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The Medieval Crane - 2
Prague
How did they build cathedrals six hundred years ago?

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How did they lift those huge stones? I have always wondered how such things were possible in an age before motors, cranes, and steel. Now I've had a once-in-a-lifetime demonstration, here in the heart of the "black magic city".

Shown here is the replica medieval crane which is currently being used to replace the statues adorning the wall of the tower on the Old Town end of Charles Bridge. (The former statues were not originals but themselves copies, low-quality concrete versions erected by the commies in 1978. These new copies are more durable sandstone versions.) This crane was built using the old methods -- without power tools, without even screws or nails -- using old drawings as a guide (this, in itself, is utterly amazing to me, and as impressive as watching the machine at work).

The principle of the crane is simple -- there are two wheels in which people can stand and walk. There is a rope twisted around the axle which joins the two wheels. The force created by the people standing and turning the wheels creates enough power to lift objects approximately ten times heavier than the people themselves.

The statues being replaced here were actually light enough that the people up here (way, way up here) didn't even need to step inside the wheels -- they simply turned the wheels with their hands, while discussing which restaurant to go to for goulash.

Finally - how on earth did they get this crane up here? They brought it piece by piece, up the winding stairs, all the way to the top window inside the roof, and then lowered the pieces by rope, where they were assembled.

The crane will be perched on the tower until tomorrow. Then it will be disassembled and brought to a remote castle in Moravia, for more classical repairs. These new statues should last for at least another century -- though one hopes that they will get dirty rather soon, and blend into their surroundings.

Copyright: Jeffrey Martin
Type: Spherical
Resolution: 6600x3300
Uploaded: 04/09/2008
Updated: 03/06/2014
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More About Prague

  Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic, has long attracted artists and wandering spirits, although it was originally inhabited by prehistoric fish. Their inland sea filled the basin contained by the Tatras and Carpathian mountains, but when it eventually dried up they were forced to yield the terrain to dinosaurs, wooly mammoths and Neanderthals.     In human times the Celtic tribes came to reside here, leaving remains dating back to the 4th Century B.C.  Their tribal name, Boii, gives the root of the word "Bohemia".  The three separate territories of Bohemia, Silesia and Moravia now make up the modern Czech Republic, which split from Slovakia in the 1993 "Velvet Divorce."     Thanks to its enigmatic founder, the city of Prague derives a magnetic appeal for visionaries, scientists and astronomers.  The historical figure credited with the launch of Prague is Princess Libuse, a visionary prophet and warrior who once stood atop the hill at Vysehrad and made the prophecy as follows,     "I see a vast city, whose glory will touch the stars!"     This indeed came to pass after she took Otokar Premysl to be her husband and King, launching the Premyslid dynasty, and leaving it to rule for the first four hundred years of Czech history.  When the last Premyslid king, Wenceslas III, died without producing a male heir, the fourteen year-old John of Luxembourg came to take the throne of the Czech lands.     Hot-headed John died in battle, but his diplomatic son Charles IV inherited the throne and, through keen multi-lingual savvy, managed to both keep it and earn the title "Father of the Czech Nation."     Charles IV was the first of the Holy Roman Emperors here; he ruled during the height of Prague's elegance and splendour. This is the man to know if you want to understand Prague's layout.  He sponsored the construction of such landmarks as the Charles Bridge, the Hunger Wall and St. Vitus' Cathedral, as well as personally designing the neighborhood called New Town (Nove Mesto) which has for its center Karlovo Namesti or Charles Square.     The city displays every branch of architecture across the last thousand years, including Cubism, a style which you will be hard-pressed to find applied to buildings anywhere else in the world.  Beyond the stunning visual makeup of the city, there is a wealth of nightlife and entertainment, beginning with the legendary concert halls including the Rudolfinum, National Theater, Estates Theater and the Municipal House.     After investigating the Castle and Bridge, which are the most heavily-trafficked tourist areas, take a look around Zizkov and Letna, two of the cooler neighborhoods for bars and restaurants.     However quiet it may seem after ten PM, Prague is alive and throbbing in an endless array of basement bars, pubs, clubs, discos and pool halls waiting to be discovered by the intrepid subterranean adventurer.  To get an idea of what lies in store, check out the panoramas for Chateau and Palac Akropolis and when you're out and about, make sure you look for the stairs down to the cellar.      Apart from shopping, eating, drinking and wearing out your digital camera, delve into the rich green carpet of Prague's parks, many of which lie only walking-minutes from the city center.Text by Steve Smith.