Behold the Gemstone in the Crown of Prague Castle: St. Vitus Cathedral
After a decent walk up a steep hill, the Castle grounds unfold before you, and on a sunny winter’s day you can enjoy loads of Gothic architecture, the changing of the guards, and the gemstone in the Castle’s crown: St. Vitus Cathedral. Saint Vitus is a Roman Catholic cathedral, also known by its full name of St. Vitus, St. Wenceslas and St. Adalbert Cathedral. The present-day Gothic cathedral was founded in 1344, and has undergone many stages of development, providing an interesting work-in-progress through history.
St. Vitus Cathedral was first conceived by French master Mathias in 1344. Further work was then undertaken between 1354 and 1399 by Petr Parler, who was only 24-years-old at the time, and further development was continued by his son and masters Vaclau and Petr until the outbreak of the Hussite wars in 1420 intervened. St. Vitus cathedral was finally completed in 1929 after many additional attempts during the twentieth century, thanks to the Union for Completion of the Cathedral of St. Vitus in Prague.
Today, St. Vitus Cathedral is an imposing sight, and it’s worth the effort to walk around its perimeter, craning your neck at its towering gothic spires. Its interior is as impressive, with St. Wenceslas Chapel (beautifully decorated in its cult centre), the Mausoleum, and the Royal Crypt. The St. Vitus Bell Tower has over 280 steps and the Golden Portal, which was the former main entrance, and includes a large mosaic made by Italian artists. The sun dances through the stained glass windows and projects bands of colour onto the pillars and walls, giving the building a magical quality.
St. Vitus Cathedral also holds the Crown Chamber, the least accessible part of the entire Prague Castle complex. Here, the coronation jewels are locked in an iron safe behind two doors, conjuring up visions of something from Mission Impossible. It requires seven locks to be opened on each door of the iron safe, with seven keys held by seven different officials, including the president, the prime minister, and the lord mayor of Prague. The jewels include the crown of St. Wenceslas, Royal Sceptre, Royal Orbe, and the coronation vestments. I wouldn't suggest putting a crown jewel viewing on your list though, as during the twentieth century the jewels were shown only nine times on occasions decided by the president. You may not get to see the jewels, but St. Vitus Cathedral impresses from all angles, and truly is the gemstone in the crown of Prague Castle.
When to Go to St Vitus Cathedral
Cathedral of St. Vitus hours of operation are (Mar–Oct): Mon–Sat: 9 a.m. till 6 p.m., and Sun: Noon till 6 p.m. (Nov–Feb) Mon-Sat: 9 a.m. till 4 p.m., and Sun: Noon till 4 p.m.
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