Prague's Charles Bridge is lit again at night after completion of repairs to the ice guards

Charles Bridge was not fully lit at night since October, new anti-glare measures will protect boats

Raymond Johnston

Written by Raymond Johnston Published on 11.03.2020 07:00:52 (updated on 11.03.2020) Reading time: 3 minutes

Charles Bridge, one of Prague’s top attractions, is lit up at night again. The Gothic landmark and its immediate surroundings are highlighted at night by 230 lamps. Some lamps had to be temporarily turned off in October 2019 because their planned renovation and repair work to the bridge’s ice guards.

The lights on the breakwaters interfered with ships passing under the bridge arches, so the company Technology for the Capital City Prague (THMP) had special screens designed to eliminate glare. These were installed in February, and after four months the lighting was put back into full operation.

The ceremonial lighting was dismantled and refurbished last year as part of the complete replacement of the ice guards in front of the Charles Bridge.

“A functional test showed that the lights on the ice guards did not sufficiently eliminate glare on vehicles passing under the arches of Charles Bridge. Therefore, we temporarily put them out of service and, in cooperation with the State Navigation Administration (SPS), took steps to ensure the safety of shipping in the capital,” City Councilor Jan Chabr said.

Charles Bridge lit at night. via Praha.EU

Tomáš Jílek, board chairman of THMP said the company had to design and produce special louvers for ceremonial lighting fixtures, which are newly coated with anti-glare paint. A complete replacement of lighting fixtures, cabling and cleaning was completed. and the coating of auxiliary steel structures and lights on ice guards was completed with protection against bird damage.

After the newly installed equipment was set up by THMP staff, an operational test took place with the participation of the State Navigation Administration, which allowed re-illumination. Since last week, Czech Bridge has once again completed the evening panorama of Prague.

The ice guards are in the Vltava river in front of stone pillars and are intended to keep ice from damaging the bridge during winter. The new ice guards were made from Czech oak trees from the forest around Moravský Krumlov and Strážnice in South Moravia. Oak has the highest durability of any common European tree. The previous guards used poor quality wood.

THMP provides ceremonial lighting of 140 architecturally significant buildings in Prague. “The night illumination of monuments offers a unique view, as it is not disturbed by a number of other elements, such as surrounding buildings or advertisements. At night, we can ensure that only the part of Prague that we want to emphasize dominates,” Jílek said, adding that two specialized crews take care of the ceremonial lighting for monuments every day.

charles bridge
New lighting for Charles Bridge. via Praha.EU

Illumination of Prague sights starts after sunset with the oldest monuments, and increases by degrees every three minutes, depending on the sites age. In a darkened environment, buildings from the 10th century stand out first and the youngest landmarks come on last. Charles Bridge, built in the 14th century, lights up 12 minutes after the first monuments are lit.

Construction on Charles Bridge started in 1357 and was supported by Emperor Charles IV. It was the only bridge across the river in Prague until 1841.

Charles Bridge underwent an extensive but controversial renovation between 2008 and ’10. UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee criticized it for being poorly planned. The bridge is part of the city’s UNESCO’s World Heritage Site and is a protected landmark.

City Hall in February 2018 announced it would examine the state of the bridge’s stone blocks and, after replacing the ice guards, would make repairs to the 14th arch, which goes over Kampa on the Malá Strana side, where the joints between the stones are crumbling and there are some cracks.

Then the rest of the arches will be repaired over the course of the next two decades. Each arch will cost 45 million to 60 million CZK to repair.

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