Saturday, June 18, 2011

Prague, Czech Republic.


Prague by night, originally uploaded by digital deceiver.

In 1526, the Bohemian estates elected Ferdinand I of House of Habsburg The fervent Catholicism of its members was to bring them into conflict in Bohemia, and then in Prague, where Protestant ideas were gaining popularity. These problems were not pre-eminent under Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II, elected King of Bohemia in 1576, who chose Prague as his home. He lived in the Prague Castle where his court saw invitations to astrologers and magicians, but also scientists, musicians, and artists. Rudolf was an art lover too and Prague became the capital of European culture. This was a prosperous period for the city: famous people living there in that age include the astronomers Tycho Brahe and Johann Kepler, the painter Arcimboldo, the alchemists Edward Kelley and John Dee, the poetess Elizabeth Jane Weston, and others.
In 1618, the famous second defenestration of Prague provoked the Thirty Years' War, a particularly harsh period for Prague and Bohemia. Ferdinand II of Habsburg was deposed, and his place as King of Bohemia taken by Frederick V, Elector Palatine; however the Czech Army under him was crushed in the Battle of White Mountain (1620) not far from the city. Following this in 1621 was an execution of 27 Czech leaders (involved in the uprising) in Old Town Square and an exiling of many others. The city suffered subsequently during the war under Saxon (1631) and Swedish (1648) occupation. Prague began a steady decline which reduced the population from the 60,000 it had had in the years before the war to 20,000. In the second half of the 17th century Prague's population began to grow again. Jews have been in Prague since the end of the 10th century and, by 1708, they accounted for about a quarter of Prague’s population.
In 1689, a great fire devastated Prague, but this spurred a renovation and a rebuilding of the city. In 1713–14, a major outbreak of plague hit Prague one last time, killing 12–13,000 people. The economic rise continued through the 18th century, and the city in 1771 had 80,000 inhabitants. Many of these were rich merchants and nobles who enriched the city with a host of palaces, churches and gardens, creating a Baroque style renowned throughout the world. After the Battle of Prague in 1757 the city was badly damaged during a Prussian bombardment. In 1784, under Joseph II, the four municipalities of Malá Strana, Nové Město, Staré Město, and Hradcany were merged into a single entity. The Jewish district, called Josefov, was included only in 1850. The Industrial Revolution had a strong effect in Prague, as factories could take advantage of the coal mines and ironworks of the nearby region. A first suburb, Karlín, was created in 1817, and twenty years later population exceeded 100,000.
The revolutions that shocked all Europe around 1848 touched Prague too, but they were fiercely suppressed. In the following years the Czech nationalist movement began its rise, until it gained the majority in the town council in 1861. Prague had a German speaking majority in 1848, but by 1880 the German population had decreased to 14% (42,000), and by 1910 to 6.7% (37,000), due to a massive increase of the city's overall population caused by the influx of Czechs from the rest of Bohemia and Moravia and also due to ethnic mixing and assimilation.

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