Historic Prague Paternoster Restored and Ready to Thrill Again

One of the city’s so-called “death elevators” has been repaired to its former ’70s-era glory, giving Prague another paternoster point

Expats.cz Staff Jason Pirodsky

Written by Expats.cz StaffJason Pirodsky Published on 24.04.2017 11:44:04 (updated on 24.04.2017) Reading time: 2 minutes

Last Thursday, city councilor Jan Wolf officially re-christened a newly renovated historic, “our Father” paternoster elevator in Prague’s New City Hall on Mariánské náměstí, the seat of the Prague mayor.

The early 20th-century Art Nouveau building was originally equipped with two paternoster lifts. Considered the height of modernity at the time, they included safety features allowing the lift to operate at a higher speed, with each of the twelve carriages having room for two people.

Since the 1970s, the building has had only one such lift; it covers four floors and has thirteen carriages.

[See a video of how they work, below.]

That elevator recently underwent a three-month overhaul, resulting in a new look which is meant to commemorate the historic elements of the building. 

Reconstruction has covered all cabins, wiring, safety, security, and the lift machine room, costing the municipality more than 3.5 million CZK.

“The paternoster in the New City Hall is among the unique monuments of engineering that anyone who comes to this public building should try and admire. At present, there are not many places where a circulating elevator is in operation. I am very pleased that the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering in cooperation with Prague conservationists helped prepare this delicate reconstruction. The result is truly remarkable,” said councilman Wolf in a news release.

Photo: Prague New City Hall
Photo: Prague New City Hall

Invented in the 1860s, there are an estimated 30 pasternosters in Prague; 70 throughout the Czech Republic.

The elevators derive their name from the way their cabins are constructed, a configuration said to resemble rosary beads (although most Czechs will tell you it is because you should pray before entering them!).

Paternosters are practically obsolete throughout Europe. An EU directive bans the construction of new ones. The fact that the Czech Republic has retained so many of these old-school oddities is largely chalked up to the lax safety standards of the Communist era.

Can you actually die in one, though? Apparently five people have perished while riding paternosters, though typically you can ride up and over without incident.

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