the vltava river

The Golem of Prague

In Jewish folklore, a golem is an animated anthropomorphic being that is magically created entirely from inanimate matter (specifically clay or mud).

The most famous golem narrative involves Judah Loew ben Bezalel, the late 16th century rabbi of Prague, also known as the Maharal, who reportedly created a golem to defend the Prague ghetto from antisemitic attacks.

Depending on the version of the legend, the Jews in Prague were to be either expelled or killed under the rule of Rudolf II, the Holy Roman Emperor. To protect the Jewish community, the rabbi constructed the Golem out of clay from the banks of the Vltava river, and brought it to life through rituals and Hebrew incantations.

The Golem was called Josef and was known as Yossele. It was said that he could make himself invisible and summon spirits from the dead. 

The Golem’s body was stored in the attic genizah of the Old New Synagogue, where it would be restored to life again if needed. According to legend, the body of Rabbi Loew’s Golem still lies in the synagogue’s attic.

A recent legend tells of a Nazi agent ascending to the synagogue attic during World War II and trying to stab the Golem, but he died instead.

The Hebrew letters on the creature’s head read “emet”, meaning “truth”. In some versions of the Chełm and Prague narratives, the Golem is killed by removing the first letter, making the word spell “met”, meaning “dead”.

Source. Authors of the paintings unknown. 

The battle of Vitkov Hill - stand of the 100

The Battle of Vítkov Hill was a part of the Hussite Wars, where the Holy Roman Empire and various Papal forces sought to crush the proto-Protestant followers of reformer Jan Hus. The battle pitted four thousand knights commanded by Sigismund, Holy Roman Emperor against just a hundred Hussites under command of Jan Žižka. Vítkov Hill was located on the edge of the city of Prague and the battle occurred in a vineyard established by Sigismund’s father, Charles IV. The battle ended with a decisive Hussite victory.

On 1 March 1420, Pope Martin V published a papal bull in which he ordered that Sigismund and all Eastern princes had to organize a crusade against the Hussite followers of the reformers John Hus, John Wycliffe and other “heretics.” A crusader force moved to recapture Hussite-controlled Prague.

The siege began on 12 June. The crusaders’ forces, in the opinions of the chroniclers, consisted of 100-200 thousand soldiers. In the opinions of modern historians they probably had 3-4 thousand. One of the most important points in the fortifications of Prague was Vítkov Hill. The fortifications on this hill secured roads on the crusaders’ supply lines. The fortifications themselves were made from timber but they were consolidated with a stone and clay wall and with moats. On the southern part of the hill there was a standing tower, the northern part was secured by a steep cliff. The fortifications were said to be defended by 26 men and three women, though in the opinion of J. Durdik, it was probably about 60 soldiers. On 13 July, the Crusader’s cavalry crossed the river Vltava and began to mount repeated attacks, all of which were resisted. On 14 July, Hussite relief troops surprised the knights through the vineyards on the southern side of the hill on which the battle was fought. The violent attack forced the crusaders down the steep northern cliff. Panic spread among the crusaders, which made them rout the field. During the retreat, many knights drowned in the Vltava. 

In honour of this battle, Vítkov Hill was renamed Žižkov after Jan Žižka, the commander of its defenders. As a consequence of the Hussite victory on Vítkov, the crusaders lost any hope of starving the city into submission and their army disintegrated. The National Monument exists today on the hill and as of 2003 local officials have been attempting to replant the vineyard. Ultimately the Hussites were victorious, and the Hussite church became free from Papal control.

A fun question! @fightyourmisery

 I’ve only started doing it the last 2 years so I only have a few. 

 Vienna - I have a snow globe of the Vienna Christkindlmarket outside Hofburg Palace, just because Austria is known for their holiday markets & I didn’t like living in Vienna enough to find something more unique. 

 Prague - I have a Golem statue, which is a character of some infamous folklore in Prague. Jews were not welcome in 16th century Prague and the locals would attack their Jewish residents so one of the most famous rabbis built a creature known as Golem from the mud of the Vltava River to protect the Czech Jews as they were walking home. 

Not something I bought, but something given to me in Prague that I still have. I was given an eye of protection amulet before entering the Jewish Ghetto in Prague. I was waiting in line to purchase my ticket for the Ghetto and a woman approached me to give me the Eye. I told her I didn’t have money, but she told me to just take it because she thought I needed it. 

 Also, like all true basic Chicagoans, I’ve got my 5 red stars tattoo for our city flag.

Fairytale Castles and X-Rated Museums: Ahoj Prague!

I have wanted to visit the Czech city of Prague ever since my parents did when I was in primary school. They returned with the most gorgeous photos of the Old Town Square, with its mishmash of architectural styles and historic astronomical clock, and I immediately fell in love. My friend and I ventured to the square several times over our weekend trip, both during the day and at night, and though the twinkling Christmas markets weren’t quite in full swing, we adored the quirky building facades and the looming gothic spires of the Church of Our Lady before Týn - see above. Tucked away along a side street is another essential stop for a Prague tourist: the Sex Machines Museum, the first in the world to be solely dedicated to erotic gadgets, is fun and different, though best avoided if visiting with those of a sensitive disposition.

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Whenever someone asks me what they should see while in Prague, my answer always starts with this - go see the sunset from the Old Town Bridge Tower and watch how Prague slowly lights up! Although the view of Charles Bridge, the Vltava River and the Prague Castle sitting on top of the hill is beautiful at any point in the day, the transformation that takes place at the end of every day has never ceased to amaze.
 A big thank you goes to Jana from @czechoslovakianlove for spending three and a half hours with me at the top!