Friday, 27 January 2017
Prague Landmarks #3 - Vítkov Hill
My third landmark lies about half a mile (as the crow flies) from the TV Tower and is often missed by visitors to the city, especially by those on short stays. I didn't become aware of the site until I'd lived in Prague for over three months, and then it was only because I'd been flicking through a book of photographs comparing old and new Prague*.
I'm talking about Vítkov Hill, which lies between Karlin and Žižkov in Prague 3, and is the site of the National Monument and the third largest bronze equestrian statue in the world, the 9m high, 9.6m long, and 16.5 ton sculpture of Jan Žižka. The monument was built between 1928 and 1938 to honour the Czechoslovak Legion.
Jan Žižka led the Hussite forces against the Holy Roman Emperor, Sigismund, at the battle of Vítkov Hill during the Hussite Wars. The battle took place in July 1420 and was a decisive Hussite victory.
The statue was commissioned in 1931 and created by Bohumil Kafka and took over 10 years to complete, but Kafka himself died in 1941, before it was finally erected and unveiled on 14 July 1950 to make the anniversary of the battle.
The Czech tomb of the unknown soldier is located underneath the statue.
During the communist years, the monument was used to promote the regime, and in 1954-1962 it was used as the mausoleum of the communist leader Klement Gottwald.
The views over Prague from the top of the hill are magnificent, and are well worth the climb. On my first visit, I'd started on a beautiful summer day and was recovering from the exertion when I noticed a huge storm cloud looming over Hradčanská and travelling towards me. Despite my best efforts, I failed to outrun it and was still a good five minutes away from my flat when it hit. Since then, I've rarely gone out on a without packing a cagoule in my backpack!
* Prague Then and Now by Jenni Meili Lay