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Wenceslas Square, Prague, Czech Republic

December 12th, 2006 / / Links: Google Earth, Google Maps, Yahoo! Maps, Virtual Earth / Nearest places
 
 

Photo: Wenceslas Square

Wenceslas Square (Czech: Václavské náměstí) is one of the main city squares and the centre of the business and cultural communities in the New Town of Prague, Czech Republic. It has been a place where many historical events occurred; it is also a traditional place for demonstrations, celebrations, and similar public gatherings. The square is named after Saint Wenceslas, the patron saint of Bohemia.

Formerly named Koňský trh (English: Horse Market), because of periodical horse markets during the Middle Ages. Renamed in 1848 to Svatováclavské náměstí (English: Saint Wenceslas square) on the proposal from Karel Havlíček Borovský.

Less a square than a boulevard, Wenceslas Square has a shape of a very long (750 m, total area 45,000 m²) rectangle, in a northwest–southeast direction. The street slopes upward to the southeast side. On that end, the street is bordered by the grand neoclassical Czech National Museum. The northwest end runs up against the border between the New Town and the Old Town.

The street is dominated by a mounted statue of Saint Wenceslas, made by Josef Václav Myslbek in 1887–1924 and located in front of the National Museum. The image of Saint Wenceslas is accompanied by other Czech patron saints carved into the ornate statue base: Saint Ludmila, Saint Agnes of Bohemia, Saint Prokop, and Saint Adalbert of Prague.

The statue base, designed by architect Alois Dryák, includes the inscription: "Svatý Václave, vévodo české země, kníže náš, nedej zahynouti nám ni budoucím" ("Saint Wenceslas, duke of the Czech land, prince of ours, do not let perish us nor our descendants").

Other landmarks on or visible from the street include the Art Nouveau Hotel Europa, the Palác Koruna office building and shopping centre and the Gothic Church of Our Lady of the Snows.

In 1348, Bohemian King Charles IV founded the New Town of Prague. The plan included several open areas for markets, of which the second largest was the Koňský trh, or Horse Market. At the southeastern end of the market was the Horse Gate, one of the gates in the walls of the New Town.

During the Czech national revival movement in the 19th century, a more noble name for the street was requested. At this time the statue was built, and the square was renamed.

On October 28, 1918, Alois Jirásek read the proclamation of independence of Czechoslovakia in front of the Saint Wenceslas statue.

The Nazis used the street for mass demonstrations. During the Prague Uprising in 1945, a few buildings near the National Museum were destroyed. They were later replaced by department stores.

On January 19, 1969, student Jan Palach set himself on fire in Wenceslas Square to protest the invasion of Czechoslovakia by the Soviet Union in 1968.

On March 28, 1969, the Czechoslovakian national ice hockey team defeated the USSR team for the second time in that year's Ice Hockey World Championships. As the country was still under Soviet occupation, the victory induced great celebrations. Perhaps 150,000 people gathered on Wenceslas Square, and skirmishes with police developed. A group of agents provocateurs provoked an attack on the Prague office of the Soviet airline Aeroflot, located on the street. The vandalism served as a pretext for reprisals and the period of so-called normalization.

In 1989, during the Velvet Revolution, large demonstrations (with hundreds of thousands of people or more) were held here.

[Source: Wikipedia]

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Photo: The upper part of Wenceslas Square at night

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