The mirror maze in Petřín has been standing for 130 years. One of the most visited places in Prague, it sees up to 400,000 visitors every year and, unlike other tourist places in Prague, it is mainly visited by Czechs. But while the site is known to millions of Czechs, its history remains obscure.
Where did the mirror maze on Petřín even come from?
The mirror maze was originally built as a pavilion by the Club of Czech Tourists at the Prague Jubilee Exhibition in 1891. The maze was built by Prague master carpenter and builder Matěj Bílek according to designs from architect Antonín Wiehl.
“The maze was located at the Prague Exhibition Center… near the corner of the Industrial Palace. After two years, it was moved to Petřín,” says Zuzana Strnadová, director of the Prague Museum.
According to Strnadová, in the front rooms of the original pavilion there was also a circular panorama with twenty windows for 100 alternating stereoscopic slides of interesting Czech locations. “There was also an exhibition of the club’s tourism and publishing activities and an exhibition of tourist products from Czech companies.”
Hall of laughter and diorama
The building in which the maze is located today looks more like a small castle with turrets and battlements, but in reality is a replica of the former gothic Vyšehrad gate, Špička. Inside, there are 45 mirrors, each weighing a ton.
“Thirty mirrors form a path that leads visitors to the hall of laughter, where fifteen more mirrors await. And you are not just any. They are variously concave and convex, so they turn visitors into chubby balls or, on the contrary, stretching them out,” explains the director.
But the maze is not the only thing that can be found in the imitation castle. There is also a diorama on display, depicting the fight between the people of Prague and the Swedes on the Charles Bridge in 1648. The painting, which covers roughly 80 square meters, was jointly created by the brothers Karel and Adolf Liebscher, with the former in charge of the landscape parts and the latter in charge of its plot. Vojtěch Bartoněk and Karel Štapfer also helped the brothers.
Together they managed to create this work in 50 days. The diorama also shows the appearance of the left bank of the Vltava in the 17th century, which is drastically different compared to today, and the entire diorama has recently been completely restored.
Now the building where the maze is located will also be renovated. “This year we are investing in the repair of the monument. It will be about the reconstruction of the skylight above the famous painting of the Liebscher brothers, which has become a popular part of the maze over time,” said František Cipro, chairman of the board of the PCT. The company plans the reconstruction for the beginning of June.