An iconic part of the city’s landscape, it has been a star in international movies, the location for many photoshoots, and it is an absolute must-see sight for tourists.
However, the Charles Bridge is a relatively modern addition to Prague compared to the city’s history. Considering that the Prague Castle was built in the 9th century, Charles Bridges’ 1357 birth year means that Prague was without it for almost as long as it has existed.
In the 10th century, there are some references to a wooden bridge. However, Vladislav II had a stone bridge built around 1170 and named it Judith’s Bridge.
This bridge existed until February 3rd, 1342 when it was destroyed by flood. The bridge not only got the name of educated and energetic wife of Vladislav, Judith of Thuringia, but she probably also had merit in the actual building of the bridge.
The beautiful Romanesque bridge had twenty arches and stood at a shorter height than the current Charles Bridge. From existing evidence such as remaining archways, archaeologists and historians can conclude many facts, such as the style in which the bridge was built.
Nevertheless, many mysteries surround the Judith Bridge, and work continues today to uncover more information.
One of the bridge’s mysteries is the architect. He is suspected to be Italian and to have been brought to Prague by the King himself. Extraordinarily, it is known that the bridge’s namesake, the Queen herself, had a hand in the building of the bridge and oversaw the construction.
Furthermore, despite that a stone bridge at this point in time would have been a rarity, the bridge is seldom mentioned by name anywhere except certain historical records. While this may seem odd, it is possible that specifying the bridge by name would have been seen as redundancy due to its importance and renown.
The Judith Bridge held incredible significance to its time, just as the Charles Bridge does today. A critical aspect of the bridge was a hospital connected to the bridge on the Old Town side.
Archaeologists suspect that some of the bridge’s remains were used in new constructions, such as the houses built along the Vltava’s shore.
If you would like to learn more about the Judith Bridge, you can visit the Charles Bridge Museum.