Mihulka is the largest tower of the northern fortification of the Prague Castle. Built for defensive reasons, it was used for various purposes through the centuries, even as an alchemists´ laboratory in the 16 th century. An exhibition of the Czech military history is held there nowadays.
The origin of the name Mihulka
Mihulka was built at the end of the 15 th century by Benedikt Ried. The name of the tower had changed many times, it used to be called the New Tower, the Round Fort, the Laboratorium, the Swedish Laboratorium and the Powder Tower. The latter name was because of the gunpowder, that used to be stored there in the 17 th century. The present name Mihulka or Mihulka Powder Tower is from the 19 th century: it took over the name of the old wooden tower Mihulka, where lampreys used to be kept (a lamprey = mihule in Czech language).
Mihulka Powder Tower is 44 metres high and it has a diameter of 20 metres. It is equipped with loopholes for guns in the lowest part, and loopholes for cannons in the ground floor and the first floor. However, it never took part in defending the Prague Castle.
The bell-founder and gun maker Tomas Jaros, the author of Singing Fountain in front of the Royal Summer Residence and of the Zikmund bell in the St. Vitus Cathedral used to live here in 1569.
Alchemists´ laboratory in Mihulka
During the reign of Emperor Rudolph II. in the 16 th century, there was a laboratory of the legendary alchemists. They were reportedly trying to produce an elixir of life and make gold out of lead or mercury. In a document from 1609, there is written in connection with Mihulka, that “a new wooden corridor was built to the laboratory of His Imperial Majesty”. It is very difficult to find out details about the alchemists and about possible results of their work: they had to keep everything in secret, and furthermore they were scared of the Holy Inquisition. For example, John Dee used a secret typeface, which nobody was able to decode.
Rudolph´s successor Matthias had no interest in alchemy and Mihulka Powder Tower became a storage for gunpowder during his reign. The whole tower shattered in 1649, when the gunpowder exploded due to negligence of the Swedish crew in the Prague Castle. The Mihulka Powder Tower was largely damaged then.
Since 1754 the tower was administrated by the St. Vitus Cathedral chapter house and the sacristans used to live there.
Exhibition about Czech military history
The Mihulka Powder Tower was reconstructed in 1982 and at the present time, a permanent Military History Institute´s exhibition can be seen there. You can access the tower through the passage, which leads from the house number 4 in the Vikarska street. The best view of the tower is from the Royal Garden by the Prague Castle, and from the Deer Moat and the Powder Bridge nearby.