CUCAP

Town Hall & Tower Tour

New Town Hall

The New Town Hall is one of the national cultural monuments in Prague. Its history begins soon after the foundation of the New Town of Prague by Charles IV in 1348. 

Over the centuries, the New Town Hall has witnessed many historical events – mentions about it can be found in sources dating back to 1377. In 1419, the first Prague defenestration took place - a crowd led by Jan Želivský and Jan Žižka threw the burgomaster, two town councillors and several burghers out a window, effectively starting the Hussite Revolution. The second Prague defenestration took place at the New Town Hall in 1483 during religious and political unrest in Prague towns, which broke out into an uprising and political upheaval. In 1518, when the New Town Hall became the seat of the Six-Member Office, the building underwent significant construction changes; it burnt down in 1559 and its reconstruction lasted until 1561. In 1609, the Protestant estate members came together to induce Rudolf II to issue the Letter of Majesty guaranteeing religious freedom. In 1784, after the merger of the Prague towns under the jurisdiction of one municipal authority, the Town Hall became the seat of a criminal court, and after 1859 it was purchased by the Headquarters of the Provincial Court. During further repairs in 1905, valuable remnants of the original architecture were discovered, according to which architects Wiehl and Hilbert reconstructed the original look of the Town Hall.

The mission of the Town Hall changed over the centuries. The original administrative centre of the New Town, the Town Hall became the seat of a court and the premises were used as a prison. For instance, in the years 1694 - 1695, the leader of the Chodové peasant rebellion Jan Sladký Kozina was placed here to await trial. The whole of Prague was watching the trial with the legendary robber Václav Babinský in 1839. The so-called printing processes of the 1850s brought to the local jail the publishers such as Josef R. Vilímek, Vincenc Vávra or František Bozděch. In 1894, there was a political process with Omladina where over 70 people were convicted, among others Alois Rašín and Stanislav Kostka Neumann. The diversity of the origin and offences of the prisoners gave birth to a popular ditty "There is a lot of talk in the New Town prison - the thief, the gypsy and the editor sit there together."
Even executions took place in the courtyard of the Town Hall, the last of which was under the Nazi occupation. The last prisoner was Milada Horáková.
Before the general reconstruction, which began in the 1970s, the Town Hall served (in a very devastated state) as a workplace of the Transport Inspectorate, the courtyard was used by the Municipal Public Security Administration as a car park and garage of service cars. The overall reconstruction of the New Town Hall took place between 1975 and 1995. In 2007, the south wing facade was reconstructed (towards Charles Square) and the facade towards the courtyard was repaired.

PRAGUE

Tower Tour

On monday from 12:15 to 17:00, the Town Hall Tower will be

Open exclusively for CUCAP

participants, free of charge. Please find a moment for an individual tour of the tower during this time.


 

CUCAP

The Town Hall Tower

Completed in 1456, the prominent feature of the New Town Hall is almost 70 m tall with 221 steps leading to its gallery.

From the 15th century, the tower served as a fire "guardhouse" for the New Town, and later on a watchman used to announce the time. The tower was renovated in 1520 - 1526 and then in 1559 - 1561, the gallery and the roof were repeatedly repaired after being hit by lightning (the last structural modifications date back to 1876).
On the first floor of the New Town Hall tower there is an originally Gothic chapel, later consecrated to the Assumption of the Virgin Mary and to St. Wenceslas, the patron saint of the Czech Lands. In 1722 it was rebuilt in a Baroque style, which was preserved in, for example, a vault in the middle decorated with a fresco depicting an allegory of Law and Justice, or an entrance profiled portal. The chapel can also be seen at some of the events from the Grand Hall of the New Town Hall.
Part of the tour is a visit to the Gallery Exhibitions in the Tower where short-term exhibitions are installed. On the eastern side of the Tower, there is a fragment of a chain that was once used to close the street: this measure was intended to allow the residents to have a good night's rest - especially the wooden wheels of farm wagons on the road were very noisy.
Since 1760, the Czech or Prague cubit (a standard unit of measurement for length) is also situated here. It is where merchants could calibrate their wooden measures and buyers could check whether they had been given the correct measure. On the southern side of the Tower, about two meters above the ground, a Latin inscription is carved in a sandstone block:

SIGNA TE SIGNA TEMERE ME TANGIS ET ANGIS
ROMA TIBI SUBITO MOTIBUS IBIT AMOR


This is the so-called palindrome - i.e. a text which reads the same backward as forward, located on the wall.