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Petting the bronze dog on Charles Bridge is a more recent tradition than many people think.

Practically every tourist who crosses Charles Bridge in Prague touches one of three places on the base of the statue of St John Nepomuk, or a five-starred double cross a little further down embedded in the bridge’s stone railing.

Legend has it St John (Jan Nepomucký) was thrown off the bridge by King Wenceslas IV for refusing to divulge the secrets of the queen’s confession. The dispute may also have involved the church’s right to appoint bishops without state approval.

dog card

There has always been a good deal of confusion about the legend. Two Bohemian clerics named Jan may have gotten their life stories hopelessly entangled. And the date of his death is either 1383 or 1393. The change in date would also change which queen was being protected. Queen Johanna of Bavaria was alive on the former date, and Queen Sofia of Bavaria on the latter.