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The new palace, First and second courtyards

Nowadays, Prague Castle’s New Palace is the administrative seat of the President of the Czech Republic. The Viennese court architect, Nicola Pacassi, built its wings in the late 18th century to unify the individual castle palaces, particularly those from the time of Rudolf II.

The main entrance to Prague Castle was always on the western side facing Hradčanské náměstí (Hradčany Square). At one time, there was a ravine separating the spur of Prague Castle from the adjoining Hradčany on the site of the present-day First Courtyard. During the 10th century, the ravine was transformed into a deep moat, and in the 14th century, two more moats were added. Nicola Pacassi changed the thousand-year entrance to the castle by filling in the ditches and creating the area of the First Courtyard. It is actually an honorary courtyard, dominated by the Gate of the Giants with sculptural decoration and the Late Manneristic Matyáš Gate from 1614, which continues into the western wing of the New Palace. Its architectural appearance demonstrates what the corresponding Rudolphine buildings could have looked at Prague Castle.

The entrance hallway of the Matyáš Gate divides the west wing: the southern part boasts Rococo decorated interiors from the 18th century and the monumental Column Hall of Josip Plečnik, constructed in the early 1920s, dominates the northern part. Its original, yet traditionally respectful style enchanted the President T. G. Masaryk. The northern part of the west wing continues up to the most impressive space of the presidential part of Prague Castle – the Spanish Hall. Rudolph II commissioned its construction in 1602 for court celebrations.

Built at the same time as the north wing, where there had been stables from the beginning of the 16th century, the Prague Castle Picture Gallery cannot compete with its previous Rudolphine riches. Nevertheless, the collection here is a worthy successor with works by Lucas Cranach the Elder, Hans von Aachen, Tizian, and Peter Paul Rubens. The area of the Second Courtyard is dominated by the Baroque Fountain built in 1686, a Renaissance well with a decorative cover from the 18th century and the Chapel of the Holy Cross built in the mid-18th century. The period fittings of its interior were installed during the 19th century.

The Palace Wings around the Second Courtyard now serve as representative and presidential offices. The Rococo and Classicist interiors were linked by the tasteful adaptations of Josip Plečnik, T. G. Masaryk’s architect in the 1920s. He was responsible for the Impluvium as the central space of the presidential flat at the division of the south and west wings, the Harp Stateroom, but also the Lift and other spaces).

Tradition at Prague Castle goes hand in hand with a vibrant present. In the 1990s, contemporary art chosen by Václav Havel’s architect, Bořek Šípek enlivened the New Palace wing on the Second Courtyard.