The complex of buildings around a courtyard near the Prague Old Town Square is called Ungelt or Tyn Courtyard. It was founded in the 12 th century as a place, where merchants from foreign countries paid customs for the goods they brought to Prague. The courtyard was there to protect them and their goods. There are houses of various age and architectural styles there nowadays.
Fortified merchant yard in the middle ages
The old name “Tyn” means “enclosure”. It was really an enclosed courtyard, protected by a ditch and walls from the rest of the town. Merchants from Europe and Asia used to meet there, store their goods and relax for a while.
Everyone who entered the Tyn courtyard was under the protection of the king, that´s why everyone had to pay to get there. This payment evolved into customs and the old German word for customs was “ungelt”, hence the second name of the courtyard.
Ungelt used to be a lively and cheerful place, merchants used to drink in the evenings to celebrate their trade and told each other stories from the countries they came from. That´s why the courtyard also used to be called the Cheerful Courtyard (Laeta curia). Ungelt flourished especially in the era of Emperor Charles IV. and Wenceslas IV. in the 14 th century.
Decline of the Tyn Courtyard
In the following centuries, Prague customs system lost its importance. Ungelt was used just for trade within Prague and in the beginning of the 20 th century it was a complex of dilapidated buildings. Poor citizens of Prague moved there and there were also stores, workrooms and offices. Ungelt was later restored and opened to public again in 1996.
Renaissance Granovsky Palace
The most interesting building in the Tyn courtyard is the Granovsky Palace, one of the Renaissance pearls of Prague. This house from 1558 is decorated with sgraffitoes and wall paintings and it has an arcade loggia. The paintings on the loggia depict scenes from Bible and Greek mythology.
The house “At the Black Bear” (No. 642) was known already in 1428. It has a Baroque facade with statues of St. John of Nepomuk, St. Wenceslas and Florian from the 18 th century. There is a statue of a black bear in chains on the corner of the building, which gave it its name.
20 th century art in the House “At the Golden Ring”
The house No. 630 “At the Golden Ring” is an exhibition space of the City Gallery Prague. There is an exhibition of the 20 th century art.
An old legend says, that a ghost of a young Turkish merchant wanders around Ungelt in the night. He allegedly killed his girlfriend, an inn-holder´s daughter, out of jealousy and now he cannot rest in peace.