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:
The Externsteine (Extern stones) is a distinctive sandstone rock formation located in the Teutoburg Forest, near the town of Horn-Bad Meinberg. The formation is a tor consisting of several tall, narrow columns of rock which rise abruptly from the surrounding wooded hills. Archaeological excavations have yielded some Upper Paleolithic stone tools dating to about 10,700 BC from 9,600 BC.
In a popular tradition going back to an idea proposed to Hermann Hamelmann in 1564, the Externsteine are identified as a sacred site of the pagan Saxons, and the location of the Irminsul (sacral pillar-like object in German paganism) idol reportedly destroyed by Charlemagne; there is however no archaeological evidence that would confirm the site's use during the relevant period.
The stones were used as the site of a hermitage in the Middle Ages, and by at least the high medieval period were the site of a Christian chapel. The Externsteine relief is a medieval depiction of the Descent from the Cross. It remains controversial whether the site was already used for Christian worship in the 8th to early 10th centuries.
The Externsteine gained prominence when Völkisch and nationalistic scholars took an interest in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This interest peaked under the Nazi regime, when the Externsteine became a focus of nazi propaganda. Today, they remain a popular tourist destination and also continue to attract Neo-Pagans and Neo-Nazis.