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Prague fountains

photo:  (sxc.hu)

Fountains were once the main source of drinking water in Prague. They stood in every open space. Some were simple timber-framed reservoirs; others were decorated with sculptures of classical, biblical and natural motifs.


Particularly in the Renaissance and Baroque periods, rich burghers and noblemen would compete in ostentatious fountain decoration and build splendid waterworks. The writer Ignát Hermann indicates that more than 400 fountains existed in Prague in the 19th century, more than 70 being public and the rest private. There are fewer fountains nowadays than before; nevertheless, even our time designs and creates new waterworks, mainly in recreational areas, and undertakes to preserve the old ones.

The Trapdoor of Time (Kinských Square, Prague 5 - Smíchov)
In 2002, a new fountain by architect Jan Lauda was installed where once Medvědí fontána (Bear Fountain) and later the Soviet tank stood. A cracked rock – two granite slabs from a Liberec quarry - symbolizes the trapdoor of time that devours all deeds of man. Spouting water purges all and lets one forget. The fountain consists of 64 nozzles, 24 of which have a special bubbling feature in order to create a peculiar water stream. 40 lights illuminate it at night. Jets in the central quarry-faced granite crack shoots water 8 meters high. In contrast, the outer syenite ring of the fountain is neatly decorated.

Fountain in Anenské Square (Prague 1 – OldTown)
Built in the Baroque period after 1700, this was initially placed in front of the Újezd barracks. Soldiers believed the legend saying that water from this fountain would protect them in battle. The oval well, made of sandstone and iron, is covered with a flat iron plate, on the upper edge of which a wrought cage with two counter-faced semicircular gates is fixed. At the top, a gilded double-tailed lion with a crown on its head carrying a sword is mounted on a rod. The well no longer works.

Fountain below the NationalMuseum ramp (Prague 1 – New Town)
This fountain is embellished with a sculpted group called Tschechia and an allegory of Czech rivers by Antonín Wagner. It dates to 1890. The fountain, as well as the entire NationalMuseum edifice, were designed by architect Josef Schulz. The fountain is situated exactly on the spot where the Koňská brána (Horse Gate) once stood. Water streams fall over the edges of three marble steps to the bottom stone basin. The fountain basins are made of Hradec Králové sandstone, red Skandinavian granite and yellow Untersberg marble. The bronze lion's head waterspout was produced by Václav Mašek, presumably after a model by Bohuslav Schnirch.

Fountain in Malé Square (Prague 1 – OldTown)
In the center of the square is the original, and still working, fountain protected by a hand-wrought Renaissance grille of 1560, possibly made in the workshop of the court locksmith Jörg Schmidhammer. It seems to be the very oldest in Prague. The grille was repaired in the latter half of the 19th century and the locksmith Duffé produced the decorative cast-iron pillar stand based on the design of architect Josef Mocker. The mechanical pumps and the stone socle that the water flows into were installed on the same occasion. The hand-made polychrome grille is a true masterpiece.It is decorated with ornaments and angel figures on the grille edges.The poppy-head top received the Bohemian lion in the 17th century.

Kohl Fountain in the Second Courtyard of PragueCastle
Also called Lion Fountain due to its sculpted decoration. Originating from 1686, it is one of the oldest in Prague. The sandstone fountain used to be a substantial part of PragueCastle's water system. It was one of the largest castle water reservoirs, used, among other purposes, to extinguish fires. The basin has a quatrefoil ground plan. Next to it is a well with an iron cage.  

Well in the Second Courtyard of Prague Castle
From the early 18th century, with an octagonal basin and a wrought-iron superstructure made by an unknown artist.The iron grille is topped with a metal rose. It is situated right next to the Kohl Fountain.

Fountain with St. George figure in the Third Courtyard of PragueCastle
In 1928, a modern round and shallow terrain-level fountain with a circular diorite-banister was built based on Plečnik’s design. The statue of St. George, placed on a high pedestal in the middle of the basin, had once decorated a Baroque fountain but was dismantled and installed in
Jiřské Square in the 1990s.

Eagle Fountain in the Third Courtyard of PragueCastle
A small Baroque fountain with a Tuscan column of 1661 is situated next to the Gothic gate leading to a small yard below the courtyard level.

Ignaz Franz Platzer and Nicolas Pacassi were two of the prominent artists involved in its decoration.

Venus Fountain in the Wallenstein (Valdštejnská) Garden (Prague 1 – Lesser Town)
The delicate bronze statue of Venus with Cupid and Dolphin decorating the garden fountain was created by  the Nuremberg sculptor and bronze caster Benedikt Wurzelbauer in 1599 for the Lobkowicz Garden at the Hradchin.

Albrecht of Wallenstein acquired it in 1630 and had a bronze fountain set up for it in his garden. The Swedes stole it in 1648 and took it along with other war booty to Sweden. The statues have been parts of Queen Christina's collections in the Museum of Drotningholm since. Venus was one of the exhibits at the Berlin exhibition of 1899. The Prague Museum Committee spotted it there and initiated negotiations for its return. It was finally bought back and returned to its original place in the middle of the round fountain in front of the salla terrena in the WallensteinGarden.Its exact copy has been installed there since 1938.

The Singing Fountain at Belvedér – the Summerhouse of Queen Ann in the Královská (Royal) Garden (PragueCastle)
This fountain is one of the most splendid Renaissance fountains north of the Alps. It was cast by Master Jaroš in 1562-68 after a drawing and wax model by Francesco Terzio of Bergamo, an Italian painter working in Prague in the mid-16th century.The wooden mould was cut by Hanuš Peysser. The fountain is made of bronze blended with bell metal. It is richly decorated with hunting motifs, plastic mascarons and palmettes. Water jets spurting out of the fountain produce lovable rhythmical sound of water dropping on a resonating bronze plate  However, the tones can be enjoyed only if one squats down below the level of the fountain basin.


Added: 01.01.2010

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