Wednesday, October 12, 2011

House Insignia of the Day Revealed - The White Lion (U bílého lva)

House at The White Lion (U bílého lva)

Within the European cultural tradition, the lion has from time immemorial been known as the King of Beasts.  As a heraldic symbol, it's used to indicate the chief virtues of the knight - courage, fearlessness, strength and readiness to fight.  The lion of Bohemia was the heraldic insignia of the lands of the Czech crown, and continues even today as the sign of the modern Czech state.  Historians state that the symbol of a silver lion on a red field was granted by the Holy Roman Emperor to the Czech king Vladislav I for his aid to the imperial forces during the battle for Milan in 1158, yet an old heroic legend holds that the insignia lion was won for the Czech kingdom by the legendary knight, Bruncvík. 

 As the tale goes, on his wanderings through distant unknown lands, this hero chanced upon a lion fighting with a dragon; after he came to the lion's aid, the grateful beast decided to accompany him on his further wanderings.  The lion followed him all the way to Prague, as far as the Charles Bridge, where the figure of a lion still stands guard at the feet of the statue of Bruncvík. - originally an anonymous figure of a knight constructed on one of the bridge pillars as a symbol for the city's legal authority.  

Can you find Bruncvík?

However, the very oldest of Prague's stone lions is most likely the lion inside the shield crowning the entrance portal of the "White Lion" house on Lesser Square (Malé náměstí).  This relief is believed to date from the 14th century.

Originally an early Gothic house, it was rebuilt around 1600 in late Renaissance style and then after 1796 in late Baroque style.  The Gothic entrance portal was preserved along with the house insignia (Czech lion).  The first Prague printing works used to be located here and in 1488, the Prague Bible - the first Czech and Slavic printed Bible - was published in this building.  Since 1520, the printing works and the house were owned by a Humanist named Mikuláš Konáš of Hodíštkov, who published works of ancient philosophers.

Address:  Malé náměstí 2/143, Staré Město