What a sight 18th and early 19th century Edinburgh must have been, with an army of building contractors hard at work constructing the neo-classical New Town northwards and westwards from the medieval Old Town rising towards the Castle across from this hive of activity, giving the city it’s nickname as ‘Athens of the North’ and defining a large part of the character and layout of the city we see today. Similarly, Bath was defined by its 18th century neoclassical terraces and crescents, Glasgow by its 19th century expansion westward initially following a grid-iron street layout similar to New York which set the framework within which ever-taller skyscrapers were constructed, and still defines New York in the 21st century.
Prague’s golden age was the medieval period from the mid-14th century onwards. What a difference one man can make. When Prince Charles arrived in Prague in 1333, he found the place dirty, decaying and in decline as a result of various conflicts and political battles. When he died over 40 years later, having become King Charles IV of Bohemia, he had turned Prague into a vast building site, which was defining the core of the city centre that we still see today, with new roads, squares, a cathedral, a university, new royal residences, churches, houses and the Charles Bridge. The many tourist who visit Prague today are basically exploring Charles IV’s legacy.
Tucked away in a corner off the Old Town Square at the heart of the Old Town of Prague, the Renaissance ‘House of the Golden Ring’ was built on the site of two medieval houses and still, in the cellars and ground floor, has some reminders of the original building. Today it celebrates the achievements of Charles IV and that golden age of the city’s history in the excellent multi-media exhibition ‘Prague of Charles IV – Medieval Town’, covering two floors with 3D and digital models, videos and historic art, crafts, books, architectural materials and other objects while a third floor is used for temporary exhibitions.
This exhibition sets the standard for other cities to follow in telling the story of their own golden ages.