The Powder Tower belongs to the one of the original medieval gates to the Old Town. With its 65 metres (213 feet) the tower provides a beautiful view of Prague. The building was built by Matej Rejsek in the Gothic style in 1475. However, in the 18th century, the tower became a gunpowder depot which gave the tower the current name. One century later, the building was rebuilt by J. Mocker and the Powder Tower became one of the most significant medieval monuments in Prague. It accounts for a gate to the middle ages as the future kings of Bohemia used to the gate as the enter to the city during their coronation parade. Together with the Old Town Bridge Tower, the Powder Tower is the only existing section of the previous Prague Old Town fortification.
About Powder Tower
The Powder Tower is now standing in the middle of Prague. You can hardly imagine that once it was at the edge of the city – until the foundation of the Prague New Town by King Charles IV in 1348. There was a gate in the city walls of the Old Town and the road going through this gate connected Prague with Kutná Hora – economically the most important town in Bohemia due to its silver mines. There was also a large moat – which lost its military value and only the name of the wide boulevard Na Příkopě (On the Moat) hints its existence.
Czech King coronation ceremony began at the gate – the King and his delegation entered Prague here and then continued through Celetná Street to the Old Town and further to the Charles Bridge, then to the Prague Castle, when the coronation itself took place.
The Old Town city walls and the tower standing of the place of today Powder Tower were neglected since 14 th century. This quickly resulted in the deterioration of the old tower which was referred to as “tattered” (Odraná). However, when Vladislav II Jagiello became the Czech King, he settled in Prague in the neighbouring King’s Court (at the location of today Municipal House). A bit ashamed of the ruin of the old tower, the Old Town City Council decided in 1475 to honour the King and commissioned a new, more representative tower which would not spoil the magnificence of the King’s Court.
The effort came too late. The King had moved his court to the Prague Castle before the new tower was built – it was left unfinished with only a provisional roof. The new tower copied a lot from the Old Town Bridge Tower. Its master builder, Matěj Rejsek, was also a sculptor and author of many figures and statues ornamenting the tower (called “New Tower” then). Only few of them survived but they suggest that the manners in 15 th century were perhaps looser than expected (such as a man offering a sack of gold to a young woman or a woman slapping a man trying to put his hand under her skirt).
The City Council tried to find a purpose for the tower and even considered its demolition. Duty was collected at the gate. In 18 th century, its interior was used to store gunpowder – it acquired its current name then. In 1757, the Powder Tower was badly damaged during Prussian siege of Prague. Several coronations thus began at a derelict tower – which was intended to be representative.
In 1870s, the Prague City Council decided to have the Powder Tower repaired. The restoration was finished in 1886 by Josef Mocker (who made many such restorations in that time, including Karlštejn Castle or finishing of St. Vitus Cathedral). Mocker also used the Old Town Bridge Tower as a model. He made a new roof, the lookout gallery and almost all decorations on the outside as well as inside the tower. Finally, the Powder Tower was truly a representative building – more than 400 ears since the start of the construction with this aim! But again, it was an effort too late – the last coronation to take place in Prague was in 1836 when Ferdinand V was crowned.
The Powder Tower is currently property of Prague and is one of the buildings of the City of Prague Museum. Apart from its rich decorations and exhibits, the Powder tower offers a lookout gallery which is 43 metres above the terrain. There are 186 stairs with no elevator – persons with impaired movement and prams cannot visit the tower, unfortunately. Visit this beautiful tower with our Prague tour!