Monday, 23 November 2009

Prague Castle from Francouzska

The streets which fan out from Náměstí Míru (Peace Square) all have the names of countries or their capital cities, not always in a logical arrangement: in this quirky geography, Italy and Rome are next to England, but London lies somewhere between Romania and Brussels, while America finds herself rubbing shoulders with Uruguay. Today's photo is taken from half-way along Francouzská (France Street) looking northwest in a line which leads, more or less, straight down Wenceslas Square.

However, what dominates this very much foreshortened view is the great cathedral of St Vitus within the walls of Prague Castle, almost two miles distant, on the other side of the river. Begun in the 14th century, the work of Matthew of Arras and the German architect Peter Parler, the cathedral remained unfinished until the late 1920s. When George Eliot visited Prague in 1858, she was depressed by the sight of it: to her the building was 'a melancholy object ... left with unfinished sides like scars'.

Now it's finished, but a debate continues to rage about the cathedral's ownership. Technically, St Vitus belongs not to the Church but to the State, a legacy of the days of communist rule; and that situation was upheld in a recent pronouncement by the High Court. Two months ago, during Pope Benedict's visit to the largely secular Czech Republic, this thorny problem was addressed yet again - but without any real conclusion. Watch this space...

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