The patron saint of travelers is carrying Christ on his shoulder.
Sculptor: Emanuel Max (1857)
Commissioned by Václav Wanek, the portreeve of Prague.
The most expensive sculpture on Charles Bridge honors St. John of Matha and Felix de Valois, co-founders of the Trinitarians. Originally, the Trinitarians organized the ransoming of Turkish captives. St. Ivan, patron saint of the Slavs, seems to be there for no particularly good reason.
Sculptor: Ferdinand Brokoff (1714)
Commissioned by František Josef Thun, the lord of Klášterec nad Oh?í.
St. John’s main claim to fame lies in his death on Charles Bridge. According to legend, he was the confessor to the wife of King Wenceslas IV. In 1393, when he refused to reveal Queen Johanna’s secrets, the King bundled him up in a suit of armor and tossed him over the parapets (see also: St. Gellért in Budapest).
For his valiant deeds, St. John became the patron saint of Czechs and an ubiquitous presence all over town. Don’t miss his over-the-top tomb in St. Vitus Cathedral (you can’t miss it – it contains 2 tons of silver).
Legend suggests that if you rub the plaque beneath the statue itself, you will return to Prague. You’ll see where the bronze has been rubbed shiny by millions of fingers.
Even better, romantics have it that the stars in his halo, which symbolize the five letters of the Latin tacet (“silent”), followed him down the river. The stars also appear on a bronze cross a little further down towards the Old Town, marking his point of departure from the bridge. Apparently, if you place your hand so that each finger touches one star, one wish will be granted.
Sculptor: Original clay design by Matthias Rauchmüller, based upon a wood model by Jan Brokoff; cast in bronze by Volfgang Jeroným Heroldt in Nuremberg (1683)
Legend has it she was strangled in chapel with her own veil (note her left hand). Wenceslas’s mother, Drahomira, didn’t approve of Christian policies or mother-in-laws. That might account for Ludmila being the patron saint of Bohemia, converts, Czech Republic, duchesses, problems with in-laws and widows.
Her grandson (at her right knee) didn’t fair much better. He was assassinated by his brother, Boleslav the Cruel.
Sculptor: ? Matthias Braun (around 1730)
16th-century Spanish missionary famous for his work in the East. Here he is baptizing a group of Indian and Japanese princes (whether they will or no).
Sculptor: Cenek Vosmík (1913) – Replica of Ferdinand Brokoff’s original 1711 sculpture, which fell into the river during the floods of 1890.
Original commissioned by the Faculty of Theology and Philosophy of Charles University.
Like the Bridge of Sighs in Venice, Charles Bridge in Prague is the tourist spot. The best time to see it may be dawn. You’ll have the company of a few photographers, three teenagers getting high, one lone and grumpy security guard and the rising sun.
The 14th-15th century bridge was the baby of King Charles IV – the hero of Bohemia – and, until 1841, the only bridge across the river Vltava. For centuries, it was a vital artery between Prague Castle and the city’s Old Town. Even catastrophic floods and a pitched battle in the Thirty Years’ War couldn’t bring it down.
Prime gawking sights include the two Gothic towers at either end of the bridge and the mishmash of Baroque statues that line the walls. (Wikipedia has a helpful list of Charles Bridge statues). Commissioned by Prague aristocrats, the city, the Church and the universities, these were, as Neil Wilson puts it in the Lonely Planet Guide to Prague, the ecclesiastical billboards of their day.
The one depicted here is the statue of Saints Norbert of Xanten, Wenceslas and Sigismund.
Sculptor: Josef Max (1853)
Commissioned by the abbot of Strahov Monastery, Dr. Jeroným Zeidler.