Literature dealing with Prague usually interprets the name Karlov as a simplification derived from the long name of the Church of St Charles the Great and of the assumption of our lady. The church served the Lateran monks of the Augustine order whose monastery stood on the highest spot in the New Town, above the Nusle Valley (the entrance to the church is 230 metres above sea level). The ecclesiastical structure was built on the orders of Charles IV in 1350, and it is one of the architectural dominants of the New Town and Prague in general: it is renowned for its octagonal plot and cupola-like vaulted ceiling which has a diameter of 23 metres. The church also incorporates the Bethlehem Chapel, dating back to 1709, allegedly a miniature copy of the Bethlehem cave which was Christ’s birthplace.
However, the term Karlov refers today to a far broader area than the immediate vicinity of the church and the former monastery. The present-day Karlov, mostly covering an area with the same elevation above sea level, consists of the following streets: Ke Karlovu, Apolinářská, Horská, Sokolská, Legerova and Boženy Němcové. As this is an area basically identical with the once sparsely populated territory owned by the monastery, it is possible that the present-day use of the term Karlov may be traced back to this historical origin. We may even speculate that in the middle ages the term Karlov denoted a much larger area than it does today.
Roughly from 1785, when the monastery was abolished, the area began to attract at first various health and social institutions, later also university institutions. The last decades of the 19th century saw the construction of such important new projects as e.g. the Hospital for Prague Businessmen, or the Provincial Maternity Hospital. This concentration of both private and state institutions in Karlov also continued in the 20th century, e.g. with the building of the Czech Children’s Hospital and of the new city asylum for Foundlings. Apart from the Church and the former monastery, which now houses the Police Museum of the Czech Republic and the State Archives, most utilitarian buildings in this area are nowadays a part of the General Faculty Hospital, or of the First and Third Medical Faculties of Charles University. Karlov has thus become a byword for a place filled with hospitals, clinics and institutes, while the Quarter of Albertov, located on the site of the former vineyards of the Augustinian Monastery with its university institutes and dormitories, has become a byword for student life.
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