Day 5 - Prague
Our day began with a bus ride up to the hills overlooking the beautiful city of Prague to Prague Castle, the largest castle complex in Europe. During the ride, our local guide Kamila, told us a little about the geographical layout of the city as well as some of the history. The capital city of the Czech Republic has a little more than one million residents, and is called Praha, which means ‘threshhold’ because as she told us, one never knows when they are crossing the threshold from history to mythology in this city. We were to learn that from several of the stories we would hear throughout the day.
We started at the Strahov Monastery manned by friars who came to Prague in the 12th century from France, selling their services as bibliophiles (librarians) and scribes (copies of books). A special tour had been arranged for us and we were able to physically enter the two beautiful halls of their library, one for theological works and one for philosophical works. The library contains over 45,000 volumes of works dating back to the
10th century, demonstrating how the church institutions were the depositories and guardians of much of the European culture. In the Hall of the Censors we learned how the friars would determine whether a book was acceptable to the church or needed to be archived as a forbidden book because of the content. Kamila explained the beautiful paintings which adorned the ceilings and showed us the hidden staircases to the second floor. She also impressed upon us the value of a single book to people in this time period by showing us a statue in one of the halls. The man is carrying his book around in a pouch, because having a book was like having a diamond, she said, and one did not leave it behind.
We had started the day in a library and we would end our day in another. On the way to the Market Square Kamila took us into a public library where, in the foyer, stood a tower of books, The Tower of Knowledge, comprised of 8,000 books. This demonstrated how important the subject and history of books was to this beautiful city. As Kamila had shown us in the Strahov library, a statue of an individual holding closely a small pouch; she said it contained a book and books were like diamonds so one would not have left it behind but carried it with him.