Prague’s House Signs

An ornate Virgin Mary

An ornate Virgin Mary

A horned sheep

A horned sheep

Every visitor to Prague goes to the wonderful Prague Castle with St Vitus Cathedral above the Vlatva River, and walks over the ancient Charles Bridge—which we also did, and I’ll write about that later. But, as you walk down the old streets another thing to look out for also defines old Prague: the unique house signs, of pictures, relief paintings, sculptures, or mottoes on the facades, corners or portals.

These mini works of art tell stories about the owners or founders, about their professions, their likes and ideas. At the time they were made, these sign also helped delivery people and visitors find their way around the city. These signs were first recorded in the mid-14th century and were probably linked to the medieval knightly heraldry, a popular tradition of the time. At first, the house frontages were decorated with small stone sculptures, or painted plaques. In some cases, fresco paintings in the plaster resemble heraldic coats-of-arms or altar icons.

The key to...what?

The key to…what?

Red rampant lion

Red rampant lion

So, as you wander around, look up at Prague’s houses. You’ll see signs of guilds, heavenly bodies, animal figures, stylized flowers, fruits, or trees; historical and mythical figures or legendary and religious imagery. The tradition became even more popular in the early 20th century in the Art Nouveau period, when patriotic Czech builders of the new tenement blocks decorated their facades to express their attitudes to famous historical heroes or deeds. They also paid tribute to woman as the one who gives birth and brings up the children, often by adorning the houses with Virgin Mary holding a baby.

Sun faces

Sun faces

A nobleman, perhaps

A nobleman, perhaps

We certainly didn’t see examples of all these themes, but had fun looking wherever we walked. And ended up with quite a collection, I’d say.

Here are some of them. In some cases it’s easy to see/guess what they are, in cases not, so we did our best! To see more please look here at the web page; www.viviennemackie.com/Eastern_Europe/Prague_Signs.html

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About viviennemackie

Avid traveler, travel writer and photographer. In an earlier life I was a psychologist, but now am an ESL teacher. Very interested in multiculturalism, and how travel can expand one's horizons, understanding and tolerance.
This entry was posted in Czech Republic, house signs, Prague, signs, what to see in Prague and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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