Prague’s summer solstice alignment.

A beautiful connection between Charles Bridge and the tomb of St. Wenceslas.

There was little difference between science and mysticism back in the time of Emperor Charles IV. This extended to architecture and urban planning as well, with building projects being started on fortuitous dates and sometimes being placed due to astrological alignments.

Charles IV was active in building up Prague, and two of his most lasting accomplishments are Charles Bridge and Prague Castle. Charles Bridge was originally called the Stone Bridge.

When the Stone Bridge was built in 1357, its position was moved slightly from the 12th century Judith bridge, which had been badly damaged by a flood.

Royal astrologers were involved in building the new bridge, and according to a theory put forward in 2007 chose the time for laying the cornerstone:  9 July 1357 at 5:31 in the morning. This creates a numerical palindrome. 1357 9:7 531. all of the odd single-digit numbers lined up from lowest to highest to lowest. It is also the moment of a favorable position of Saturn in the sky.

Charles IV is alleged to have attended the start of construction.

The same architect, Petr Parléř, designed the bridge and St Vitus’ Cathedral at Prague Castle. When you stand at the base of the Old Town Bridge Tower at sunset on the night of the summer solstice, the sun passes the tower, lighting up the chamber that stores the crown jewels, then sets above the tomb of St. Wenceslas (near the chancel) and emerges from the apse of the church to set a second time. The second sunset can be interpreted as Jesus rising again.

Depending on the clouds the effect can be quite stunning, with a mass of color, but even in a clear sky it is impressive. If the sky is overcast, the same basic effect can be seen two or three days before and after.

To see the effect, with the sun slowly approaching the tower, you need to get to Charles Bridge about 8:20. By the official sunset time of 9:16 it is all over, as the Castle is on a hill.

Shadows of some of the symbols on the Old Town Bridge Tower connect on the solstice as well.

There are other alignments in Prague as well. The sun is supposed to line up with Jeruzalémská Street on the Winter solstice, but construction over the centuries has obscured the effect. Other places in Prague’s New Town district, founded by Charles IV, are also said to have some astrological significance, which explains why the streets at times are a confusing maze rather than a simple grid.

THE SUN CROSSES THE GREAT SOUTH TOWER OF ST VITUS’ CATHEDRAL.

THE SUN CROSSES THE GREAT SOUTH TOWER OF ST VITUS’ CATHEDRAL.

THE SUN CLOSES IN ON THE ROOF OF THE CATHEDRAL.

THE SUN CLOSES IN ON THE ROOF OF THE CATHEDRAL.

Prague solstice over the Castle

THE SUN SETS ABOVE THE ST WENCESLAS CHAPEL.

ON A CLEAR DAY, THE SUN OBSCURES MOST OF THE CATHEDRAL.

ON A CLEAR DAY, THE SUN OBSCURES MOST OF THE CATHEDRAL.

AFTER SETTING ONE TIME, THE SUN PEEKS OUT AGAIN FROM THE APSE.

AFTER SETTING ONE TIME, THE SUN PEEKS OUT AGAIN FROM THE APSE.

THE SUN SETS A SECOND TIME.

THE SUN SETS A SECOND TIME.

THE BACK OF THE CHURCH REMAINS LIT.

THE BACK OF THE CHURCH REMAINS LIT.

IF THE CLOUDS ARE RIGHT, THERE IS CREPUSCULAR LIGHT, OR FINGERS OF LIGHT, RISING UP.

IF THE CLOUDS ARE RIGHT, THERE IS CREPUSCULAR LIGHT, OR FINGERS OF LIGHT, RISING UP.

ON A CLEAR DAY, THERE IS A BEAUTIFUL BLUE TO ORANGE SKY.

ON A CLEAR DAY, THERE IS A BEAUTIFUL BLUE TO ORANGE SKY.

 


An article by Baba Studio with Raymond Johnston. Copyright Baba Studio, all rights reserved. Please contact us if you would like to syndicate or otherwise use this article.


Background

The summer solstice in 2016 is on June 20, and in 2017 on June 21.

Architect Petr Parléř’s name roughly means “speaking stone” and he is alleged to have hidden many messages in the buildings he oversaw. The Old Town Bridge Tower is divided into four realms: Earth, Moon, Sun and Heavens. The Moon is symbolized by images of 28 crabs, the Sun by royalty and the Heavens by saints. The tower also has coats of arms for the lands subject to the Czech crown.

Charles Bridge originally did not have statues. Those were added starting in 1683 with St John of Nepomuk, and most of the others in 1706–14.

The Stone Bridge became known as Charles Bridge around 1870, when other bridges began to be built across the Vltava River.

Parts of the original Judith Bridge can be seem in basements in Old Town, including the Charles Bridge Museum.

 

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