The Origin of Prague
It goes back to the 7th century and the Slavic princess Libuše, a woman of great beauty and wisdom who possessed prophetic powers. Libuše and her husband, prince Přemysl, ruled peacefully over the Czech lands from the hill of Vyšehrad. A legend says that one day Libuše had a vision. She stood on a cliff overlooking the Vltava, pointed to a forested hill across the river, and proclaimed:
“I see a vast city, whose glory will touch the stars! I see a place in the middle of a forest where a steep cliff rises above the Vltava River. There is a man, who is chiselling the threshold (prah) for the house. A castle named Prague (Praha) will be built there. Just as the princes and the dukes stoop in front of a threshold, they will bow to the castle and to the city around it. It will be honoured, favoured with great repute, and praise will be bestowed upon it by the entire world.”
Her words were obeyed and some two hundred years later, the city of Prague became the seat of the Premyslid dynasty ruling the Czech kingdom.
The Golem of Prague
In the 16th century, during the reign of Rudolf II, an old Jewish man named Rabbi Judah Loew lived in Prague. During that time, the Jewish people of Prague were being attacked and lived their lives in fear. Rabbi Loew decided to protect the Jews against pogroms by creating the Golem, a giant who according to the Cabala could be made of clay from the banks of the Vltava. Following the prescribed rituals, the Rabbi built the Golem and made him come to life by reciting a special incantation in Hebrew. The word “emet”, meaning “truth”, was placed on the Golem’s forehead.
The Golem would obey the Rabbi’s every order and would help and protect the people of the Jewish Ghetto. However, as he grew bigger, he also became more violent and started killing people and spreading fear. Rabbi Loew was promised that the violence against the Jews would stop if the Golem was destroyed. The Rabbi agreed. By removing the first letter from the word “emet”, thus changing it to “met” (meaning “death”), life was taken out of the Golem. According to legend, the Golem was brought back to life by Rabbi Loew’s son, and may still be protecting Prague today.