One of the memorable dates in the Prague history is the 21st November 1344. It was the day when the Czech king John of Luxemburg accompanied by his sons, Charles and Henry, and by the first Prague’s Archbishop, Arnošt from Pardubice, laid the foundation stone of the future Gothic cathedral of St. Vitus at the Prague Castle.
The dominating features of this building are the cathedral towers. The main south tower was built in several building phases and amongst other towers and steeples in Prague the tower is recognized as the “Queen”. It also houses several bells, one of which is the biggest Czech bell called Zikmund.
The tower is square in its ground plan (about 14m x 14m) and it rises up to a height of 55m. The walls of the first belfry feature ruptured cuspidate windows. The large window situated in the south facia of the cathedral is covered with an iron grate that features the letter “R”, which dates back to Emperor Rudolf II. The
gothic part of the tower merges into the upper renaissance part. The corners of the roof are adorned with four smaller octahedral prismatic spires, which are connected via open galleries. The main tower is crowned with a double lantern dome designed by Nicola Pacassi in 1770. The height of the steeple is 99.3m and its very top is crowned with a double-tailed lion (the coat-of-arms of the Bohemia Kingdom), which was made of a gilded cooper plate. The lion is 3m in height, 170cm in width, and holds a cross in its paws. The total weight of this emblem is 120kg. The clock-face situated higher on the tower is 425cm in diameter and shows the hours, the one positioned lower is 40cm smaller and shows the quarters. The mentioned gallery is open to the public and accessible via 287 steps.
The founders surely did not count with the fact that the cathedral construction would last six centuries. During the last neo-gothic phase (1872-1929) the last two towers on the west side were also constructed. The towers, featuring no clocks or bells were finished in 1892. The main entrance to the cathedral created by three portals with a mighty bronze gate door is situated between these towers. The gallery, which is basically on the same level as the gallery of the south tower, is accessible via 261 steps. The towers are not open to the public.