Prague’s historic Charles Bridge, a UNESCO Heritage Site and one of the Czech Republic’s most-seen landmarks, began construction in 1357 and was finished about four decades later.
Charles Bridge is made up of 66,000 individual stones – and every last one of them will be inspected during an intensive restoration project that is slated to last 20 years.
According to iDnes.cz, the project will cost somewhere in the range of 45-60 million crowns to repair each arch of the Bridge (of which there are a total of 16) and commence at the end of 2019.
Given the landmark’s importance not only as a tourist destination but also a key passage between Old Town and Malá Strana, the Bridge will remain open to the public during the process, with only a portion of it to be closed at a time.
The first of those sections to be repaired will be the 14th arch on the Malá Strana side, where cracks are currently visible and there is the greatest risk of damage. Repairs of the arch will begin at the end of next year, followed by a similar process throughout the rest of the Bridge over the next 20 years.
During that time, each of the Bridge’s 66,000 stones will be registered and numbered. The total cost of the project may be in the range of 1 billion crowns.
The isn’t the first time that Charles Bridge will undergo extensive repairs.
The Bridge has undergone numerous transformations over the years, and was most severely damaged during the floods of 1890. The Bridge was almost entirely rebuilt over a period that lasted two years.
From 1965-78, the Bridge underwent extensive repairs that returned a cobblestone walkway to its surface, removing an asphalt road and banning future automotive traffic.
Most recently, from 2006-10, repairs on the Bridge renovated the only pillars that had not been restored after the 1890 floods. These repairs followed concerns over the Bridge’s status after extensive flooding in Prague in 2002.
Those repairs, however, were widely criticized for replacing too much of the original structure and using inappropriate materials.
An official decision from UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee stated that “the restoration of Charles Bridge was carried out without adequate conservation advice on materials and techniques.”
The latest restoration project will attempt to right the previous work, and begin in the same area.