No one who comes to Prague ever fails to cross the Charles Bridge at least once. The bridge has some magical power to it and visitors as well as locals keep coming back. It might be the calming river, the majestic Prague Castle, or the 700 years of history. Whatever it is, there is a lot to explore on the bridge itself and in its immediate neighborhood. Today we will take a closer look the beautiful balcony with flowers, a lantern, a painting of Saint Mary, and two rolls from mangle, old version of laundry press, on the side. Strange combo? Might be, but as everything else in Prague, this window has a “story”. You can see our object of interest on the left side when walking from the Old Town side of the bridge, towards the end on Kampa Island.
The Painting of Saint Mary
Before the large dams were built on Vltava river in the 20th century, Prague had to endure flooding almost every year. Some were smaller, some bigger, but they always brought some destruction with them. Legend says the painting of Saint Mary was washed to Prague by a large flood. The owner of a house at Kampa Island saved the painting from the wild water and the water stopped raising. He hung the painting on the house for everyone to see. Not surprisingly this painting become quite popular, and it is said that if you will pray to it, your wish will come true. History also tells us that famous painters lived in the house. One of them was Adolf Kašpar (whose commemorative plaque you can find on the house). When you walk around the house towards the river you will find three metal signs – the water level of floods in 1784, 1890 and 2002 (the highest one).
To reach the balcony, you have to go through the house´s attic. In that attic lived, according to legend, a lonely young woman, called Petruška. To pass her time in solitude, she liked to talk to a star, and she begged the star to come to Earth to keep her company. This did not happen, but when Petruška was dying and was still alone, she thought of the star once again. The star told her “You were never alone, I was always with you.” The woman´s soul then went to the candle light inside the lantern. Since then, the people living in the house have kept the lantern lit at all times (the light is electric now :).
One version of the story says that one young lady named Marie, probably a laundry woman or housemaid, passed the picture of St. Mary every day on the way to work. She liked the painting very much. One day the old mangle, which was placed at the house courtyard, and Marie was using, broke down and fell on top of her. People from the neighborhood ran to help her, but nobody could lift the mangle up. The lady started to scream “Saint Mary, please, help me!”. Then all of the sudden people lifted the mangle and found the woman completely unharmed. Everyone believed that they had witnessed a miracle and hung two rolls from mangle next to the balcony door. Another version of the tale says that the girl´s hands got stuck inside the mangle and she start to pray to St. Mary, and she escaped without a scratch.
Prague is full of stories, some are true, some partly, some are completely made up, but they are all fun and help us to connect with the old streets. People still live in this house with St. Mary painting, No offices there, no conferences premises, just ordinary people with their families. If you will be lucky, you might see someone emerging from the little door to water the flowers.
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