Thanks to modern technology, it’s easy to get where you need to go by entering the exact address into a navigation system. But how did people navigate before, especially in the days when houses weren’t numbered?
The answer to this question can be found in house signs, of which there are many in the historical center of Prague.
House signs have been used in Prague for centuries, dating back to the Middle Ages.
These signs were originally used to identify the residents of a particular house or building. They were often made of wood or metal and were typically located above the entrance of the building.
During the Renaissance period, house signs began to take on more artistic forms. They were designed to be more ornate and decorative, with intricate carvings and sculptures. Many of these signs featured symbols or images that were specific to the trade or profession of the residents.
For example, a sign with a pair of scissors would indicate that a tailor lived in the building, while a sign with a hammer and anvil would indicate a blacksmith.
As the city grew and evolved, so did the house signs. In the 18th and 19th centuries, many of the signs were replaced with more modern designs.
These new signs were often made of cast iron and featured more simplified designs.
Today, the house signs of Prague are a unique and fascinating aspect of the city’s architecture. Many of the original signs from the Middle Ages and Renaissance period still exist and can be seen throughout the city.
They offer a glimpse into the past and provide a sense of the city’s rich history.
House At the Blue Grape – Husova 15 The house At the Blue Grape (or also At the Two Spies) acquired its present appearance in the second half of the 18th century and at that time the house emblem was placed on it, depicting the Old Testament scene of Joshua and Caleb bringing a giant grape from the land of Cannan.
At the Golden Tiger – Husova 17 In the 15th century the house had a hoe as a sign, in the 16th century it received a black lion, which in 1713 was changed into a relief of a walking golden tiger. There was the famous Šoch Patriotic Café in 1930s. Mainly students, writers and theater playwrights such as J. K. Tyl, K. H. Macha or historian Frantisek Palacky would meet here.
Despite the modernization of the city over the centuries, Prague has managed to preserve many of its traditional house signs, which can be found in many of the city’s streets and neighborhoods.
These signs are not only a unique feature of the city’s architecture but also an important part of its cultural heritage.
In recent years, many of these historical signs have been restored, and new ones have been added to buildings throughout the city, thus keeping the tradition alive for future generations to enjoy.
At the Three Feathers – Týnská ulička 10 The Kinsky family had three vertically curved spikes in the emblem, which the heraldics called wolf claws or pig tusks. In the second half of the 18th century during the reconstruction other owners changed the Kinsky emblem to feathers.
House At the Three Violins – Nerudova 12 In the 17th and 18th century the house was owned by three violin maker families. In 1667 the house was bought by the lute maker Barbora Ottova, widow of the violin master. Then it was owned by her son-in-law, the famous violinist Leonard Pradter, who was making string instruments for the musicians of the Loreta church.
In conclusion, house signs in Prague have a rich history that spans several centuries.
Currently, the number of house signs in Prague has significantly decreased. However, those that still flaunt in the most prominent places have the status of some kind of cult of a bygone era.
Although her trace has faded, it has somehow survived to our times. And that’s great.
At the Golden Sun – Valdštejnská 20 A huge fire took over the Lesser Town in 1541 and completely destroyed many buildings. After 13 long years a Renaissance house was built here and became the residence of imperial servants. The most interesting of them was Havel Oberšverder, a custodian of imperial silverware at the court of Rudolf II. He acquired the house in 1623 and had a relief of golden sun carved over the portal.
At the Golden Snake – Liliová 17 This house recieved its sign of the golden snake in the second half of the 18th century when there was a pharmacy. The snake was a symbol of healing in the Gothic period.