Wenceslas Square in Prague New Town, is a centre of Prague citizens. It is a place, where many historical events, especially in the 20 th century, took place. People gather at the square in dramatic times. There is the National Museum, situated at the top of the Wenceslas Square. The Monument of St. Wenceslas in the upper part is a natural meeting place of Prague citizens.
The medieval “Horse Market”
Emperor Charles IV. founded the New Town in Prague in 1348. The square was founded at the same time. It used to be called “Horse Market”, because it was intended for trade with horses. Gibbets were placed in the upper and lower parts and executions took place there. There used to be a lake with a mill in the lower part of the square. The “Horse Gate”, a part of the former fortification, used to stand at the place of the present National Museum. The gate was demolished in 1875.
The name “Wenceslas Square”
There were two important statues at the square: a Baroque statue of St. Wenceslas by the Jindrisska Street and a statue of St. John of Nepomuk by the Opletalova Street. People used to gather by the St. Wenceslas Statue and that´s why it was suggested to name the square after it. It bears the name “Wenceslas Square” since 1848. However, both statues were took away in 1879.
The first exclusively Czech theater called “Bouda” (“Hut”) used to stand at the square since 1786 till 1789. The huge building of the National Museum was built at the top of the Wenceslas Square in 1890.
Public transport on the Wenceslas Square
Trams used to run through the square since 1884. The first tram was still horse-drawn at the time. Trams became electrical in 1900 and they stayed at the square till 1980. Tramlines were took away then and a pedestrian precinct was made in the lower part of the Wenceslas Square. An underground station was built at the square in 1978. It is called “Mustek” and it is situated at the A and B lines. Another underground station “Muzeum”, belonging to the A and C lines, has an entrance situated in the upper part of the square, by the St. Wenceslas Monument.
The St. Wenceslas Statue below the National Museum was built in 1913 by J. V. Myslbek. It represents the patron of Bohemia on horseback.
Declaring independent Czechoslovakia on the square
Many important events of Czech history took place at the Wenceslas Square: a historical Mass was celebrated there in 1848 near the previous statue of St. Wenceslas. It was an impulse for revolution storm, that followed. A demonstration for a voting right was held at the square in 1905. The independent republic Czechoslovakia was declared there on 28 th October 1918, in front of the St. Wenceslas Monument.
The establishing of the Protectorate Bohemia and Moravia was announced at the Wenceslas Square in 1939. An oath of allegiance of the citizens to the German empire was organized there in 1942. The end of the World War II. was announced at the square in 1945.
The totalitarian Communist era started in Czechoslovakia in 1948. The “victory of the working class” was declared at the Wenceslas Square then. Student Jan Palach burnt himself there in 1969 in protest against the occupation of the country by the armies of the Warsaw pact. He died of his wounds three days later. Student Jan Zajic had done the same later.
Velvet Revolution demonstrations
The Wenceslas Square was finally a place, where the “Velvet Revolution” began in 1989 and it ended the Communist regime in the former Czechoslovakia. About 250 000 people gathered there at the biggest demonstrations.
Even nowadays, the Wenceslas Square is a centre of life in Prague, where many important houses, banks, shops, hotels and restaurants are situated. It is 750 metres long, 63 metres wide in the upper part and 48 metres wide in the lower part.