Page:EB1911 - Volume 22.djvu/263

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249
PRAGUE

elected as their king Frederick of the Palatinate, and both he and his wife Elizabeth of England were crowned in St Vitus's Cathedral. On the 8th of November 1620 the Bohemian forces were decisively defeated by the Imperialists on the White Mountain at the outskirts of Prague. The town submitted on the following day and the whole country was quickly subdued by the Imperialist armies. On the 21st of June 1621 the principal leaders of the rising against the house of Habsburg were beheaded in the market of the old town near the town hall. In 1631 Prague was occupied for a short time by the Saxon allies of Gustavus Adolphus, king of Sweden, but the Imperial army led by Wallenstein soon obliged them to retire. In 1648 a Swedish army stormed the Malá strana and Hradčany. The citizens, now entirely Romanists, bravely defended the bridge, and the Swedes were unable to obtain possession of the part of Prague situated on the right bank of the Vltava. In November the news of the conclusion of the peace of Westphalia reached Prague and put a stop to hostilities.

Henceforth the history of Prague continues uneventful for a considerable period. During the Austrian War of Succession it again became the scene of important events. On the 26th of November 1741 Prague was stormed by an army consisting of Bavarians, French and Saxons which upheld the cause of Charles, elector of Bavaria, who claimed the succession to the Bohemian throne and to the other domains of the house of Habsburg. A large part of the Bohemian nobility did homage to Charles, and he was crowned king of Bohemia in St Vitus's Cathedral on the 17th of December 1741. The rule of the Bavarian prince lasted, however, but a very short time. On the 27th of June 1742 the armies of the empress Maria Theresa began to besiege the French army of Marshal Belle-Isle in Prague, and the French commander was obliged to evacuate the city in December 1742. In the spring of the following year Maria Theresa arrived at Prague and was crowned there, but in 1744 the city was again the scene of warfare. In that year Frederick the Great of Prussia invaded Bohemia and obtained possession of Prague after a severe and prolonged bombardment, in the course of which a large part of the town was destroyed. The Prussian occupation was, however, of short duration. At the beginning of the Seven Years' War Prague was - in 1757- again besieged by Frederick the Great after he had defeated the Austrians in a battle between the Žižkov and Počernice (commonly called the battle of Prague, see Seven Years' War). In June of the same year the Austrian victory at Kolín obliged the Prussians to raise the siege. Prague, which had suffered even more during the second bombardment, now enjoyed a long period of quiet.

In the beginning of the 19th century Prague, which had become almost a German city, became the centre of a movement that endeavoured to revive the almost extinct Bohemian nationality. This movement was greatly aided by the foundation of the “Society of the Bohemian Museum” in 1822. Several patriotic Bohemian noblemen founded this association. The collections belonging to it and its library were at first housed in the Malá strana, then in a somewhat larger building in the Příkopy. They are now in a large handsome building at the top of the Václavské Náměstí. In connexion with the Bohemian museum a society named Matice (treasury) was founded, which published editions of the ancient Bohemian works as well as writings of modern Bohemian authors.

This movement was at first purely literary, and only in 1848 assumed a political character. It was determined to hold at Prague a “Slavic congress” at which all Slavic countries were to be represented. During the sittings of the congress troubles broke out which originated in an insignificant conflict between students and soldiers of the garrison. Barricades were erected and the town finally surrendered unconditionally after a severe bombardment (June 1848). In 1866 the Prussians, who had invaded Bohemia, occupied Prague (July 8) without encountering any resistance. At the “Blue Star” hotel in Prague also was signed the treaty which ended the war between Austria and Prussia (Aug. 23).

In the years of peace that followed, the development of Prague was constant and vast. The removal of the fortifications greatly assisted this development. The communities of Vyšehrad (1883), Holešovic-Bubna (1884) and Libeň (1901) were consecutively included in the city. Occasional riots, such as in 1897, when the Bohemians were exasperated by the action of the Vienna government which restricted the use of the national language in the law courts; and in 1905, when the people demanded an extension of the suffrage, have not interfered with the increasing prosperity of the city, and their importance has been greatly exaggerated.

