We started our day at the Strahov Monastery manned by Norbertine friars who came to Prague in the 12th century from France, selling their services as bibliophiles (librarians) and scribes (copies of books). Strahov means “guard” and the beautiful Strahov Monastery, overlooking the city of Prague, was the spiritual and physical guard of the city and castle. 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 working 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 Theology, which held 20,000 books stacked two deep, 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, which was anything which challenged the teachings of the Church, such as Copernicus and Galileo’s theories. Mr. Barmore talked about how when knowledge confirms what you already believe, then it is great, but if new knowledge conflicts there is often a problem. Knowledge can be explosive and provocative because knowledge is not always comfortable.
Kamila 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.
Kamila showed us one of Mr. Barmore’s favorite pieces of furniture: a book wheel. Researchers could open a book and be reading one text and then need to reference a different passage from another book, so put that book on the wheel, until they needed to refer to yet another passage from an additional book which could be opened and placed on the wheel, etc. In this way, the researcher could turn the wheel and read different relevant passages. This was a precursor of what we would call in our digital age, hypertext, whereby we are linked in one document to an additional document which can add additional information or clarify something in the original document.
From the top of Castle Hill we had wonderful panoramic views of the city of Prague on a chilly spring day to enjoy the walk down the hill into the Lesser Town. During our walk we were able to see the Schwarzenberg Palace, the Archbishop’s Palace and the Sternberk Palace. The Archbishop’s Palace had been built above the royal palace and it was therefore higher than the royal palace signifying the superior authority of the church over the secular ruler.
We visited the former Royal Palace dating from the 12th century where Mr. Barmore told us the story of how horse manure and an event in this building called defenestration, which led to the disastrous Thirty Years War in Europe. Continuing down towards Lesser Town, the kids ate lunch at McDonald’s and the adults ate at a lovely pizza restaurant, before continuing our walk. We stopped at the John Lennon Wall which is a memorial to freedom of expression in Prague. Kamila told us how under Communism, people would write messages on the wall in violation of the law, and then the government would constantly be painting over the graffiti. Yet in no time, new statements and art appeared, and this wall continues to represent free speech. We also saw the site where people in love have attached locks to the bridge as in many other cities.
Kamila showed us the memorial by the Charles Bridge to the firefighters of 9/11 in New York.
We then climbed the stairs from Lesser Town to the Charles Bridge which connects the two sides of Prague: Castle District / Lesser Town and Old Town / New Town / Jewish Quarter. Walking over the bridge provided us with incredible views of this beautiful city and Kamila told us several stories connected with the statues and the bridge.
We spent some free time in the Old Town Square shopping before heading back to the hotel to relax before dinner.
The history of the Prague has much to tell about identity, cultural nuances, and social dynamics. I am so happy and impressed see young people experiencing and learning in the most valuable way possible through the HST.
You all have one of the best educators who really knows how to reach hearts and minds in Mrs. T. Mr. Barmore is a scholar that brings to life stories in lasting way that impact each student in their own way.
I am excited to follow your experiences and hear more about what the students are thinking over the next few days.
A switch in countries, and now the group found themselves in the capital of the Czech Republic, Prague. I feel like the main topics spoken about all day were books and a library. I find it very interesting how valued books were back then. As I saw, people viewed books as one of the most valuable things at the time. And even had a pocket case for them, treating it as if it was a diamond. I enjoyed learning about the Royal Palace that was visited. And found it very interesting how graffiti was used as a way to communicate the people’s ideas against communism at the time.
The Strahov Monastery library is a symbol of the power and importance of knowledge in Prague’s history. I am glad to see how important books are in Prague as a symbol of knowledge. Unfortunately, in America, a lot of the younger generation has lost touch with things like books. There is so much history in Prague.
The library in the Strahov Monastery is a representation of the value and power of knowledge throughout Prague’s history. I’m happy to see how significant books are in Prague as a sign of learning. Unfortunately, a large portion of the younger population in America has forgotten about things like literature. Prague is a city steeped in history.