Prague Castle

In our wanderings around Prague, we somehow ended up walking all the way up the hill to the castle above town. None of us were dying to see another castle; in fact, we were mostly dying from all the walking over cobblestones. But we figured, hey, we’re already here, we’d have to walk further to get a cab so let’s check it out.

A view of Prague from castle hill.
A view of Prague from castle hill

So we did.

It looked like pretty much every other castle, complete with guards. There were plenty of fortified walls and plain-looking buildings. Some now had shops, and others cafes, but on the whole, it didn’t seem all that exciting. In fact, it was so un-exciting that as I write this I realize I didn’t take any pictures of the castle itself. That’s fine, you’re not missing much.

But then, this happened:

The Cathedral of Saint Vitus, in the center of the castle.
The Cathedral of Saint Vitus, in the center of the castle

This is one of the most Gothic cathedrals I’ve ever seen.  In Sicily, the cathedrals that aren’t former Greek temples are all very Baroque with scrollwork detail and plenty of saints, but otherwise they’re pretty much just great big boxes with few, small windows.  They preferred to spend their resources on lavish frescoes and altars on the inside.

Other places have a variety of architectural styles. Saint Paul’s in London, for instance, looks more like the US Capitol Building with all its columns and domes.  Or there’s National Cathedral, which is also Gothic but only just, if you compare it to Saint Vitus’.  I suppose it is a few years newer.

Somebody had to put all that stuff up there
Somebody had to put all that stuff up there

A couple years ago I read (slogged through) Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett.  That was a book that mostly pissed me off because every time a character’s existence starts to suck just a little bit less, the author dumps a whole pile of aw hell no on them and then I’m throwing the book across the room.

This is the side view of the church, about as far away from it as I can get.  It could not have been built much bigger.
This is the side view of the church, about as far away from it as I can get. It could not have been built much bigger.

However, this isn’t a book review.  The reason why I brought that book up is because the main character is really the cathedral itself. By not throwing the book, you might learn a bit more than you knew before about cathedral construction in general, and a lot about the history of their design.  For example, a couple photos above you can see flying buttresses (ooh ahh, ooh ahh!), which happen to serve as a major plot device in the book. Yep, not kidding.

The Greeks used to build their columns with a taper so they didn't look like they were going to fall over on you.  Apparently these folks missed that memo.
The Greeks used to build their columns with a taper so they didn’t look like they were going to fall over on you. Apparently these folks missed that memo.

It did give me a greater appreciation for all the detail that goes into a building such as this, but one thing I didn’t fully comprehend when reading it was the scale. Because it’s surrounded by castle, you feel pressed up against the thing, making it seem even bigger.

This place made me feel very... small
…and making you feel even smaller.

We ducked inside to check it out, and it was surprisingly plain inside.  I guess they blew the budget on little pokey things to hang on the outside.

Boooooooooooooooring
Very tall, very light, but very vanilla

From the exterior alone, I now have a much better relationship with the meaning of awesome.  Which, I guess, was sort of the point back when this was built.

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