Would You Dare to Visit Prague?
Around this time of year, we all hear horror stories, ghost tales, and gory legends. Most are just make believe, but in Prague, some of these are very real. Some say that Prague is the most haunted city in Europe. I have lived in Prague for the last 4 years and behind it’s incredibly beautiful exterior lies a brutal past.
Legends include the master craftsman Mr Hanuš, who installed Prague’s infamous astronomical clock in the Old Town Square (Staroměstské Náměstí) in 1490 and later had his eyes burnt out with red hot pokers by local Councillors so that he couldn’t reproduce the same work for anybody else.
A fire in 1864 caused some damage to the building but worse was to come. The whole building was burnt down in 1945 by the Nazis, taking with it the city archives. After much effort, the damage was repaired and replaced to how it is seen today. Could all this destruction have something to do with Mr Hanuš?
In the Old Town Square you can also see a memorial to Jan Hus, the 14th Century Priest who was sentenced to death on 6th July 1415 after being accused of heresy. When he refused a last offer from the pope to recant his anti Catholicism views, he was stripped, bound to a pole with rope and chains, and straw placed all the way around him right up to the neck before being burnt at the stake. His last words were:
“God is my witness that the things charged against me I never preached. In the same truth of the Gospel which I have written, taught, and preached, drawing upon the sayings and positions of the holy doctors, I am ready to die today”.
His ashes were later thrown in the River Rhine.
In 1422, Jan Želivský, a popular Hussite priest and a radical representative of the Hussite reformation, was invited to the Old Town Hall. When he arrived, the door was bolted and the executioner summoned, who then decapitated Želivský and 9 or 12 of his followers. Želivský’s followers outside saw blood begin to trickle out of the building. They forced their way in to get their leader’s head, which they then carried through Prague on a platter. Afterwards, they retaliated with equal violence.
As you walk round the Square today you will see 27 crosses embedded in the stone cobbles representing the 27 noblemen that were executed on what is called “the Day of Blood” by the protestants for their role in dethroning the Habsburg Ferdinand and naming Friedrich as King of Bohemia. As punishment, the victims were executed in order from high to low rank by means of decapitation. 12 of those heads were displayed for 10 years after on Charles Bridge. Earlier this year an art group added an extra cross to acknowledge a said 28th victim named Martin Fruvejn. It was said he committed suicide but it is more likely he was tortured to death before the executions took place.
Then of course there is the legend of Golem, a mythological creature created by a Jewish Rabbi to protect the people of Prague. As Golem became increasingly stronger, he also became destructive and instead frightened the residents of Prague. Golem could only ‘live’ when he had a clay tablet placed in his mouth, which was removed on Saturdays, the holy day.
One day people found him uprooting trees and destroying the Rabbi’s home when he was in the synagogue singing psalm number ninety-two. The Rabbi rushed to take out the tablet. This was the end of Golem – he was never re-vitalized. Afterwards the Rabbi continued with the psalm and because of the interruption Prague’s old – new Synagogue is the only place in the whole world where this psalm is sung twice.
So perhaps this is why many think Prague is so haunted? When so much death and destruction has occurred over the years in one place, it may be wise to look over your shoulder, should you dare to wander the Old Town streets alone at night in Prague….
A Manc expat, usually found mooching around Prague, iphone in hand! Writer, blogger, amateur photographer and expert moaner! Tied to a desk with no hope of escape, or have I? Follow my blog and see! New stuff coming soon so watch this space!