It was an overcast day. Dark, ominous skies framed the horizon creating a dramatic backdrop for the magnificent buildings. My primary interest was Municipal House (Obecní Dům) , a renowned Art Nouveau building at the former site of the royal residence. It’s next to Gothic Powder Tower (Prašná Brána) in Republic Square.
During the Middle Ages Powder Tower was the gate to Prague. On the way to their coronation ceremonies at Prague Castle, future kings of Bohemia entered the city through Powder Gate. It’s named for the gunpowder that was stored there during the 18th century.
Republic Square was the center of Czech cultural and social life at the turn of the 20th century. It’s still a busy place where public and cultural activities are always in progress.
I made it to Municipal House Café just before heavy rain began and sat under an umbrella-protected table during the worst of the deluge. Cobblestone streets don’t drain well, and with heavy rain you’re walking in puddles of water – an inch or deeper.
“Municipal House was a place for concerts, exhibitions, conferences, festivities, and grand balls. It played an important role in the beginning of the Republic of Czechoslovakia. In October 1918, the Czech Independent Republic was declared from a balcony at Municipal House. The Czechoslovak National Council was founded there as a base for the future Czech Parliament.”
It took six years – 1905 to 1911 – to build Municipal House, and at the time, it was a modern, technologically advanced venue for Czech cultural events. The building is a mixture of 19th century styles – neo-Renaissance, neo-Baroque, and Art Nouveau. At the entrance to Municipal House, there’s a spectacular tribute to the city – Apotheosis of Prague – a half-dome mosaic by Czech artist Karel Špillar.
The inscription reads, ”Hail to you Prague! Brave the time and malice as you have resisted all the storms throughout the ages”. In part, the words refer to Prague escaping World War II bombings that destroyed many European cities.
Municipal House has splendid concert halls including Smetana, Rieger, Palacky, Sladkovský, and Mayor. The Conductor Apartment has a unique panoramic view of the Prague Castle complex. Municipal House is definitely a “must see” for anyone visiting Prague.
Smetana Hall is an architectural masterpiece! It’s a mix of carved white stone and gold illuminated by hundreds of lights. Magnificent frescoes adorn the walls. The hall is the main place of work for the Prague Symphony Orchestra and the most important place for concerts and music festivals.
I have a ticket for a concert on the 25th! It will be a performance of beloved Czech composer Bedřich Smetana Die Moldau – a favorite symphony. Moldau is the German name for the Vltava River. Even with heavy rain it was a fantastic day exploring Municipal House. I learned so much!