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Malá Strana (Czech for "Little Side (of the River)", German: Prager Kleinseite) or more formally Men?í M?sto pra?ské (English: Lesser Town of Prague) is a district of the city of Prague, Czech Republic, and one of its most historic neighbourhoods.
In the Middle Ages, it was a dominant center of the ethnic German (and since 16th century also Italian) citizens of Prague. It also housed many noble palaces while the right-bank towns were comparatively more bourgeois and more Bohemian Czech.
The name Malá Strana translated into English literally means "Little Side", though it is frequently referred to as "Lesser Town", "Lesser Quarter", or "Lesser Side". This name derives from its position on the left (west) bank of the river Vltava, on the slopes just below the Prague Castle, in opposition to the larger towns of Prague on the right bank, to which it is conjoined by the Charles Bridge.
The town was originally called the New Town beneath the Prague Castle (Czech: Nové M?sto pod Pra?ským hradem) after 1257 when it was founded. After Charles IV founded the New Town of Prague in 1348, the town was renamed the Lesser Town of Prague (Czech: Men?í M?sto pra?ské). In the 17th century the unofficial name Little Quarter (Czech: Malá Strana) was first used.
View of Malá Strana from St. Nicholas Church
Malá Strana was founded by the King Ottokar II of Bohemia in 1257. As a royal town (a town founded by the king) it got many privileges. It was created by amalgamating a number of settlements beneath the Prague Castle into a single administrative unit. The original residents were expelled and mostly German craftsmen and merchants were invited by the king. Even though the city was royal, the king did not master the city as a whole.
In 1419-1420 the Lesser Town was burnt down by Hussites. In 1541 the town was strongly damaged again by a fire which killed fifty people. After this fire the town was rebuilt in the Renaissance style and many palaces of nobility were built there.
The market place, now known as Malostranské nám?stí (Lesser Town Square), was the center of the town. This square is divided into the upper and lower parts with the St. Nicholas Church in the middle.
A view of the Mostecká viewed towards Malostranské Nám?stí with the Church of Saint Nicolas in the background just after sunrise
A view of the bridge tower at the end of the Charles Bridge on the side of Malá Strana
Baroque architecture predominates in Malá Strana, but the history of the district dates back to far before the Baroque era. Baroque architecture eventually dominated when the style was implanted on Malá Strana after the destructive fires in 1541.
Points of interest
The most extensive building of the Baroque Era on Malá Strana is the Wallenstein Palace. Albrecht von Wallenstein was a military general-in-chief of Emperor Ferdinand II. Under his order 26 new houses and old gates were built on the freed place. The extensive palace complex with five courtyards and the garden, which is set as a French Park.
The churches are the most frequent and interesting developments on Malá Strana. The finest one and the most prominent is the St. Nicholas Church. This is a masterpiece of Christoph and Kilian Ignaz Dientzenhofer, father and son. The finest painting in the church is an apotheosis of St. Nicholas, the defender of children, seamen, and wayfollowers. This painting is set in the dome. It depicts an apotheosis of Saint Trinity.