The city square where history was written
The city square in the centre of Prague is a traditional venue for celebrations, demonstrations, and public gatherings. It was witness to many historic moments. It is also the second-largest square in the entire Czech Republic, and is a gathering place for Prague residents. When you say, “Let’s meet at the horse,” everyone knows that the meetup place is the equestrian statue of the patron saint of the Czech lands: the statue of St Wenceslas, which reigns over the entire square.
The history of the square
Prague’s Wenceslas Square near Old Town Square used to be called Koňský trh (Horse Market). Together with the Dobytčí (Livestock) and Senný (Hay) Markets, this square was commissioned in the Middle Ages upon the wishes of Bohemian King Charles IV as a public place to be used for markets. It was not until the 19th century that it was renamed St Wenceslas Square. And what about the historical milestones that played out here? In 1918, it was the site of the declaration of the independent Czechoslovak Republic. On 19 January 1969, student Jan Palach self-immolated here in protest against the military occupation of Czechoslovakia by the USSR and other “friendly” countries of the Communist bloc in August 1968. During the Velvet Revolution in 1989, when Communist rule over Czechoslovakia was coming to an end, the square became the key venue where mass demonstrations took place. Václav Havel and other prominent figures held speeches from the balcony here.
Today, Wenceslas Square is the central shopping area of Prague. It hosts famous hotels, retail stores, and restaurants. The National Museum stands at the top of the square. Unfortunately, it is separated from the square itself by a busy street, but, even so, the steps leading up to it offer a wonderful view of the entire square.
The famous equestrian statue
The main dominating feature and central gathering point of the square for Prague residents and tourists is the equestrian statue of St Wenceslaus, patron saint of the Czech lands and namesake of the square. This work by sculptor J. V. Myslbek is complemented by additional Czech Catholic saints – there is Wenceslaus’ grandmother, St Ludmila, St Agnes of Bohemia, St Procopius, and St Adalbert. And, if you look closely at St Procopius’ face, you will see the self-portrait of Myslbek himself. In October 1918, the establishment of Czechoslovakia was declared at this monument, which is why the sculpture group bears the date 28 October 1918.