Prague is bringing two historic paternoster elevators back into service

Non-stop open elevators bring a special element to some of Prague’s listed buildings, but some are in poor condition.

Expats.cz Staff

Written by Expats.cz Staff
Published on 29.09.2021 18:00 (updated on 30.09.2021)

Pasternoster elevators are a throwback to the past. In some countries, such as Germany, these lifts are now seen as hazardous and users must sign forms stating that they are using them at their own personal risk. Yet they continue to bring a special, historic element to some of Prague’s listed buildings.

Now, two historically significant elevators at Prague’s Petschkův Palace are being brought back into service.

Repair works on the unique paternastors at the building in central Prague are being carried out by the Ministry of Industry and Trade. The work in the listed building will be undertaken in way sympathetic to the history of the structure, making it relatively expensive. The works will cost a total of CZK 24.5 million.

The out-of-order lifts will be repaired by the Ministry of Industry and Trade / photo via paternoster.archii.cz
The out-of-order lifts will be repaired by the Ministry of Industry and Trade / photo via paternoster.archii.cz

It is planned that all elements of the lift will remain original, with replicas also saved. The sixteen-cabin system, dating from 1924, is unique due to the unusual location of its engine room in the basement of the building. While adding an extra touch of historical interest, this is expected to complicate repair works. Further difficulties are posed by inappropriate reconstruction work performed at the turn of the millennium.

PRIVATE PROPERTIES

Paternosters can be found in Prague in a number of famous buildings, including several government ministries, official municipal offices, Palác Lucerna and Palác YMCA. The oldest of all is thought to be in the building which houses Czech Radio, on Vinohradská street. Petschkův Palace has one sixteen-cabin paternoster as well as a shorter twelve-cabin lift. Repair of the longer lift will take place first, followed by the smaller, all in consultation with conservation specialists.

The paternoster's engine room is located in the basement / photo via paternoster.archii.cz
The paternoster's engine room is located in the basement / photo via paternoster.archii.cz

“The cost of the overhaul of the small paternoster will be determined after elaboration of the project documentation for the elevator, which must be discussed and approved by conservationists,” said Miluš Trefancová from the Ministry of Industry and Trade.

Paternosters consist of a chain of open compartments, usually designed for two people, which move slowly in a continuous loop allowing passengers to step on and off at any floor of the building. The name “Paternoster,” meaning “Our Father” in Latin, was first used for the device because its circular form resembles the rosary beads used in Catholic prayer.

A list of Prague’s working and non-operational paternosters can be found here.

Publish your story to Expats.cz Find out more