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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.

The Four of Pentacles in The Tarot of Prague features details from three Prague buildings from different eras, but that speak to us across time.

The House at St. Luke (U sv. Lukáše) on Loretánské náměstí was built around 1730 as a Baroque townhouse, with a lot of attention paid to symmetry.

St. Luke is seen above the entry showing a painting of the Madonna and Child to his subjects.

While best-known as an author of a Gospel and patron of physicians, students and butchers, Luke is also associated with artists and by some accounts was a painter of icons. He is thought to have painted the Black Madonna of Częstochowa, now in Poland, and a few others that survive to this day. In the medieval era, painters were sometimes in a Guild of St. Luke.

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A house sign above the door shows St. Luke and an icon of the Madonna.