Charles Bridge is a historic bridge that crosses the Vltava river in Prague, Czech Republic.
It is a stone Gothic bridge that connects the Old Town and Lesser Town (Malá Strana).
King Vladislav II had Prague’s first stone bridge built in the years 1160 to 1172. His wife had urged him to build the bridge and it was given her name, Judith.
In 1253 administration of the bridge was taken over by the Knights of the Cross. Two thirds of the structure was destroyed by a flood in February 1342, necessitating the building of a replacement .
Today’s construction started in 1357 under the auspices of King Charles IV, and finished in the beginning of the 15th century.
This new bridge was originally called Stone Bridge (Kamenný most) or Prague Bridge (Pražský most) but has been “Charles Bridge” since 1870.
Charles Bridge is 621 meters (2,037 feet) long and nearly 10 meters (33 feet) wide.
The bridge is decorated by a continuous alley of 30 statues and statuaries, most of them baroque-style, originally erected around 1700 but now all replaced by replicas.
The 30 mostly baroque statues and statuaries situated on the balustrade forms a unique connection of artistic styles with the underlying gothic bridge. Most sculptures were erected between 1683 and 1714. They depict various saints and patron saints venerated at that time.
Throughout its history, Charles Bridge has suffered several disasters and witnessed many historic events.
During the end of the Thirty Years’ War in 1648, the Swedes occupied the west bank of the Vltava, and as they tried to advance into the Old Town the heaviest fighting took place right on the bridge.
During a great flood in 1784, five pillars were severely damaged and although the arches did not break down, the traffic on the bridge had to be greatly restricted for some time.
The original stairway to Kampa Island was replaced by a new one in 1844.
In the beginning of the 20th century, Charles Bridge saw a steep rise of heavy traffic. The last day of the horse line on the bridge was 15 May 1905, when it was replaced with an electric tram and later, in 1908, with buses.
At the end of World War II, a barricade was built in the Old Town bridge tower gateway.
A capital repair of the bridge took place between 1965 and 1978, based on a collaboration among various scientific and cultural institutes.
Beginning in 1965, all of the statues have been systematically replaced by replicas, and the originals have been exhibited in the Lapidarium of the National Museum.