The three modern, golden fountains located on Pilsen’s Republic Square tend to surprise visitors seeing them for the first time. From the very day they were installed, they have caused a stir, dividing the locals into either those who appreciate them and those who are appalled by them. Either way, there’s no doubt they belong in Pilsen, a fact proven many times over, thanks to the crowds of tourists snapping a photo of the fountains.
Modern fountains on a historic city square
Having fountains built in the corners of Pilsen’s city square is nothing new. In some way or another, they have stood here since the Middle Ages, where they primarily served a practical purpose. These original fountains were later removed during the second half of the 19th century. The three fountains, now with a new modern form, didn’t make their return to the city square near the St. Bartholomew’s Cathedral until 2010. The man who designed them, architect Ondřej Císler, was the winner of the city-wide visual arts competition.
Made of gold
Water falls from the gold-plated gargoyles, symbolising an angel, a greyhound and a camel (motives from the Pilsen coat of arms), into reservoirs of Chinese granite. The gargoyles create bronze castings of various heights, and approximately 720 grams of gold were used in their plating. Seven types of gold plates, measuring 80 × 80 mm, were combined in such a way that they create a structure with various colour effects. The fountains’ black-gold colour sequence corresponds with the aesthetic of the Marian plague tower located in the fourth corner of the city square.
Pilsen and a camel?
Pilsen’s coat of arms is just as complex and rich as the history of this royal city. The greyhound on a black field affirms loyalty to the king. Similarly, the pope keys emphasize faithfulness to the Catholic church and the Pope. That faithfulness is supported by the fact that Pilsen never fell to the Hussites. How is it then that Pilsen, a city in the centre of Europe, ended up with a camel on its coat of arms?
This two-humped camel is also connected to the Hussite Wars. In those days, the brave city defenders not only resisted every attempt by the Hussites to siege and occupy Pilsen, they also managed to capture an exotic animal during one of the enemy’s assaults on the city ramparts. The Hussites had received the camel as a gift from the polish king Vladislaus II of Hungary for their help in a battle against an order of German knights. After the citizens of Pilsen took the animal to the city centre amidst a great celebration, the Hussites forsook their siege and withdrew.
According to tradition, the sign of the camel was approved for the coat of arms by Sigismund, the Holy Roman Emperor. However, there is no documentation to back up this claim, and it is possible that the proud citizens of Pilsen added the camel themselves, just as they did with the figure of an angel as the supporter of the coat of arms.