The Cathedral is built on the site of an earlier 10th century Romanesque rotunda which was later converted to a basilica consisting of three naves with two steeples. Construction on the Cathedral, overseen by Matthias of Arras and later by Peter Parler, was carried out in phases consisting of the chancel, together with its chapels, the St Wenceslas Chapel, the Golden Portal, and the base of the main steeple. The tower was badly damaged in 1541 by fire but quickly rebuilt. Then in 1770 a Baroque dome was added. In 1873 under the control of Josef Mocker, construction began to carry out some much needed repairs and to finally finish the building. In 1899 Mocker was replaced by Kamil Hilbert, who completed the project in 1929.The clock tower is the tallest of the towers 96.5 meters high with 297 steps to the top, if you choose to climb them you will be rewarded with the site of the largest bell in Europe, plus, of course, a magnificent view over the city of Prague.
St Vitus Cathedral is often thought by many to be Prague Castle due to its domination over the Prague skyline, but in fact it is only a part of the huge castle complex. Work on the Cathedral started in 1344 for Charles IV and became not only the largest, but also the most important church in Prague. And it was here that the Czech kings and Queens chose to be crowned.
St Vitas Cathedral
Prior to the completion of the west side, the Golden Portal was used as the main entrance. It is through here that the Bohemian royals passed on their way to be crowned. The chancel with its high ceiling and net vaulting supported by flying buttresses is one of the highlights for the visitor. In the centre are the tombs of Ferdinand I and his wife. Another spectacular sight is the tomb of the Czech martyr John of Nepomuk, designed in 1736 by Joseph Emanuel von Erlach, it is claimed he used two tons of silver in its creation.
There are steps that lead down to the royal Crypt. It is here that the remains of a number of Bohemian royals have been interned. They were moved to the crypt in the 1930’s and placed in new sarcophagi, and they include, Charles IV, Vaclav I and Rudolph II. There is also some remains of the first building on the site, the original rotunda.
The St Wenceslas Chapel is richly decorated with jewels adorning the lower part of the walls and embellished with gold. Above are Gothic frescos depicting scenes from the Bible, and from the life of St Wenceslas. Charles IV is featured in a picture of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. In the centre of the room is the tomb of St Wenceslas, again richly decorated. Holy relics of the saint are kept in a case on his tombstone. In the southwest corner of the room, is a door that leads to the staircase that itself leads to what is known as the Coronation Chamber. It is here that the Crown Jewels of the Czech Republic are held. Needless to say, this is the most securely guarded area within Prague Castle.