People usually come to Prague to see Charles Bridge, Prague castle and old palaces, or Wenceslas Square. Prague fountains lie somewhat in the shadow of tourist interest. It is a shame because many Czech fountains are as charming and beautiful as the French or Italian ones.
The Fountain on the Little Square
The fountain with a beautiful Renaissance grid in the middle of the picturesque Malé náměstí probably needs no introduction, as it belongs to the nicest pieces of its sort. Despite its popularity, no one knows the exact date of its construction today. Although there is an inscription with the year 1560 on its southern side – which would date it as the oldest preserved fountain in the city, the scientists consider it a later work – from the 1590s. However, it does not make it any less beautiful. The original pumping facility, an extraordinary mechanism, was in operation until the 1990s. The water was drawn from a 12-meter-deep well. It was only at the beginning of the 21st century that the fountain was connected to the water supply and the flow began to be controlled by automatic timers.
Looking up from the fountain, you will realize that you find yourself in a spot with real architectural gems – the most marked of them being the Rott house. Its constructor, the owner of the largest ironmongery store in the country, Vincenc Joseph Rott paid his tribute to the Czech national symbols of the late 19th century and had his house painted by the Czech painter Mikoláš Aleš. Among many of his other deeds, he also sponsored a thorough reconstruction of the fountain…
Today, the building houses the pleasant Hotel Rott with the restaurant DANIELAS by Barock.
Fountain with dolphins on the Old Town Square
Another interesting fountain can be found not far from here -on the Old Town Square – and although the Czech Republic is an inland state, the fountain is decorated with dolphins.
It was built by the city hall as a part of the new image of the demolished Jewish town. For long decades, it has been attributed to Jan Štursa, one of the most famous Czech sculptors of the turn of the 19th and 20th century, but most probably, the author is an unknown sculptor František Hnátek, whose work was much more affordable…
The Kranner’s fountain is probably best known by young Czech journalists who study in its shadow on the Vltava´s embankment on warm spring and summer days – the Charles University Faculty of journalism is just around the corner. The neo-gothic fountain – a monumental tribute to Emperor Francis I from 1850, is named after its author, Joseph Kranner, and it is the highest fountain in Prague. For long decades after its construction, it was an object of hatred, the supporters of the Czech nation perceived it as a symbol of the detested monarchy. There is even a famous satiric poem about it written by Karel Havlíček Borovský speaking about a fool – the Emperor -standing in the middle of the Czech pride – Prague. In June 1919, shortly after the foundation of the new Czechoslovak state, the equestrian statue was hidden – moved to the lapidary of the National Museum – it aroused too much passion in the newly proclaimed republic. Its copy returned to its original place only in 2003 – as an expression of respect to the artwork and its author. Our small excursion of the fountain can be ended e.g. in the close Hollar Gallery – the only Czech gallery specialised in graphic works.
Probably the most famous among the Prague fountains is the singing fountain standing in the Gardens of The Prague Castle – in front of the so-called Belvedere, or the summer pavilion of Queen Ann. It dates back to 1567 and was made from so-called bell alloy – a secret and exact ratio of copper and tin that makes the water drops falling on it sound like bells. You can hear it when you put your ear on the large decorated fountain container… Some people say the sound reminds them of the distant ringing of the Prague bells…
Reportedly. Listening to the fountain shall bring you good luck – especially if you are a single woman who wants to get married – the sound of the waterdrops shall incite the sound of the wedding bells…
The fountain had been cast according to the design of the Italian painter and sculptor Francesco Terzi.
Also, the gardens and buildings around can boast many unique facts – the pavilion was the first renaissance building north of the Alps, and the very first tulips in the country were planted in the garden around the fountain… but a walk through the garden is a nice experience not only in spring!
Křižík´s light fountain
Another very interesting artwork is Křižík´s light fountain from 1891, conceived as a game of water streams and lights, and built on the grounds of the Jubilee Land´s Exposition, today´s Výstaviště Praha (Expo grounds). František Křižík was a Czech inventor and promoter of electricity and this fountain project should have illustrated the huge potential the electricity brought. During the shows, the colourfully lighted water gushes out into the height of several tens of metres – in the times of its foundation, the coloured streams were seen even from the Old Town of Prague.
Our short excursion of the Prague fountains comes here to its end, but there are tens of interesting wells and fountains across Prague, which are worth a visitor´s attention, or even a visit. On the warm summer days, they can become a welcome destination for your Prague walks…