Unexpected Prague: Come for the Beer, Stay for the Books
April 19, 2016
In the 16th century, two arrivals transformed Prague: the Habsburgs and the Protestant Reformation. During a three-hour walking tour of Old Town Prague, you will explore how these two forces found a ideological battleground in the traditional Czech lands of Moravia and Bohemia.
Tours with our expert partners let you visit one of the world’s most beautiful libraries, wander the back alleys and bylanes of the city center, and get an in-depth understanding of what the imperial Habsburgs meant for Prague.
Religious Revolt and Prologue to War
Rewinding history, begin your walk in the medieval Bethlehem Chapel. You’ll explore the anti-papal sentiments in Prague and greater Bohemia in the 15th and 16th centuries, well before Martin Luther’s Reformation began over the borders in Germany. As you learn about the arrival of the Habsburg family as rulers and their installation of the Jesuit order, you’ll consider how the Czech lands played into the political upheaval that soon rocked Europe, when the continent became embroiled in the Thirty Years War.
This discussion will lead you through the Old Town Square, where the leaders of the Bohemian Revolt were executed in 1621. With the ominous crosses in pavement marking the event, you’ll look more deeply at the Jesuit order and the Papal Counter-reformation. This history covers a wide range of issues, from the Jewish reaction to this conflict to how Catholic leaders like the Habsburg Rudolf II patronized the arts and sciences. Despite the ravages of war, Rudolf II’s reign signaled a golden age in Prague, which you will encounter by climbing the iconic Astronomical Tower and standing inside the incredible Baroque Library.
From here, you’ll head across the Charles Bridge to St. Nicholas Church, a fantastic example of Baroque architecture built to embody the Counter-Reformation. Here you will dig deeper into the simmering conflict between Protestants and Catholics and come away with a deeper sense of why their struggle makes the 17th century one of the most fascinating time periods in Prague's history.