We have rounded up a few places that have some connections to the myths and mysteries of the city. There are many more, and we will get back the them
1. The Devil’s Column. Vyšehrad is one of the oldest parts of the city and has many curious spots. Behind the Church of Sts Peter and Paul, you can find a marble column broken into three pieces and firmly plant in the ground.
The legend is that it was thrown there in anger by a devil named Zardan. A priest who served at a church at Vyšehrad — the smaller forerunner of the massive structure that now sits there — used the help of the devil on several occasions and had been condemned to hell but sought to repent. St Peter pitied him and said that if the priest could finish saying mass before the devil could carry a pillar from Rome to Vyšehrad, then the priest would be forgiven.
The devil was delayed when St Peter, oddly helping the priest to cheat, hurled the devil into the sea, thus breaking the column. By the time the devil made it to the church he was just moments too late and threw the column’s pieces where you can see them today. In an exorcism in 1665, the demon involved gave his name as Zardan.
2. The Petrified Servant. Standing stones appear across Europe. In the northern reaches of Prague, there is such a stone, but it is engulfed in mystery. The reddish stone, now on the edge of the front lawn of a suburban house in Dolní Chabry in Prague 8 has long been called Zkamenělý slouha, or Petrified Servant.
It stands about as tall as a person, 172 cm, and was moved to its current location from a nearby hill. Possibly it was put in place as long as 7,000 years ago, long before the Celts were in Bohemia.
3. The Stone Boy. Most old churches have some stone decorations on the roof, and the overwhelming majority are just fanciful sculptures of angels and saints. There is an exception near Národní třída, in a church that’s fairly hidden on a side street.
The Church of St. Martin in the Wall (Kostel svatého Martina ve zdi), at Martinská 8 in Prague’s Old Town, has an odd sculpture of a stone boy using two fingers to pull his lips and make a taunting face. The church is otherwise fairly unadorned both inside and out, save for the boy and on another eave of the roof an owl.
The boy, however, according to a widespread legend, is not a sculpture. It is a real naughty boy who was turned to stone.
There are several variations on the legend, as is typical. But the main idea is that while the church was being built or remodeled, a boy was on the roof collecting pigeon eggs and throwing pebbles and possibly even rotten eggs at people passing by. The boy may have been a roofer’s apprentice.
4. Císařský mlýn. The strange place of contemplation near the far edge of Stromovka built by Emperor Rudolf II is gone, save for few details that were salvaged into the current residential complex.
Rudolf had an obsession with occult arts and built this place based on allegorical principals. A stone grotto was carefully constructed to let in a single shaft of light, a hilltop overlooked the Vltava, a stone dam created an artificial fish pond, and there was a promontory with 22 windows.
It possibly was meant as a shrine to or a re-creation of the tomb of Hermes Trismegistus, a supposed author of mystical works who may have lived around 200 AD, if he isn’t complete fiction. The grotto also may have been related to the idea that one had to go through the center of the earth to find the Philosopher’s Stone. It fell into worse and worse repair and was eventually rebuilt as luxury apartments in the early 2000s. A stone gateway with the letter “R” and a crown is one of the few reminders of its author.
5. The Old Jewish Cemetery. Next to Emperor Rudolf, Rabbi Loew is perhaps the figure most connected with Prague mysticism. His tombstone is in the Jewish Cemetery in Old Town. A statue of the rabbi is on the right side of Prague City Hall, and information about him and the Golem and other legends of the area are easy to find.
The Old Jewish Cemetery has another claim to fame: All those unsupportable rumors of a vast religion-based conspiracy to control the world can be traced to the cemetery as well. The book The Protocols of the Elders of Zion has a scene where characters meet in that very cemetery to hatch their plan.
Many extremists throughout history have taken that book as fact even though it has been shown to be a forgery, and a crude one. The scene traces its roots to an earlier fiction book, Hermann Goedsche’s 1868 novel Biarritz.