Dating from 1348, this square was created on the boundary between the lower and upper ends of the New Town Quarter. 682 metres long and 60 metres wide, it was first documented in 1362 as a Horse Market, the name used until 1848. Its present name was adopted in 1848 on the initiative of the Czech national leader Karel Havlíček Borovský. Apart from the trade in horses, it was used for trading in hay, straw and wheat until 1877. The upper end of Wenceslas Square was closed by the Horse Gate (its final form dates back to 1838) which was demolished together with the City Wall in the period 1875-1876. From the reign of Rudolf II (1576-1611), the area neighbouring the gate hosted a marketplace, but also the city gallows. From 1397 the lower end of Wenceslas Square around Na Můstku was covered with the stalls of tradesmen selling girdles and purses. The square was paved as late as the end of the 18th century. The centre of the square was decorated with a fountain built in the French Empire style, the Baroque statue of St John Nepomuk, and a fountain with the statue of St Wenceslas.
The Square began to be lit by gas lamps in 1847, and 12 years later 6 eight-branch lamp-posts were erected here. Finally, since 1884, the square was lit by electricity, then in the form of arc lamps constructed by the Prague inventor František Křižík. However, the square was never a good place for trees. Planted here in 1875, the trees were relocated over and over again. As for transportation, the square was in 1875 linked to the municipal horse-drawn tram system. In view of the sloping character of the square it took two horses to get the trams to the upper end. The horse-drawn trams were replaced in 1900 by electric trams.
Prior to the latter half of the 19th century, the Horse Gate offered a view of mostly two-storey or three-storey structures with Baroque and Neo-Classical facades, above which projected the towers of the Old Town and the Church of the Virgin Mary of the Snows. Older photographs make it clear that before the construction of the Royal Bohemian Museum in the area formerly occupied by the Horse Gate, there were relatively few shops in the square, nor did the square seem to have been much frequented. It began to adopt its metropolitan appearance only from the 1890s, especially after the completion of the construction of the museum which attracted to the square a growing number of craftsmen and traders. Before the First World War Wenceslas Square already had the bearings of a lively commercial boulevard, an integral part of Prague’s Golden Cross, i.e.the streets housing the largest and most elegant Prague shops.
Wenceslas square used to be famous for its breweries. The last of them, U Primasů, standing on the corner of Štěpánská Street, was closed in 1928. In contrast to this, the many hotels in the square demonstrate that the tradition of accommodation services has never been interrupted. Beginning with the St Wenceslas public mass on June 12th, 1848, which sparked off the revolution of that year, the square became a focal point of ever more frequent political activities. In 1897 the square saw extensive conflicts between Prague’s Czechs and the minority German-speakers. Demonstrations took place here in 1905 over the demand for a general franchise, and the independence of the Czechoslovak Republic was declared here on October 28th, 1918. The square has also witnessed many protest actions, the most recent in the period 1968-1969 aimed against the invasion of the Warsaw Pact countries, and in 1989 against the totalitarian regime in the course of the Velvet Revolution.
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