilingual city (c. 1257-1946). Today, the Lesser Town is a place where numerous embassies house Renaissance, Baroque and Classicist Palaces. We will enter the Lesser Town between two Bridge Towers, one Romanesque and one late-Gothic.

  • St. Nicolas‘ Church

    This crowning work of Dienzehofers father and son is the most astounding example of Baroque religious architecture in Prague. The overall plan (1703) and the facade (1711) belong to Christoph; his son Kilian Ignaz added the 75-meter dome (1737-1753), and Kilian’s son-in-law Anselmo Luragho built the elegant Rococo belfry. The church stood under the jurisdiction of the Jesuits, while the funds were supplied by Count Kolowrat. Unique in the European context is the dynamic western fasade, on the ground plan composed entirely of convex and concave curves. The interior manifests the characteristic Baroque preoccupation with drama, illusion and ornament at a level of intensity unmatched elsewhere. The vault is covered by an extravagant fresco, with a surface of 1500 square meters reportedly the largest in Europe. The fresco depicts the life of St. Nicolas, a 4th century bishop from Asia Minor, who in time grew into Santa Claus the bringer of gifts, and patron of children, sailors, innocent prisoners and unmarried girls. Contrary to appearance, the interior contains not a trace of genuine marble. What looks like marble is in reality scagliola, a painted mixture of plaster and glue, which was even more expensive than the real thing.