The St. Nicholas City Bell Tower stands right next to the Church of St. Nicholas on Prague’s Lesser Town Square and has played an irreplaceable role in the city of Prague.
It was from it that the loud bell that announced fires rang out into the wide surroundings. Today, it offers visitors information from ancient history and a magnificent view of the wide surroundings of old Prague.
The construction of the St. Nicholas Town Bell Tower began in 1739, as did the adjacent St. Nicholas Church. The first human foot set foot on it 15 years later, in 1754.
Although many visitors associate the bell tower with the Baroque church next door, it never belonged to that church and has always been a town property, not a church property.
It takes a while to climb the stairs. After all, there are almost 300 steps, which are variously arched, curved and high. You can rest on the individual floors where there are interesting exhibitions, such as the tower master’s apartment, which remains authentic.
“When a tourist comes here, he has the whole city in the palm of his hand – there’s a view of the Petřín lookout tower on one side, a little bit of Prague Castle, but there’s also an unprecedented view of Charles Bridge and the two bridge towers. This is really unique,” Barbora Scherf, spokesperson for Prague City Tourism, explains.
It was built for the good of the city, to protect it from fires, but actually over the centuries, especially in the 1920s, it was first abused by the totalitarian Nazis and then by the communists.
When visitors climb to the very top of the St. Nicholas town bell tower, they find themselves in a bygone and unforgiving time.
This is where the observation room of the State Secret Security used to be, monitoring the surrounding embassies (notably the American, German and British ones).
Back in the Communist days, many were fully aware of the church tower being used by the StB, one reason why dissidents in the underground movement, sometimes met at its base, where they exchanged illegally published documents or books and where they knew they couldn’t be seen.
In that way they managed to exchange illegal literature.
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