Prašná brána (Powder Tower)

Powder Tower, Prague, detail

The eastern side of the mediaeval city was guarded by an imposing entrance on the road leading from Prague to the royal mint at Kutná Hora. In the fifteenth century the already 400-year-old gateway was replaced by an even grander edifice, whose foundation stone was laid by King Vladislav Jagellonský in 1475. The architects of the so-called ‘New Tower’ were one master Wenceslas, and later the accomplished Matěj Rejsek, whose other buildings include the church at Kutná Hora, the Vladislav Hall in Prague Castle, and part of the Church of Our Lady before Týn.

Powder Tower, Prague

However, the decision of the King to abandon the adjacent Royal Court buildings, and return to the traditional seat of power at Hradčany, meant that the project fell into decline; and the centuries of turmoil that followed saw the tower gradually lose its status, as well as much of its original gothic ornamentation. By the eighteenth century it was being used as a gunpowder store, hence its present-day nickname.

The window and some of the tracery (below) are original, but much of the detail, including the winged angels and even the soaring pinnacled roof, are the work of the Victorian-era purist Josef Mocker, who was also responsible for much of Prague’s superb neo-gothic church architecture.

Powder Tower, Prague, facade