The citizens of Prague’s Old Town aspired, since the 12th century, to receive the privelege which other capital cities of other states already had – their own Town Hall. Surprisingly enough, it was the knightly King John of Luxembourg (Jan Lucemburský), who was more interested in military techniques and the national arena than in local problems, who granted them this right in the year 1388.
The citizens bought a house rigt away on a corner of the Old Town Square, which was renovated in order to house the council and the judge. However, the new city hall could not cope for long with the growing number of demands. Therefore separate city councils bought more houses during the following years. In this way a mottley collection developed, but because of reconstructions, it gradually became an architectural formation. Almost every century and every period of this or that expressive style added something to the structure and the decoration of the Old Town Hall. In the 18th century the city council required adaptations, which were often worked out inconsiderately. The wing on the north side was completely rebuilt. The tasteless building arosed indignation among the citizens and, after a reshuffle of the architects, the construction was not finished until the 19th century, in the style of romanticism. Then it lasted till our time, when the city hall was reconstructed again.
At the end of the second World War, May 8 1945, the city hall caught fire. This fire damaged the top of the tower, Orloj, the gothic oriel and a part of the southern wing. The east and north sections were destroyed completely. Their façades had to be demolished. In memory of the destructive war events, only the torso of the east section remained. Fortunately, the historically most valuable part on the south side was for the most part preserved. The damages here were soon repaired.
A beautiful gothic portal is the entrance into the oldest part of the Old Town Hall. The gothic window next to it, with the Old Town coat of arms and the shield of the Czech Kingdom, is even a little older. Next to the main entrance is the tower, a late gothic work. It is 69.5 metres high and has four floors. On the south side is a one-level projection containing the sacristy of the Town Hall Chapel. The chapel and the oriel, which is a part of the chapel, are richly decorated with carvings. The tower is bordered by a gallery, which used to be a passageway of the house of the old housekeeper. The gothic portal next to the tower leads into a hall, decorated with a graceful mosaic, according to the patterns of the outstanding Czech painter Mikolás Ales. The mosaic represents phases of the czech history. A modern reconstructed wedding room is on the first storey. Chambers of the memorable city hall, of which the old council room has been preserved in almost original conditions from the year 1471, are on the second storey. The wooden ceiling is held up by three Gothic joists, decorated with paintings and secured by gilded chains. These chains were used to close the Old Town Street. Also the walls still have their original wooden, gothic partition. Important dates from Prague’s history are written on the windows. The Old Town Hall represents more than six hundred years of Prague’s history, embrased within its walls.