The strip of land below Prague Castle, bordered on one side by Petrín Hill and on the other by the river Vltava, has known human settlements since the dawn of the Czech civilization. But it was not until the 13th century that people started to build fortified walls. Malá Strana became a town with a large rectangular square. Also the number of sacred buildings began to grow.
The town grew considerably under the reign of Charles IV, the Emperor who decided to build a new wall around the city. Remnants of what is known as the Hunger Wall (Hladová zed) are on the Petrín Hill. It reminds the people of the famine of 1360-1361 when harvests were very poor.
According to the legend Charles started with the wall for humanitarian reasons. He wanted to employ the people and supply them the necessities of life. The English traveler Edward Brown, who visited Bohemia before the year 1677, wrote that in Malá Strana there are many more beautiful houses and palaces than in other quarters of Prague. This was already written in the 15th century by the legate of the Pope, Aeneus Silvius Piccolomini in his work Historia Bohemiae. He was more than generous with his praise for the attractiveness and artistic value of the Czech buildings in comparison with those in Florence.
The baroque period was followed by renovations in rococo style, classicism and empire. Reconstructions in the second part of the 19th century added more scars than improvements. In spite of everything, Malá Strana has kept its ancient trend and as for the ground-plan it is still essentially a middle-aged city.
One of the oldest spots is the Maltézské námestí, where stood the Maltese Monastery. It was the first in Bohemia that belonged to this order that was founded in Palestine in the 11th century to protect the Christians and to conquer once more the Holy Land. The church of the Virgin Mary at the End of the Bridge was later renamed as church of the Virgin Mary under the Chain (Kostel Panny Marie pod Retezem). Two huge Gothic towers remind us of the defensive character of the Order’s mission. Here stand also the palace of the Maltese prior with the Braun sculptures, the rococo Turba palace and the Nostic palace.
On the Velkoprevorské námestí (Priory Square) are interesting palaces too. There on one wall used to be painted for a long time the face of John Lennon. This place used to be a symbol of fight for freedom during totalitarian period in our country.