Romanesque Prague Architecture

Romanesque Prague Architecture (or Norman)

If you are from England then you can see examples of Romanesque architecture in most major cities. It’s just that we don’t call it Romanesque, we call it “Norman” so you are in the period roughly between 800 and 1150.

St martins rotunda romanesque prague architecture
ST Martin’s Rotunda at Vysehrad

Signatures of Romanesque Prague architecture (which can also be called Second Romanesque) include:

  • Roman semi-circular arch
  • very thick walls
  • dressed stone
  • groin vaults (for arcades)
  • barrel vaults (for roofs)
  • rotunda
  • arcades
  • large towers
  • west-facing entry
  • large murals

The terms “Massive” and “Monumental” are often associated with this period. The structure can be symmetrical but does not have to be. The decoration can take a Byzantine mosaic influence but again, does not have to (remember that the Romanesque Prague period coincides with the Crusades). The purpose of the thick walls was to take the weight of the rest of the structure but solid stone would have been too heavy to handle so the walls of a Romanesque structure are normally a double shell with a filling in between. This means that if there are any windows they are usually very small. Load bearing walls only work if the building is narrow, otherwise massive central stone “drum” columns or “arcading” (where Roman semi-circular arches are stacked) is required for roof support.

This was really the first style in central Europe (western Europe had the pre-Romanesque Carolingian period) that was architecturally strong enough to design large buildings and as the most important buildings of the time were churches then it’s not surprising that these are the examples that remain today. It’s not correct to use the term “Neo” with Romanesque. The correct term would be “Revival”. You might be surprised to know that the Natural History Museum in London is an example of a Romanesque Revival building (1879).

Places to See Romanesque Prague Architecture

If you want to see the best example of Romanesque Prague architecture then head to Prague Castle and spend some time in the ST George Basilica. The basement area of the Old Royal Palace at Prague Castle is also Romanesque. The only other visible Romanesque Prague structures are the Rotundas of ST Longin (Off Stepanska in the New Town), ST Martins (Vysehrad – Pictured Above) and the Holy Cross (junction of Konviktska and Karoliny Svetle).

It’s the sign of the fortune of an area that if a Romanesque church remains then it usually meant that the area was impoverished during the Gothic period as no reconstruction was performed. In the case of Romanesque Prague, the ST George Basilica remained untouched as work on the newer Gothic ST Vitus Cathedral had started.

The Prague Architecture Tour

I spent so long reading, learning and presenting architectural details of the city that I decided to offer a specialised tour. This is mainly for people who want to understand why the central part of Prague looks the way it does. Read more about the Prague Architecture Tour.

The next era – GOTHIC

Some Random Things to Do and See in Prague