Prague, July 9 (CTK) – The foundation stone of the medieval Charles Bridge was laid exactly 660 years ago, by Emperor Charles IV according to legend, Prague councillor for culture affairs, Jan Wolf, told journalists on Sunday.

Early Sunday morning, at 6:31 CEST (due to the time shift), a fanfare started the celebration. A priest from the Knights of the Cross with the Red Star blessed the bridge. This religious order took care of bridges from the Middle Ages.

The foundation stone was laid on 9. 7. 1357 at 5:31. This combination of odd numbers was to bring good luck, same as the fact that all known planets were above the horizon and the Sun, Mercury and Saturn were in conjunction. Moreover, the Sun was in the ascendant of the constellation of Leo, which is the heraldic symbol of the Czech kingdom.

The bridge is also astrologically connected with the Prague Castle. When the summer solstice comes, the Sun sets behind the St Vitus Cathedral at the Castle if the viewer is looking from the Old Town Tower of the bridge.

Charles Bridge was built in place of the older Judith Bridge, which was destroyed by flooding in 1342. “The new stone bridge also had a commercial purpose because a trade from the east to the west led through Prague,” Wolf said.

“When Charles IV came, Prague was one of the small towns without trade. During his life it turned into the third biggest city in Europe. This would not have happened without a stone bridge,” he added.

The bridge’s caretaker Jan Zemanek said the construction of the bridge was launched by stonemason Otlin who built a stone bridge in nearby Roudnice nad Labem before 1357. It is often said that architect Peter Parler started building the bridge, but it is not true, he said, adding that Parler was in charge of the construction after Otlin’s death.

The historical bridge has borne the name of Charles since mid-18th century. It is gradually undergoing reconstruction.

In 2015, the pillars were checked. It was revealed that their condition is very good, but it turned out that their external casing is not firm enough. The reconstruction is likely to start within two years, following a thorough exploration during which every stone would be checked and its condition evaluated in detail, Zemanek told CTK.

The arches of the bridge in the Lesser Town district are to be reconstructed first because the repairs are the most urgent here, he said.

The reconstruction is not to disturb the crowds of tourists walking across the bridge.

A discussion on the reconstruction process is underway. Various types of sandstone were used in the past, which part of the experts criticised.

Zemanek said a big problem of the bridge is cooling and warming. In summer, the bridge is warmed by the sun and cooled from the inside, while in winter it is cooled from the outside and warmed from the inside. This causes the biggest tension in the vault, he said.

He said the core of the bridge is not made of sanstone but of marlstone.

However, the stability of the bridge is very good, Zemanek said.