Though numerous ancient monuments at Prague have been destroyed in consequence of intestine strife and foreign warfare, the city still contains many of great value and may be considered one of the most interesting cities of central Europe. The natural situation of the town has also at all periods been greatly admired. The centre of the old town and indeed of the entire community of Prague is the town hall (staroměstská radnice), which is surrounded by the market-place, the scene of the execution of the Bohemian patriots in 1621. The buildings of the town hall date from various periods. Its oldest parts are the tower and the chapel of St Lawrence, built in 1381. The adjoining ancient council chamber dates from the reign of King Vladislav (1471-1516). The modern hall that is now used for the meetings of the town council is decorated by two paintings of the Bohemian artist Wenceslaus Brožík, which represent Hus before the council of Constance, and the election of George of Poděbrad as king of Bohemia. In the market-place opposite the town hall is situated the ancient Týn church, memorable as having been the religious centre of the Hussite movement. A chapel connected with the so-called Týn or market-place of the German traders stood here from the earliest times, but the present building was begun in the 14th century, and completed in the 15th during the reign of George of Poděbrad. The fine facade built by that king was formerly adorned with a statue of King George, who was represented as holding a sword pointing upward to a representation of the chalice, the emblem of the Hussite Church. Both statue and chalice were removed by the lesuits in 1623. In the interior of the church the tomb of the astronomer Tycho Brahe is notable, as is the very ancient pulpit from which the Hussite archbishop John of Rokycan preached. In earlier days the Church reformers Milíč and Hus also preached here. Close to the town hall is the Joseph-Stadt, the ancient ghetto of Prague. The synagogue is one of the oldest in Europe, and the adjoining cemetery - part of which has unfortunately been destroyed in the course of the modern sanitary improvement of this art of Prague - has great historical interest. The university founded by Charles IV. in 1348 played a great part in the history of Bohemia during the Hussite wars. The lecture-rooms and other institutions connected with the two universities - in 1881 and 1882 a Bohemian university was founded though the German one continued to exist - are now housed in two vast buildings known as the Carolinum and the Clementinum. The Carolinum, first built about the year 1383 but frequently altered, has a closer connexion with Hus and the Hussite movement than any other building at Prague. It was the scene of many religious discussions, and it was here also that the Bohemian nobles met before the uprising of 1618. The large part of the lecture-rooms, the observatory and the very valuable library are in the Clementinum. This building was formerly a college of the Jesuits, who established themselves in Prague in 1556 and erected these extensive buildings at various periods between 1578 and 1715. The Celetná ulice, which leads from the town hall to the limits of the old town contains at its extremity the so-called powder tower (prašná brána). It occupies the spot where one of the old town gates was situated, and was built by King Vladislav in that elaborate style of architecture which is known as the style of Vladislav. The building was very skilfully restored in 1880-1883. The powder tower stands at the corner of the Příkopy (in Ger. Graben) which with its continuations, the Ovocná ulice and the Ferdinandova ulice, is the most animated part of modern Prague. At the extreme end of the Ferdinandova ulice is the modern Bohemian national theatre.

The "new town" of Prague, though not equal in interest to the "old town," is also well worth notice. At the extremity of the place of Wenceslaus (Václavské Náměstí) is situated the handsome building that contains the collections and library of the Bohemian museum. The museum was opened by the Archduke Charles Louis of Austria on the 18th of May 1891. Of the many interesting churches in the “new town” the Karlov deserves special mention. It was built by Charles IV. in 1350 in the Gothic style, but was restored in the 18th century. The monastery that formerly adjoined this church has been suppressed and its buildings are now used as a hospital. Near the Karlov church is the Karlovo Náměstí (place of Charles), in which is situated the former town hall of the “new town," from the windows of which the councillors were thrown at the beginning of the Hussite wars. The Vyšehrad, now a part of Prague, adjoins the “new town." It has preserved but slight traces of its ancient splendour. It contains, however, the