Náměstí Republiky / Republic Square

(Plzeň) Plzeň Vnitřní Město
GPS: 49.747227N, 13.377549E

Náměstí Republiky (historically called Great Square, in the time of the First Republic called Liberty Square, and during the Second World War Central Square) is the oldest and most significant public space in Pilsen and the focus and centre of city life right at its heart. It is the scene of social, cultural and political activities. Important routes intersected here from its inception and it has remained a significant transport node until the present day. It has also been the headquarters of public institutions throughout its existence.

The square lies in the middle of the medieval city centre, which arose as a quadrangle with dimensions of 460 x 430 m articulated by a rectangular grid of streets. The space of the square was formed by leaving out two blocks in the urbanist structure of Gothic grid. This gave rise to a generous space with dimensions of approximately 200 x 145 m with ten streets fanning out. As a result of the gradual expansion of houses into the space in the form of arbours and their subsequent integration into the mass of buildings, the area of the square was reduced to its present-day dimensions of 193 x 139 m as long ago as the Middle Ages.

The area of the square is dominated by the stately Gothic three-nave St. Bartholomew’s Cathedral with the highest spire in the country rising over 102 metres. The church, whose construction was commenced probably together with the foundation of the city at the turn of the 13th century, was built on a spot lying north of the geometrical centre of the square. Thus, its ground plan footprint roughly slices in half the diagonal between the premises of the Franciscan and the no-longer-existing Dominican monastery, whose foundation in the corners of the historical centre dates back to the period around the year 1300. Together with the church, these objects constituted the spiritual axis of medieval Pilsen.

Among the important buildings lining the square is the Renaissance town hall in the middle of the northern side and the bishopric situated directly opposite the main church entrance. The surrounding development is a mix of buildings from various periods. Besides the medieval burgher houses, there is also one imperial building in the square – the so-called “Principálovský dům” / Principal’s House (nowadays one of the buildings of the Municipality of the City of Pilsen). Many of the older burgher houses were replaced by historicist apartment houses in the 19th and 20th centuries. Among later realisations is the functionalist apartment house with shopfronts of Růžena Holcbechrová called “U Dvou Klíčů” / At Two Keys (C1–202), built on the southern side of the square to the design of František Holcbecher (and also Karel Pecánek and Bohumil Chvojka) in the early 1930s. Chronologically, the last realisation in the square’s development is the brutalist Hotel Central (previously Ural) built on the corner of the square and Riegrova Street according to the design of Jaroslava Gloserová at the turn of the 1960s and 1970s.

In the area of the square, the church has always been complemented, and still is nowadays, by smaller buildings and objects. Many of them vanished in the first half of the 19th century. Even before then, in the late 18th century, the wall of a cemetery adjacent to the church and abolished for reasons of hygiene during the reforms of Franz Joseph I. in the 1880s was removed. In the year 1828, the Renaissance building of the municipal school from the late 16th century was situated in the area between the church and the city hall. The Baroque Marian Column erected in the northwest corner of the square in 1681 has, on the contrary, survived till the present day. Another still-existing building is the waiting room for electric rail passengers on the southern side of the square from the years 1911–1915, nowadays serving as a refreshment place. Automobile traffic was introduced to the square in the year 1929 and still remains.

The current layout of the square, articulated by the square grid of the pavement made of Italian porphyrific stone as well as its street furniture, continues the look and modifications of the place from the 19th century. It was realised in 2007, following the design by the Pilsen architects Jan Soukup, Jiří Opl and Václav Ulč. The design of the fountains by the architect Ondřej Císler, with which the author won a two-round public competition in the years 2004–2005, was realised in 2010. They are three gilded water spouts symbolising motifs from the Pilsen City coat of arms (Camel, Greyhound and Angel) complemented by black granite water tanks. The location of the fountains in the square’s corners respects the location of the original historical fountains removed in the second half of the 19th century.


JČ – MK

Sources

  • mapy.plzen.eu
 
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