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Lower Žižkov

Location: Prokopovo Square by one of the trees

The “Lower Žižkov“ epithet is based on the landscape of this part of Žižkov which ascends steeply towards Vinohrady from the valley by the foot of the Vítkov Hill. At the same time, this area can be characterised as the core of old Žižkov, the original vineyard settlements established here, particularly on the south-facing slopes of Vítkov, the Holy Cross Hill and adjoining locations offering sunny hillsides, from mediaeval times. The majority of vineyards were destroyed at the end of the 30-Year War and never restored. The 19th century’s industrial development attracted huge numbers of labourers to Prague, which affected the character of the environment, i.e. the inhabited area of Žižkov as well. Former fields and gardens, difficult undulating landscape and the emerging industry predetermined the crumbling of the territory into small lots for tenancy buildings with tiny flats for the poor. The Lower Žižkov is a mix of 19th and 20th century houses with a signature of the first Mayor of Žižkov as an independent municipality, the construction entrepreneur Karel Hartig. His regulatory plan of 1865 tends to be considered the actual establishment of Žižkov as such. At the same time, he enforced the name Žižkov in 1878 and, subsequently, the practice of naming the buildings, squares and streets after important celebrities or places associated with the Hussite and Reformation movements. It is thanks to him that Prague 3 probably has the oldest street name system in Prague. The street name plates were written in the Czech language in the national colours, red and white, and the system was later adopted by the entire Capital of Prague.

The Prokopovo Square and the Prokopova Street commemorate the Hussite warleader, Prokop Holý. Again, the names and decorations of some of the buildings in the square contribute to this theme, e.g. the Prokop the Great House (U Prokopa Velikého, no. 220) which inspired the name for the Square as well as the connecting Street. The Square demonstrates the exceptional composition and triangle-based layout, which makes it one of the places whose role was clearly defined within the urban planning of Žižkov. The Havlíčkovo (originally Basilejské) Square with the town hall formed the centre of municipal administration while the Sladkovského Square with its parish church acted as the spiritual centre and the Prokopovo Square provided a renowned and very popular market. Nowadays, the dominant feature of the Square is the Jaroslav Hašek memorial by Karel Nepraš and Karolína Neprašová from 2006. The architectural design is the work of Pavel Kupka. The work is a tribute to the author of the Good Soldier Švejk and His Fortunes who spent a part of his Bohemian-style life in Žižkov. One of his friends was Franta Sauer, a joker and writer born in Žižkov, Dalimilova Street, who gave an entertaining description of the era’s events in the area in his memoirs called Franta Habán of Žižkov. He became recognised by the public when he initiated the demolition of the Marian Column at the Old Town Square in November 1918, and directed the mock anniversary battle of Vítkov in 1920 – paradoxically, this one ended by a victory of the Crusaders. 

The adjoining Prokopova Street hides one of Žižkov’s architectural jewels in the back yard of residential block no. 4 – the Bethlehem chapel of the Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren. Most of the Žižkov population were Roman Catholics and, therefore, the handful of Protestants attended service in the Prague parishes of St. Kliment or St. Salvator. Only at the turn of the century did a group of about twenty church-goers arise who met at the Prokopovo Square, where the then-Vicar of St. Kliment used to go as well. The local branch of the Hus House was established in 1903, the first chapel existed in the Husinecká Street till 1911 when the building owner leased the premises out to be adapted to the Edison Cinema. With respect to the lack of available land, the congregation purchased a house in the Prokopova Street, called the “General Zach’s House” (no. 216), built in 1870. The house came with a large land lot which could be adapted to suit a congregation house with a chapel. The construction was carried out by a Karlín construction company, Matěj Blecha, which probably commissioned Emil Králíček to make a design for the project. The application of Cubist morphology in a sacral building represents a unique type of construction on a global scale. The ceremony of chapel consecration took place on June 28, 1914 (on the day of the Sarajevo assassination) and the congregation met there for the first time one day later. The unique nature of the Cubism in the interior was also duly emphasised by the contemporary painting made by the students of the Žižkov School of applied arts, Prof. Pavel Novák’s studio of 1992.

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