The Metropolitan Cathedral of Saints Vitus, Wenceslaus and Adalbert is the seat of the Archbishop of Prague. Up to 1997, the cathedral was dedicated only to Saint Vitus, and is still commonly named only as St. Vitus Cathedral.
This cathedral is an excellent example of Gothic architecture and is the biggest and most important church in Czech Republic. Located within Prague Castle and containing the tombs of many Bohemian kings and Holy Roman Emperors, the cathedral is under the ownership of the Czech government as part of the Prague Castle complex.
The cathedral was commissioned by Charles IV, and construction began in 1344 on the site of an earlier 10th century rotunda. Its first builders, Matthias of Arras and later Peter Parler, built the chancel with a ring of chapels - St. Wenceslas Chapel, the Golden Portal and the lower section of the main steeple.
However, it took almost six centuries to complete, with the final phase of construction in the period 1873-1929. As well as being the largest and most important temple in Prague, St. Vitus Cathedral has also overseen the coronation of Czech kings and queens. In the chancel of the cathedral, in front of the high alter, is the royal mausoleum. Below this, in the crypt, there are the royal tombs. Czech kings and queens, and patron saints of the country are interred here.
The Great South Tower of the Cathedral was founded in the late 14th century, then reconstructed in the 16th and again in the 18th centuries. The tower holds the biggest bell in the Czech Republic, called Žikmund, which dates from the 16th century. Visitors can climb the tower. It has 287 steps and is more than 90 metres high. The views from the stop are worth the effort.
St. Wenceslas Chapel is decorated with frescoes and semi-precious stones. And a door in the south-western corner of the chapel leads to the Crown Chamber in which the Bohemian Coronation Jewels are stored.
It is free for visitors to enter the first part of St. Vitus Cathedral. A ticket must be purchased to visit the whole cathedral.References:
Hochosterwitz Castle is considered to be one of Austria's most impressive medieval castles. The rock castle is one of the state's landmarks and a major tourist attraction.
The site was first mentioned in an 860 deed issued by King Louis the German of East Francia, donating several of his properties in the former Principality of Carantania to the Archdiocese of Salzburg. In the 11th century Archbishop Gebhard of Salzburg ceded the castle to the Dukes of Carinthia from the noble House of Sponheim in return for their support during the Investiture Controversy. The Sponheim dukes bestowed the fiefdom upon the family of Osterwitz, who held the hereditary office of the cup-bearer in 1209.
In the 15th century, the last Carinthian cup-bearer, Georg of Osterwitz was captured in a Turkish invasion and died in 1476 in prison without leaving descendants. So after four centuries, on 30 May 1478, the possession of the castle reverted to Emperor Frederick III of Habsburg.
Over the next 30 years, the castle was badly damaged by numerous Turkish campaigns. On 5 October 1509, Emperor Maximilian I handed the castle as a pledge to Matthäus Lang von Wellenburg, then Bishop of Gurk. Bishop Lang undertook a substantial renovation project for the damaged castle.
About 1541, German king Ferdinand I of Habsburg bestowed Hochosterwitz upon the Carinthian governor Christof Khevenhüller. In 1571, Baron George Khevenhüller acquired the citadel by purchase. He fortified to deal with the threat of Turkish invasions of the region, building an armory and 14 gates between 1570 and 1586. Such massive fortification is considered unique in citadel construction.
Since the 16th century, no major changes have been made to Hochosterwitz. It has also remained in the possession of the Khevenhüller family as requested by the original builder, George Khevenhüller. A marble plaque dating from 1576 in the castle yard documents this request.
A specific feature is the access way to the castle passing through a total of 14 gates, which are particularly prominent owing to the castle's situation in the landscape. Tourists are allowed to walk the 620-metre long pathway through the gates up to the castle; each gate has a diagram of the defense mechanism used to seal that particular gate. The castle rooms hold a collection of prehistoric artifacts, paintings, weapons, and armor, including one set of armor 2.4 metres tall, once worn by Burghauptmann Schenk.