The lowest tower, the Judith Tower, was built together with the Romanesque Judith Bridge. This bridge, named after King Vladislav I’s wife, was destroyed by flood in 1342 and later replaced by the Charles Bridge. The Judith Tower guarded the entrance to the former Judith Bridge.
Lesser Town Bridge Tower
In 1464 King George of Poděbrady ordered the construction of a new, taller tower next to the Judith Tower. This late Gothic tower, known as the Lesser Town Bridge Tower, was built on the remains of an old Romanesque tower. Its design was modeled on Peter Parler’s Old Town Bridge Tower at the other end of the Charles Bridge. The stone tower rises to a height of 43.5 meters (143 feet) and has five floors. It is crowned by a distinctive pitched roof that probably dates from around 1526. It is supported by an – at the time – state-of-the-art queen post truss, which had the advantage of being able to span larger openings than the commonly used king post truss.
The tower originally served as a defensive tower but was later turned into a fire watchtower and storage area. At the end of the 19th century, the ground floor was used as a smithy. Around the same time, between 1879 and 1883, the tower was renovated by Josef Mocker, an architect who is best known for his reconstruction and renovation of many historic buildings in Prague, including the Powder Tower.
The two towers are connected by a crenelated gate, which can be accessed from the first floor of the Lesser Town Bridge Tower. The gate was built in 1411 – even before the second tower was rebuilt – during the reign of King Wenceslas IV. Stone reliefs on the parapet show three coats-of-arms featuring the Bohemian Lion, the Imperial Eagle and Upper Lusatia. Right below are the coats of arms of Prague’s Old Town and Lesser Town. A large oak door used to close the gate.
Visiting the Bridge Tower
The Judith Tower is not open to the public, but the Lesser Town Bridge Tower can be visited during high season. Inside the tower is an exhibition on the history of the Charles Bridge. From the top of the tower you have a nice view over the bridge.