The Square of the Knights of the Cross once led to what was formerly Prague's Judith Bridge. It was built from 1158 to 1172 at a time when Dresden and Regensburg were the only other Central European countries with stone bridges. It had twelve pillars with 21 circular spans over the river and another five on the banks. Their radiuses ranged from 7,40 to 19,00 metres.
The bridge was 514 metres long and 6,80 metres wide. Only two of its bridge towers have been preserved. One is visible on the Lesser Town side, while the one on the Old Town side was incorporated into the buttress of the convent of the Knights of the Cross. Remnants of the first span and a relief of the “Bearded Man” (originally believed to be the face of Christ from the Veil of Veronica) are located in the embankment wall under the monastery of the Knights of the Cross protecting the bridge.
The bridge was 4 to 5 metres narrower than Charles' Bridge and was unable to withstand the flood of 1342. The cornerstone was laid in 1357 (astronomical calculations and analysis of the Old Town Tower Bridge state the exact date and time was July 9, 1357 at 05:31) and construction began according to the designs of Master Otto. Petr Parler later took over.
The Gothic Charles' Bridge has distinct parameters: a length of 515,76 metres, a width of 9,40 – 9,50 metres, it has 16 spans with radiuses ranging from 16,62 to 23,38 metres, its pavement is 13 metres above the river's surface. Nevertheless it has been damaged by a number of floods: first in 1359, well before its completion, and a flood in 1890 resulted in the most serious damage done to it.
An avenue of statues
From 1657 a unique avenue of statues began to grow along the bridge. At first these were crosses that were reconstructed numerous times following wars. In 1657 a gilded bronze depiction of the Crucifixion dating back to around 1628 was purchased for the bridge. The stone Golgoth, Grieving Madonna (Bolestne P. Marie) and St. John Evangelist were also added in the 17th century.
The statue of St. John of Nepomuk, erected in 1683, was the first of the bridge's Baroque sculptural adornments as much as it was a solemn representation of the country's new patron saint, worshipped throughout the world. It was based on Viennese sculptor Matthias Rauchmiller's terra-cotta model, which Jan Brokof rendered in wood. After this, Wolf H. Herold in Nuremburg cast the statue in bronze.
The cross between the sixth and seventh pillars marks the place over which, according to legend, the saint's body was thrown into the Vltava. The bridge's avenue of statues of saints gradually grew in such a way that not one pillar remained unoccupied. The following table offers a basic guide, featuring the saints, the sculptors, the years that the statues were placed on the bridge, and the donors:
|1.||St. Ivo||M. B. Braun||1711||The Law Faculty of Charles University|
|2.||St. Bernard||M. V. Jackel||1709||B. Littwerich, the abbot of the Cisterian monastery in Osek|
|3.||St. Barbara, Margaret and Elisabeth||J. Brokoff||1707||The imperial order of J. V. Obytecky of Obytec|
|4.||The Madonna with St. Dominic and Thomas Aquinas||M. V. Jackel||1708||The Dominicans convent of St. Jilji|
|5.||The Lamenting of Christ||E. Max||1859||The Old Town public authorities|
|6.||Calvary||W. E. Brohn, J. J. Heermann, E. Max||1628, 1696, 1861|
|7.||St. Joseph||E. Max||1854||J. Bergmann|
|8.||St. Anne||M. V. Jackel||1707||Rudolf von Lissau|
|9.||St. Francis Xavier||F. M. Brokoff||1711||The Faculty of Theology and Philosophy of Charles University|
|10.||St. Cyril and Methodius||Karel Dvorak||1928||The Ministry of Education|
|11.||St. Christopher||E. Max||1857||V. Wanek, Chief Magistrate of Prague, from a public collection|
|12.||St. John the Baptist||J. Max||1857||J. N. Gemerich of Neuberk|
|13.||St. Francis Borgia||F. M. Brokoff||1710||Imperial burgrave Frantisek of Coletta|
|14.||St. Norbert||J. Max||1853||Strahov Monastery abbot H. Zeidler|
|15.||St. Ludmilla||M. B. Braun||1784|
|16.||St. John of Nepomuk||M. Rauchmiller, J. Brokoff, W. H. Herold||M. B. Wunschwitz|
|17.||Sv. Francis of Assisi||E. Max||1855||Count Frantisek Kolowrat Lib-steinsky|
|18.||St. Anthony of Padua||J. O. Mayer||1707||K. M. Witthauer|
|19.||St. Vincent Ferrer and Procopius||F. M. Brokoff||1712||Count Romedius J. F. Thun|
|20.||Bruncvik||L. Simek||1884||The City of Prague|
|21.||St. Jude Thaddeus||J. B. Kohl||1708||F. Sezima, Knight of Mitrovsky|
|22.||St. Augustine||J. B. Kohl||1708||Augustinian Convent of St. Thomas|
|23.||St. Nicholas of Tolentino||J. B. Kohl||1708||Augustinian Convent of St. Thomas|
|24.||St. Luthgard||M. B. Braun||1710||E. Tyttl, abbot of the Cistercian monastery in Plasy|
|25.||St. Cajetan||F. M. Brokoff||1709||Theatins of St. Cajetan|
|26.||St. Adalbert||F. M. a M. Bro-koff||1709||M. B. Joaninelli, councillor of the Old Town|
|27.||St. Philip Benitius||M. B. Mandel||1717||The New Town Servites convent|
|28.||St. John of Matha, Felix of Valois and Ivan||F. M. Brokoff||1714||Count F. J. Thun|
|29.||St. Vitus||M. Brokoff||1714||M. V. Macht of Lowenmacht, Dean of the Vysehrad canonry|
|30.||St. Wenceslas||J. Fuhrich, J. K. Bohm||1858||The Institute of the Blind, Klarov|
|31.||Christ between St. Cosmas and St. Damian||J. O. Mayer||1709||The Faculty of Medicine, University of Prague|
Since the beginning of the 20th century, modern stone replicas have been replacing the original Baroque statues and statuary that were damaged by floods. The originals can be seen in the Lapidarium of the National Museum, at the fair grounds (Vystaviste) in Holesovice. The Lapidarium is open from Tuesday to Friday from 12:00 to 18:00, and on Saturday, Sunday and holidays from 10:00 to 18:00.
Lesser Town Bridge Tower (Malostranske mostecke veze)
The Lesser Town Bridge Tower
Two towers once fortified Judith Bridge. The south one (the one on the left as seen while on the bridge), which was reconstructed in the Renaissance style in the 16th century, has been preserved. The tower that stands next to it was built in the late Gothic style after 1464. The gateway between the towers dates back to the end of the 14th, or the beginning of the 15th, century. Josef Mocker modified the Gothic tower in 1879 – 1883.