Climbing Charles Bridge Tower – also called Old Town Bridge Tower – isn’t on the radar of most tourists, but it’s a worthwhile experience, and views of Prague from the top are phenomenal! I climbed the medieval tower yesterday and only saw a handful of other people along the way. Without question, I can see why people didn’t like being “sent to the dreaded tower“!!!
The climb is through a dim, dungeon-like stone passageway that seems endless as you climb to the top. On the way, there are several stopping points with views, art, and statues. For these places, there’s an entry fee of 100 Czech korunas (about $4). The narrow tower corridor is mildly claustrophobic. Depending on how fast you climb, it can be a mini cardio workout. For the last few days the weather has been warm (80s), so I broke a sweat on the way up the tower.
“The Old Town Bridge Tower is one of the most beautiful Gothic gateways in the world. The tower, along with Charles Bridge, was built in the mid-14th century by Emperor Charles IV. Petr Parléř, a German architect, builder, stonemason, carver, and sculptor designed the tower. The Tower is the gate to Prague’s Old Town displaying a symbolic victory arch Czech kings passed on their coronation processions.”
At the first stop on the way to the top you can see the Seven Mascarones – seven stone faces looking down from the Bridge Tower. In architecture, “a mascaron ornament is a face, usually human, sometimes frightening whose function was originally to frighten away evil spirits so that they would not enter the building. The concept was later adapted to become a purely decorative element”.
Some ponder the reason for the mascaron faces in the Tower – “a whim of the builder or serious symbols with deeper meaning”?
The entrance at the very top has an interesting but creepy statue. I paused to examine it and found it dark and scary. It didn’t give good vibes except to make me want to hurry down the tower and get outside! The description reads:
“This strange statue probably shows a tower warden. Having been made as late as the first half of the 15th century, it’s the tower’s most peculiar statue. The pedestal is the Roman column capital turned upside down! The figure gives no dignified impression, rather contrariwise. We can see an old man, apparently drunk, dressed in a strange cloak and Gothic shoes with a knife and key tucked in his waist. He lifts his cloak with his left hand, perhaps to relieve himself or to make an impolite gesture to all the beauty and audience below him? And what was the creature on his back putting into his head? Was it a demon-intriguer, an imp, a monkey, or the symbol of debauchery? What was the meaning of this figure? What if it is secretly mocking all the great symbols around or those (you) who have so arduously climbed to the top of the tower?”
“We can see an old man, apparently drunk, dressed in a strange cloak and Gothic shoes with a knife and key tucked in his waist.”