There are times in your life when you see things that shock you. Other times that take your breath away at their beauty. Prague has both of these elements in spades. These qualities are exhibited not by a singular artistic piece. Take a journey with me through Europe’s Hollywood, and explore the Art of Prague.
Starting off with Lennon:
A famously touristic spot, that on this rainy morning, only hosted four people there. You will find the rain always makes the colors around you stand out even more. The sunlight is filtered through rain clouds which softens the shadows and gives a perfect light.
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The Lennon Wall started in 1980 after John Lennon’s murder. The People of Prague used his murder as a symbol of freedom from the repression of Communism. Why use John Lennon as this symbol of freedom? Western images were banned during Communism, as they did not want their citizens to know the freedoms available to others.
Secret police repeatedly tried to thwart the artistic rebellion. This was a place where they continued to fail in repressing the citizens of Prague. Liberation and freedom came on January 1, 1993. The Czech Republic and Slovakia were created and declared their freedom from Communism. The wall was painted over in white as a symbol for the country starting anew.
As is customary with Europeans (who love their graffiti), the wall was quickly repainted. The Lennon Wall continues to be an iconic spot and celebration of that freedom.
How to get to the Lennon Wall: GPS coordinates 50°5’10.423″N, 14°24’24.842″E – There are some stairs at the West end of Charles Bridge. Head down the stairs, follow the line of trees and turn right around the corner. You will run into a building and want to make another quick right. Follow the sidewalk until you see a small bridge on the left. Take the bridge and follow it through to the courtyard called Velkopřevorské Square. The wall will be on the right-hand side.
Charles Bridge & its Statues:
No matter what time of day it is, Charles Bridge is an art piece from beginning to end. The Bridge holds a history of the Christian vs Protestant and Ottoman Turks’ history through the statues that dot the sides. It also happens to be the oldest surviving bridge in Prague built in 1158–1172 and repaired after a terrible flood in 1342.
It holds the history not just in the architecture, but also in the stone figures along its sides, and what they represent.
The Statues of Saints John of Matha, Felix of Valois, and Ivan:
The statue that moved me the most was Saints John of Matha, Felix of Valois, and Ivan. It shows Christians being imprisoned by Ottoman Turks. These types of statues are typically shown within the confines of a Chapel.
Here you see the Saints on top of the statue. These are the saints that were responsible for the Order of the Most Holy Trinity that ransomed the freedom of the Christian. They seem to be in the position that is typically reserved for Christ. The artistic line leads you to the nonchalant Ottoman Turk that is keeping guard over the Christians imprisoned within. The prisoner’s faces are wretched, and appear to be crying in pain over their mortal chains, with a dog outside their dark prison who almost appears to be mocking their conditions.
During the busy Spring and Summer months, you will also be inundated with the artistic pleasures of local artisans exhibiting, showing, and trying to sell their work.
Statue of Saint John of Nepomuk:
Here we see the Saint John Of Nepomuk Statue, who was the Saint of Bohemia. The Queen would frequently confess to him. The Emporer orderd his assasination by being thrown from Charles Bridge into the depths of the Vltava.
Due to his commitment to not divulge confessions (called the Seal of the Confessional), he refused to tell the Queen’s confessions to the Emporer and was killed for it. There is a memorial Plaque along the bridge of where he was thrown from the bridge.
How to get there: Basically all roads lead to Charles Bridge, if you miss it, you must not be in Prague 😉 If you do have trouble finding it, just ask a local which way to the Vltava and follow the river towards St. Vitus Cathedral and you will see it on the horizon.
Valdštejnská Zahrada or The Wallenstein Gardens:
Once the home of the former general Albrecht of Valdštejn, serving under leader Ferdinand II, created this expansive space with 25 houses, 7 gardens, a brick-kiln and other land plots. Lavish parties would be held here for the entire court. You can see how he wanted to impress those who attended and he even built an artificial grotto complete with his own collection of exotic animals.
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If you look closely at the Grotto exterior, you will find hidden animals. Look for the frog, snake and a goblin face hidden within the rocks themselves. If you make your way to the lounging area across from the grotto, you will find a mural depicting Jason and the Argonauts.
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There is also a Baroque style garden complete with perfect bodies twisting and telling mythological tales to all those who visit the Sella Terrana. Many of the statues are copies of Adrien de Vries, a leading sculptor in Bohemia in the 17th century.
A bronze statue of Venus and Cupid is located just a short walk from the Grotto. This statue is in the center of a large fountain that was used for boat rides!
How to Get there: Coordinates 50.0904° N, 14.4079° E : Just around the corner from the Lennon Wall at the base of Wallenstein Palace. An easy 10-minute walk from Charles Bridge. Here is the Google Map from Charles Bridge to Wallenstein Gardens.
If you plan to visit, make sure that you check the Wallenstein Gardens Opening Hours.
The Shock and Awe of David CernyAs I mentioned before, the people in Prague have always found an outlet in artistic ‘soapboxes’. They utilize art as a form of expression for discontent, or rebellion against communist repression. David Cerny is no exception to expressing his political and personal opinions through his, more often than not, shock and awe art pieces.
