A stone’s throw from Charles Bridge, in the heart of Prague, is the Clementinum or Klementinum, a vast complex of buildings occupying more than two hectares. Visiting it is a fascinating journey back in time, among rooms decorated with beautiful frescoes, mirrors and historically valuable globes.
Built between the mid-16th century and the mid-18th century as a Jesuit college, it is now a major tourist attraction, home to concerts and exhibitions as well as the national library.
Below we list the most interesting points of a visit to the Clementinum.
The elegant Baroque Library Hall houses the Czech National Library, with a rich collection of over 20000 valuable volumes, mostly on theology.
Founded in 1722 as part of a Jesuit university located within the Clementinum, the library retains the charm of the reading rooms of that time.
Starting in 1781, a collection of Czech-language literature books was gathered, called the Biblioteca Nationalis, laying the foundations of today’s national library. Some books kept at the national library have been digitised as part of a Google Books project to make them freely available online.
The main room of the library is decorated with frescoes by the artist Jan Hiebl with allegorical motifs, Jesuit saints, patrons of the university and important members of the Jesuit Order. There is also a portrait of Emperor Joseph II, thanks to whom numerous texts from monastic libraries were recovered and sent to the Clementinum.
What enchants visitors to the library, however, are the wonderful historical globes that adorn the room, almost all of which are the work of the Jesuit fathers. There are also some astronomical clocks.
The Astronomical Tower of the Clementinum is not to be confused with the Old Town Hall Tower and its famous astronomical clock, but even from here you can enjoy an exceptional view of the centre of Prague.
At 68 metres high, the tower was built in the 18th century and used as an astronomical and meteorological observatory until World War II. Today it houses a collection of instruments used in astronomy, meteorology and geophysics. Visitors can also climb to a terrace at a height of 52 m and enjoy the view.
The more romantic can book a private tour or even a ‘marriage proposal’ package to surprise their partner with a question they will find impossible to say no to! The package includes a private tour, a bottle of champagne, floral decorations, snacks and, on request, a musician and photographer.
On the second floor of the Astronomical Tower is a very special room, the Meridian Hall, where the time of noon was determined by a ray of sunlight filtering into the room through a small hole in the wall and a wire laid across the floor.
From 1842 noon was greeted with a flag-raising, later accompanied by a cannon shot: this tradition lasted until 1928 and replicas of the flags used are on display on the upper floor.
The Chapel of Mirrors is an elegant hall that regularly hosts classical music concerts; it can be visited when there is no event taking place.
Inside the Clementinum you can admire a facsimile of the Vyšehrad Codex, a Latin gospel text considered one of the most valuable illustrated manuscripts preserved in Bohemia. The original text, kept at the Clementinum until World War II, is now in Karlštejn.
In 2005, it was declared a cultural monument of national importance by the Czech Republic.
City Card allow you to save on public transport and / or on the entrances to the main tourist attractions.