Vyšehrad History | Erstwhile Royal Castle & Military Fortress in Prague
Vyšehrad fort is located on the Vltava river and has been the site of many settlements in Prague’s past. Such is its rich and colorful lore, that Vyšehrad has become the subject of many legends. This hill fort has served many functions – from acting as the royal seat of past monarchs or a bustling city to a fortress and then a cemetery. Read on to learn about Vyšehrad’s significance today.
The Origins of Vysehrad
The first historically reliable mention of this remarkable hill fort at Vyšehrad dates back to the middle of the 10th century.
It was then the location where the minting of denarii (coins) of Boleslaus II took place. But Vyšehrad has had a vibrant past since then, having served several different functions over time. For a short period, this site served as a royal castle. Soon afterward, it grew into a city. Later, it was a Baroque fortress, as it so appears even today. It was around the end of the 1800s that Vyšehrad became recognized as a national symbol, and was converted into a cemetery for some of the most famous personalities in Czech history.
Today, Vyšehrad has gained acclaim among tourists visiting Prague as a popular destination for breathtaking views of the city. Visit this historic site for a spell-binding glance into the history of Prague, and walk around as you get acquainted with some of the major monuments located here.
Vysehrad Castle: Erstwhile Royal Seat of the Czech Monarch
Although Vyšehrad has had an illustrious history, the most notable period in its past was during the reign of Vratislaus II.
As the first King of Bohemia, he shifted the center of his rule to Vyšehrad from its earlier seat at Prague Castle due to the relentless arguments that ensued between him and his younger brother Jaromír, the bishop of Prague. After, this hill fort became the site of many notable monuments, among which were the Basilica of St. Peter and of St. Paul, and the Rotunda of St. Martin.
As Vyšehrad and the Royal District grew in importance, stone ramparts were erected around the area for increased protection. However, Vyšehrad was soon to fade out of the foreground – for, upon being appointed the Duke of Bohemia in 1140, Vladislaus II shifted the seat of his rule back to Prague Castle. The reign of Charles IV augured a renewal of Vyšehrad’s status – for, the Emperor viewed this site as a key symbol of ancient Czech history.
The Short-Lived Town of Vysehrad Hill
After Vyšehrad was partially demolished by Hussite soldiers in August 1419, a period of resettlement and rebuilding commenced. Poor artisans who had nowhere else to go gradually occupied the deserted areas within the castle and its surrounding grounds.
It was finally in around 1450, that the Town of Vyšehrad Hill was formally established. This town had two sections, out of which the Upper Town occupied what was formerly the original Vyšehrad, now comprising dozens of houses, a school, the district of the Vyšehrad Chapter, and the Royal Acropolis. In contrast, the Lower Town came up around the area that was occupied by the former village next to the castle. Here, one would have found the Church of Humility of the Virgin Mary, a mill, and a lime kiln.
However, even this settlement on Vyšehrad Hill had a short-lived chapter. After the Thirty Years’ War proved the Prague fortification to be obsolete, a new one was started in 1650. The Vyšehrad fortress became a part of it while the Upper Town disappeared.
Construction of the Baroque Vysehrad Fortress
It was in 1653 that the construction of the Vyšehrad fortress was begun, in accordance with General Innocenzo Conti’s and Josef Priami’s designs.
The Tábor Gate, with its connecting angular rampart, was completed as early as 1639 on the Pankrác side. Thereafter, a brick fortification was built in 1727, featuring the layout of an irregular pentagon with five bastions protruding from its corners. This new fortification included what is known as the Baroque Leopold Gate, as well as an elaborate network of tunnels for quick transportation of soldiers and for the storage of material.
Since most of the older buildings were demolished, and since the Vyšehrad Chapter had been temporarily abandoned, they were able to build an armory inside the former Royal Acropolis. However, it was never restored after it burned down in 1927. The Vyšehrad fortress underwent its final reconstruction during the mid-1800s; as a part of which the Empire-style Brick Gate (1841) and a cannon firing position on the city side (redan) were finalized.
Vysehrad Praha: A Symbol of the Nation
It is interesting to note how Vyšehrad grew from a place of strategic and military significance to a subsequent site of patriotic importance. It was during the second half of the 19th century that Vyšehrad’s military significance had begun to fade. Nevertheless, the Vyšehrad Chapter stepped in to ensure that this fortress retained its notable patriotic significance, transforming the site into a repository of the Czech nation’s rich history. Through the legends of Queen Libuše, the tales of the valiant Bivoj, and the mythical horse Šemík, as well as the Women’s War – they were able to garner public opinion in reverence towards this historic site.
Led by the two provosts, Václav Štulc and Mikuláš Karlach, the Vyšehrad Chapter brought about the establishment of public orchards as well as a Neo-Gothic reconstruction of several of the old Vyšehrad buildings. This period of transformation was concluded by the establishment of a national burial ground at the former site of the parish cemetery. This new Slavín tomb was finished in 1893, thereafter becoming the final resting place of countless prominent personalities from Czech history.
Frequently Asked Questions About Vyšehrad History
A. Vyšehrad served as a royal castle around the 10th century and was later turned into a Baroque military fortress after the royal seat was shifted back to Prague Castle.
A. The first settlement, according to local legends, was located here at Vyšehrad and later became Prague, however, no evidence supporting this claim has been found.
A. Vyšehrad was built around 1350 during the reign of Charles IV.
A. Vyšehrad is a historical fortress located in Prague. Vyšehrad has had a vibrant history - it has served as a royal castle, a place of military importance, and now, it enjoys the status of being a national symbol.