The second name for the city of Prague was the alchemical capital, due to the number of magic seekers active in the 16th century, the holy roman emperor Rudolf II. included. The area is a great exploration site for all the witchcraft lovers, whispering numerous tales, myths and legends.
The first peculiarity is the location of the city itself, Prague lies nestled between seven hills, with seven churches on top. The layout isn’t random, the seven external sacred sites and five within the city create a pattern together, spreading the sacred geometry symbol, the flower cross, on the ground.
Prague astronomical clock
A series of stories surround the central landmark of the city, a monumental 15th-century astronomical clock, considered the world’s third oldest of its kind. Built by order of the city council, the task was assembled to the clock man master Hanuš. Given the challenging assignment of creating a clock, that would not only measure time but the movement of planets too, master Hanuš stepped up to the challenge and built the machine no one has seen before. The creation was so successful the members of the board wanted to be sure of its exclusivity, so they caught the master and blind him with the piece of hot iron, disabling the clock man forever. But the old man didn’t give up, with a little help from his apprentice, they halted the technical monster in revenge. Interrupted for the next century, the clock works fine today, but for anyone who is thinking about intervening its gut again, the expected punishment is madness or even death!
The year 1575 is recorded as the crowning year of Rudolf II, the holy roman emperor who returned the judicial power from Vienna back to Prague, transforming the city into the scientific and alchemical centre of Europe. The troubled emperor also called The Crazy Alchemist, displayed an extraordinary interest in natural sciences, art and mysticism, having Nostradamus himself creating the emperor’s horoscope. Rudolf II. established the most extensive European Cabinet of Wonders, opened between 1587 and 1605 in the Prague castle, with the lion and tiger walking down the castle halls, as it’s evidenced by the victims’ compensation documents.
The Alchemical Writings of Edward Kelly
It was a British man Edward Kelly, who inspired the emperor for the secrets of alchemy, revealing him an incredible story about the successful transformation of lead lump into pure gold with the help of the actual Philosopher’s Stone. Kelly was not lonely in his work field, alchemy filled many secret cellars in Prague. Although the public expressed scepticism towards the sorcery, the desire for wealth and immortality was much stronger, leading many prominent people to fund a series of alchemistic experiments. Kelly often exchanged experiences with the mystic John Dee, a gentleman who later became the confidante and mentor of Queen Elizabeth I. But Kelly’s life was far from easy; although he enjoyed the support of the emperor himself at first, the expected results were nowhere to be found. The life of the magical pioneer ended in prison, poor soul died of an injury that occurred during the escape attempt. Though imprisoned, he wrote a book, The Alchemical Writings of Edward Kelly, including many accurate facts about chemistry.
Speculum Alchemiae & Museum of Alchemists and Magicians of Old Prague
The true alchemical laboratory, Speculum Alchemiae, lies in the basement of Haštalská 1. One of the oldest houses in Prague has survived a lot. The Great French Fire in the 17th century, the demolition of the majority of Jewish neighbourhoods at the end of the 19th century and the flooding in the 21st century. The floods of 2002 revealed the mystical underground rooms, built in the 9th century. There is an authentic alchemical workshop in the underground trenches, including laboratory and catacombs, all well hidden from possible intruders. The legend says that the Prague Golem, a Jewish anthropomorphic creature, created from clay, was hiding right here. The beast became alive, lost its mind and started to attack citizens, who lived in fear for quite some time after. The Prague underground is perforated with tunnels connecting the castle chambres with alchemistic laboratories around the city; experiments were a strictly secured mystery, which was known only to the closest.
Speculum Alchemiae is not the only place thrilling the visitors with legends and magical artefacts. Just recently the renovated Museum of Alchemists and Magicians of Old Prague opened its doors again. Located in Faust’s house, the place where Mr Kelly spent some of his Prague years, offers a tour of the library with a short introduction to alchemistic science, a glimpse to Kelly’s laboratory and a visit to alchemy pub, serving different magic potions.
The famous Prague Castle isn’t the only one in the city, with its little brother Višegrad nearby. Built on the position of the very first settlement, from which the town later developed, the castle complex consists of the main mansion, The Basilica of St. Peter and Paul, and a cemetery, home to a series of exceptional sculptures. Many famous Czech artists and politicians, including writer Karel Čapek, artist Alphonse Mucha, poet Jan Neruda, composers Antonín Dvořák and Bedřich Smetana, found the final rest on the cemetery grounds. Relatively small, it is still worth taking the time for a visit, since each tomb and tombstone are the worlds for themselves, in a wide range of artistic styles and materials.
The list of Prague’s secret locations is quite long, with the surrounding area offering a range of magical day trips. Among the most interesting is undoubtedly a visit to the Renaissance villa, built in the shape of a hexagram, Letohrádek Hvězda, symbolising the connection between the opposing forces of life. The year when the foundation stone was laid wasn’t unplanned, 1555 is the 311th lustrum after Jesus’ birth, while the four floors correspond to four essential elements, water, air, earth and fire.