on July 14, 2006
Undoubtedly, one of the top attractions within the castle is St. Vitus’ cathedral. The 650-year history of this building began when the archbishopric was founded in 1344. Charles IV decided he wanted an important Gothic cathedral and he commissioned French architect Matthias of Arras to design and build his cathedral. Unfortunately, Matthias died after 8 years but the work was taken over by Peter Parler, then later by his sons. By the mid 15th century, much of the building was completed including the choir, its chapels and part of the south tower but work virtually stopped until the early 1860s when a Czech patriotic association took up the task of completing the building. It was finally completed in 1929.The church today is the largest in Prague, the metropolitan church of the archdiocese of Prague, the royal burial church, and where the royal regalia is kept. It is also a significant tourist attraction. Before you enter, take a good look at the doorways. The most impressive is the southern doorway where there is a carving called the Mosaic of the Last Judgment. It is from the 14th century.Inside there is a somber, vaulted nave, illuminated by Venetian, stained glass windows, most of which are fairly recent additions. The Chapel of St Wenceslas was built over his tenth century tomb, in the fourteenth century. It's decorated with more than 1,300 semi-precious stones. The Czech crown jewels are stored in a locked chamber to one side of the chapel. The chancel, built by Parler, is incredibly beautiful as are the stained glass windows, which are newer and of an art nouveau design. Visitors can climb 297 steps to the top of the soaring tower.You can rent a 'radio guide' that tells you all about the things you are seeing. This is very interesting, but incredibly detailed and you don’t really need it. Tour guides are everywhere and there is little evidence of peace and calm inside the Cathedral during the day. This is another place to visit early ahead of the largest crowds. By early I suggest you start at 9am when the complex is opened to the public. In the Third Courtyard just south of the cathedral is Plecnik’s 16m high granite monolith dedicated to the victims of World War 1.
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