Like Rome, Prague stands on a hill-rise, in a setting of deep and profound magnificence. A network of secret labyrinths lies beneath the city, corridors, canals and passageways, many of which are shrouded in legend. Today few are accessible. There is a maze of corridors under the Old Town Square, and there are legendary galleries under Vysehrad as well as Prague´s churches, forming underground passages which were intended for secret escape. All form a part of the myth and history that shroud the city on the Vltava, the most famous tunnel of the Modern Age, constructed during the reign of "the Hapsburg Phoenix", Rudolph II, was known as Rudolph´s Gallery.
"Master builder Lazar Ercker was not thrilled at being given the task of building the tunnel in 1583.
Rudolph convinced the Czech nobility that it was necessary to build an underground sluice which would join the Vltava with the pond at the Royal Arboretum, today´s Stromovka. Carp were raised in the pond for both the monarch´s table and for the Castle. The most experienced miners from the silver mines of Kutna Hora were called-up a year later to begin work on a tunnel which would have no equal in its day. They faced the difficult taks of digging under a geologically uncertain conditions, using the primitive technology of the period.
The tunnel was finally completed on 17 July 1593, after many delays resulting from underground streams, unbreachable rock, loose earth, and the unusual method of tunnelling from five branches. When the tunnel was finally complete, Rudolph was delighted. It became an object of pride which he presented to visitors, and during his reign the tunnel was put to its intended use."
After his death, however, interest in the tunnel waned. At the beginning of the 18th century it was still possible to take a small boat along the tunnel´s length, and in 1711 a wooden footpath was built along the side. The gallery was apparently still in use at the beginning of the 19th century, but after that it was closed for over 150 years. During this period the tunnel was visited sporadically by either adventures, or the odd group of speleologists.
In 1997 350 metres of the tunnel at its nothern mouth, the Stromovka side, were opened to the public during an exhibition on Rudolph II. The southern side of the tunnel, on the left bank of the Vltava river, flanked by a characteristic small yeloow house, wil remain closed to the public for some time to come.
Few cities can boast a site such as Rudolph´s Gallery, with a length of 1098 meters, an egg-shaped profile, a height of two to four meters, and a depth of 45 meters under Letna park. The original plan for the tunnel is kept at the Museum of Technology, its appearance is curious: a parchment scroll 2,5 meters long, rolled up on a wooden handle.
It reveals a cross-view of the tunnel from one end to the other.
The notes atre written in Spanish, which was Rudolph´s favoured language, and is decorated by mannerist elements of the period, little figures of miners in their gear, the fauna of the Royal Arboretum, and even a grapevine growing along the shore of the Vltava. Also visible are the monarch´s coat-of-arms and the symbol of the Czech lands, as well as concise engineering details.
The scroll is unique and fascinating, and is more than a document, it is a work of art.
text - Jiri Kuchar - "Praha esotericka"
The House of the Lords of Kunštát and Poděbrady
One of the best preserved Romanesque houses in Prague is located in close vicinity to the so called Royal Route. it was built in the period between the 2nd half of the 12th century and the 1st half of the 13th century. The object is not a common burgess houses; it is rather a magnate seat, a palace. Its layout differs from all the Prague’s Romanesque objects, as it is nearer to a manor. It used to be a part of an extensive circumwalled estate with a garden and a tower. The then ground floor (today underground) was preserved in the original state, as well as a part of the 1st floor (today the ground floor). The Old Town’s terrain was elevated by an earth embankment, which was supposed to stop the frequent flooding of the houses. The ground plan of the palace was a regular prolonged rectangle divided lengthwise into three rooms with conched ceilings. The bricks in the preserved parts of the object as well as the vault brackets and pillars are made of regular blocks of arenaceous marl placed in firm arenaceous mortar; the vaults are cast on wooden casing. There are preserved remains of fire places on the first floor, and in one room, there are even narrow windows. The house was also called the Bočkovský House, as in 1406 it was owned by Boček of Kunštát, uncle of Jiří of Poděbrady, who had the house rebuilt and elevated by one storey. Jiří of Poděbrady took over the palace from him in 1451. He dwelled here all the time he worked as the governor of the Bohemian Kingdom. Besides other diplomatic negotiations, also the wedding of his daughter Catherine with the future king of Hungary Matthias Corvinus was arranged here in 1457. From here, he headed to be elected as Bohemian King in 1458. After the death of Ladislav Posthumous, when he was elected king, he moved to the Royal Court. Later on, the house’s owners kept changing and in 1512 the estate became a burgess property.
The house was rebuilt in Classicist style by architect Kašpar Předák in 1846. The preserved premises were discovered in 1941 during a construction of an air-raid shelter, yet the archaeological research was initiated already before the war, conducted by dr. Píša. In 1950 - 52, a systematic conservation of this house began, as it represents the top of secular early-feudal Prague architecture, and it also concludes its development.
The object was opened for public in 1970. There used to be a Commemorative Hall of Jiří of Poděbrady (abolished).
The National Conservationist Institute had its offices in this house from the 1950s on. The house gradually dilapidated. Following several years of reconstruction, the magistrate established eight above-standard flats here, which even have original girder painted ceilings. Regarding the unique ground-floor and basement areas with significant Romanesque elements, there has been a café and a gallery U Kunštátů since 2012
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