During the mid 1300’s King Charles IV build the New Town of Prague. HIs plans included open areas for markets, one of which was Wenceslas Square. The square was used as the town horse market, with the southeastern end having a Horse Gate, one of the gates in the walls of New Town.
Anchored by The National Museum on one end, Wenceslas Square is now a hub of activity, with hotels, restaurants, and shops lining both sides. A statue of Saint Wenceslas stands in the shadows of the The National Museum and watches over the people of Prague. This statue, in its current place, was erected in 1912, when the government requested the street name be changed for a more noble one. Prior to that, a statue of Saint Wenceslas was near the Grand Hotel Europa.
It was in this square, in front of the Saint Wenceslas statue, that Alios Jirásek read the proclamation of independence of Czechoslovakia on October 28, 1918. The square is a constant reminder of the recent history of the country. Often a place of dissidence, the Nazi’s used the square to spread their propoganda. Here students and citizens protested during the Prague Uprising of 1945. On January 16, 1969, student Jan Palach set himself on fire in Wenceslas Square to protest the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968.Again, during the Velvet Revolution of 1989, people used the square to demand change.
This square continues to be a space for social and political protests. As recent as June 2019, 150,000 Czech citizens marched and demonstrated against the current Prime Minister, Andrej Babiš. Additionally, there is another schedule protest against the Prime Minister in November, 2019.
Today, all this history is recorded and can be seen in and around the square. The top end of the square has a statue of Saint Wenceslas, who was killed by his brother in an effort to keep control of Bohemia. Below that is a vigil and plague recognizing the two students. Jan Palach and Jan Zajic, who self immolated themselves to protest the invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968. Beyond that benches etched with famous quotes provide visitors an opportunity to reflect on the complicated past of the Czech Republic while understanding the force and determination the people have in keeping their independence.