History of Vysehrad

Vysehrad is unique. We can hardly find another place in Prague with so many legends associated with it.

Photo of the View from Vysehrad Fortress Walls, Prague

According to old chronicles, forefather Czech came to mount Rip with his retinue and rule in the Czech lands for 30 years. After that, Krok became a ruler. And someone predicted to him that misfortune would come to his settlement. To avoid this, Krok moved his throne to a high rock above the Vltava river and named a new settlement Vysehrad. When Krok died, one of his daughters - Libuse - began to rule. It was from Vysehrad that she predicted Prague's glory and called the legendary founder of the first dynasty of Czech kings - Přemysl - to Vysehrad.

People believed that the dutchess hid gold bars in the Vyshegrad rock. And those bars were so big that an adult man could not lift them. They also said that she drowned a golden cradle in which she rocked her children in the Vltava river. The prophecy said that it would come to surface when a great ruler appeared at Prague Castle. And so it happened when the last queen from the Premysl dynasty gave birth to a son - the future King of Bohemia and Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV. Another legend said that everybody, who drowned near Vysehrad, ended up in an army hidden under a rock. And that army was supposed to come to the rescue when the most difficult times come for the Czech lands.

The reality, however, is less romantic. Vysehrad was founded by Czech dukes to guard the trade route along the Vltava. It happened about the middle of the 10th century, definitely after the foundation of Prague Castle. In the second half of the 11th century, Duke Vratislav II (and the first Bohemian king Vratislav I) moved his residence from Prague Castle to Vysehrad due to disputes with the church. Here he built a magnificent Romanesque palace. The chronicles say that more than 3,000 people could fit in it! The building has not been preserved to our days. But the sculptures of Myslbek suggest its approximate size. They depict characters from Czech mythology: Premysl and Libuse, Lumir and Pisen, Ctirad and Sarka, Zaboj and Slavoj. The statues once decorated the Palacky Bridge but fell into the river during the bombing in 1945 and were brought to Vysehrad after that.

Photo of the Romanesque Rotunda of St. Martin, Prague

Vratislav II ordered the construction of the Basilica of St. Peter and Paul on Vysehrad and founded a chapter, which did not obey the Prague bishop, but directly to the Pope. He also built the oldest surviving Romanesque monument in Prague - St. Martin's Rotunda. After the death of Vratislav, the Czech dukes continued to live on Vysehrad. They moved back to Prague Castle only in the middle of the 12th century.

Photo of the church of St. Peter and Paul

In the 14th century, Charles IV returned Vysehrad to its former glory. He ordered to rebuild the Church of St. Peter and Paul and build a new Gothic palace. He also surrounded Vysehrad with fortress walls. The remains of the Gothic gate called Spicka can still be seen today on one of the Vyshegrad houses. Vysehrad became so important that even the coronation procession started here.

During the Hussite wars, Vysehrad was destroyed almost to the ground. Small artisans and merchants settled here. But in the second half of the 17th century, everyone was evicted. A military citadel was built on the site of the settlement. It is still reminiscent of mighty fortress walls and bastions, Leopold's and Taborska gates, casemates. With the development of firearms, the fortress's importance diminished, and in the 19th century, the army abandoned it.

Vysehrad has become a symbol of Czech national identity. At the end of the 19th century, the architect Josef Mocker began a Neo-Gothic reconstruction of the Church of St. Peter and Paul. At the same time, the small parish cemetery turned into a national one, where the most famous Czechs were buried. We can find gravestones of the writers Karel Hynek Macha, Jan Neruda, Bozena Nemcova, Karel Capek, composers Bedrich Smetana and Antonin Dvorak, artists Mikolas Ales and Adolf Kaspar here. The main monument at the cemetery is Slavin - the common grave of famous personalities. Here rest artist Alphonse Mucha, singer Emma Destinova, sculptors Josef Vaclav Myslbek and Ladislav Saloun.

Photo of Slavin, Vysehrad

Besides many monuments, Vysehrad offers a nice walk in a beautiful park. And a magnificent view of Prague opens up from the fortress walls.

This website uses cookies to improve your site experience. By proceeding, you are accepting our privacy policy.