Torre de la Pólvora, la puerta de acceso a la Ciudad Vieja
The Powder Tower is one of the 13 original gates of the Old Town and one of the most popular monuments in Prague, along with the Astronomical Clock, Charles Bridge and Josefov or the Jewish Quarter. Construction of the Gothic-style tower began in the year 1475, when it was then known as the New Tower, almost a century after its neighbour, the Old Town Bridge Tower.
The foundation stone of the unique Powder Tower was laid by Vladislaus II, as part of what was to be an attractive entrance into the city rather than a defensive tower, although it originally stood next to the old walls that surrounded the medieval city to protect it from enemy invasions. In 1541 it was destroyed by a fire, however it was soon rebuilt.
The Powder Tower (Prašná brána, in Czech) has had many uses: from 1836 it played an important role in coronation ceremonies for the monarchs, who passed through the tower on the way to the neighbouring St Vitus Cathedral, situated within the Prague Castle complex. And in the seventeenth century, it was used as a gunpowder store, hence its current name.
The Powder Tower: a long history
During the Battle of Prague, the Powder Tower suffered considerable damage, and in 1876, right before it was renovated in line with its current appearance, its sculptures had to be replaced. The tower is, together with the Old Town Bridge Tower, all that remains intact from Prague’s ancient fortification, which protected the Old Town.
Those responsible for building the Powder Tower covered the first floor with a stellar vault and the second with a groined vault. The passage also has a groined vault ceiling and the tower is crowned by a chisel roof with finials.
The tower’s exterior sculptures
What about the features that adorn the Powder Tower? Well, on the first floor there are various sculptures representing different monarchs of Bohemia, such as George of Poděbrady, Vladislaus II, Ottokar II and Charles IV, along with the coats of arms of the territories that were under their rule and allegories of their virtues as dignitaries.
Just below the second floor, right above the statues of the kings, there are some figures of saints and angels surrounding Christ and the Virgin Mary. If you look closely, you can also see effigies of Adam and Eve and Saints Peter and Paul.
Interesting facts about the Powder Tower
The Powder Tower (or the Powder Gate) spans a height of 65 metres; the gallery-viewpoint is located at a height of 44 metres, and the spiral staircase has exactly 186 stone steps.
The architect responsible for its construction was Matthias Rejsek, who also designed the statues that decorate the tower.
The tower was practically destroyed in a fire that took place in 1541, however it was rebuilt soon after. It suffered serious damage once again due to attacks from the Prussian army in the eighteenth century but was restored in the nineteenth century, in line with its current appearance, by the architect Josef Mocker.
From the nineteenth century the Powder Tower marked the beginning of the ceremony or the Royal Route that future monarchs had to undertake before their coronation in the neighbouring Prague Castle.
On the façade that faces the Municipal House there is a small niche between the two floors that was once a toilet.
It’s also worth noting that the tower is very similar to the Old Town Bridge Tower situated on one end of Charles Bridge, although there are significant differences between them both. If you’re curious, compare them for yourself and you’ll soon discover just how many features make them stand apart.
Accessing the inside of the Powder Tower
The Powder Tower opens its doors to tourists who want to see the city from up high, whilst enjoying an exhibition on the history of Prague. What’s more, it often organises temporary painting and gold and silverware exhibitions. From the upper gallery you will be able to enjoy spectacular views of the city with the Staré Město neighbourhood at the forefront and Prague Castle in the background.
Other famous towers in Prague
In addition to the Powder Tower and the Old Town Bridge Tower, Prague boasts other important historic towers, therefore it’s no wonder that the city has been given the nickname of the City of 100 Towers. If you’re interested in these types of buildings, we recommend visiting the two Malá Strana towers—situated on the end of Charles Bridge that leads to Prague Castle—which were built in a different period. You can also admire the towers that crown Týn Church, on Old Town Square, or the tower that houses the iconic carillon of Prague’s Astronomical Clock. Just as spectacular are the towers of St Vitus Cathedral and that of St Nicholas Church, also in the city. And if you fancy getting out of the centre, you can climb a nineteenth-century steel-framework tower situated on Petřín Hill.