Crawling BabiesA good place to start viewing a number of his art pieces is in Kampa Park. Here you will find the infamous crawling babies, with bars that replace their faces. [gallery type="square" size="large" ids="11090,11091"] Although David Cerny does not publicly comment on the meaning behind these pieces, there are many theories behind their meaning. One such theory is that the faceless infants are supposed to represent the rising generation. They are no longer humans, but bodies indulging so much in technology, that it has now replaced their faces. These babies are the same ones that adorn the Zizkov TV tower, which was a so-called transmitter TV tower that many believed was a tool for the communist regime. Location: U Sovovych Mlynu, Prague, Czech Republic — just in front of the Museum Kampa entrance.
“Piss” or Proudy PragueAnother statue that when I entered the plaza, had me stop in my tracks and exclaim, “Oh!” then start laughing and pull out my camera. Many believe these statues to be symbols of the European Nations pissing on the Czech Republic. The statues further drive their point home, by the rotating hips of the males while pissing. Once you realize what the people of the Czech Republic believe it represents, it really drove a point home in my heart — of how much the people here have truly suffered at the hands of dictators. The statues also have a text message electronic device located within. You can send messages to and the men will write the message with their penises in the water. To have a little fun with this, you will find the number to send a text message near the statue. Happy hunting. Location: Mala Strana (Small Plaza at Cihelna 2b near the Kafka Museum)
King Wenceslaus on his Dead-Upside Down HorseThe Nouveau Lucerna Palace holds this odd statue. Standing on its steps it appears as if you are standing inside of a Latern (Lucern means Light). Here, you walk down the stairs and suddenly see a man on an upside down horse. I felt like I was staring at something you would see in Monte Python. After the initial shock of what you are looking at, you realize it is not just an upside down horse, but a DEAD upside down horse — complete with a tongue hanging out. It pokes fun at the Saint Wenceslaus riding his horse in Wenceslaus Square. [gallery type="square" columns="2" size="medium" ids="11096,11097"] Location: Nouveau Lucerna Palace. Lucerna Palace 36 Vodičkova Prague Czechia Other Art pieces by David Cerny: Animated giant head sculpture of Kafka, In Utero, The Hanging Man.
The Penguins at Kampa ParkThe first time I saw the penguins I thought they were lanterns. While cruising on a dinner boat on the Vltava you see them in the distance. It appears, at first, that they are lanterns pointing the way to St Vitus Cathedral, creating a nice ambiance near the water’s edge. The next day, I was taking a walk in Kampa Park and there were the odd ‘lanterns’ which were actually Penguins. The Penguins are standing in a line, facing the water, evenly spaced on a metal beam that leads to a giant iron chair. The Cracking Art Group is responsible for this modern oddity. Their name suggests that while creating this artwork, they may have actually been on crack. I can’t for the life of me know the meaning of this art piece other than to make the viewer smile. If you have any ideas on this, leave a comment below. Location: On the Vltava near Charles Bridge on the West side of the waters. They are bright yellow and you can’t miss them. The iron chair is a little harder to visualize, but just keep following the line of penguins and you will see it.
Holy Trinity Column, Olomouc – a UNESCO Heritage ArtBuilt between 1716-1754 by local artist Václav Render, in the iconic Olomouc Baroque style. Located in Olomouc, you see this commemoration of the devotion of local church members to their faith and their religion. If you look closely, you can actually see a real chapel within the monument. A Copper sculpture of the Holy Trinity tops the monument. Underneath, you will find 18 stone statues of Saints, many of whom are specifically Saints to the people of the Czech Republic. If you peer into the chapel itself, you will find reliefs of stories from the Bible including Cain and Abel, Noah, Abraham and Isaac, and the death of the Savior. Location: This is located about 2 hours from Wenceslaus Square. Check out the Bus Route to Olomouc to see this monument of faith. Prague is Europe’s Hollywood: Shooting movies in Prague is common because of its affordability and the laid-back nature of its citizens. Some notable movies and series that have been filmed in Prague include Outlander, Van Helsing, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, The Zookeeper, Amadeus, Yentl, and many many more.
The Art of Prague In Summary:Prague is the most artistic city I have visited to date. There are many cities that celebrate and cherish the masters of the past, but Prague holds the artistic masters of the future. From their markets to their tallest towers, they cultivate that which enlightens the soul and expands the mind. So take a little from your savings and go explore the Art of Prague. I did not have time to visit all of the art pieces in Prague. Listed below are several other art pieces that are noteworthy in this wonderful city.
Other notable Artistic Pieces to visit:Franz Kafka Statue — by Jaroslav Rona The Broken Men — by Olbram Zoubek Giant Metronome along the Vltava II Commendator Statue The Devil’s Head – Forests of Zelizy Art Museums: National Museum, Museum of Decorative Arts, National Gallery
What is your favorite city to view art?
What style of Art moves your soul?
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