Fragments of huge fortifications in the Lesser Town have been archaeologically documented, its oldest phase dating back to the mid-9th century. A preserved written record by the merchant Ibrahim ibn Ya’qub from the 960’s describes Prague as a stone town with a market.
The second fortified place was Vyšehrad, built in the first half of the 10th century a little upstream on the right bank of the River Vltava. In the 11th and 12th centuries, it became a seat of Czech princes or kings for a certain time. Gradually, a dense settlement concentrated between the two castles on the River Vltava.
The process of the formation of the Old Town in the area opposite the Lesser Town dates from a gradual settlement on the right bank of the River Vltava during the second half of the 11th century to references to a market place, emergence of Týn courtyard, construction of Judith Bridge in the 12th century to the first report on a market magistrate named Blažej from 1212 and particularly the construction of the Old Town walls in the 1230’s. Also the Havel Town around the so called New Market and St. Havel Church systematically blended with the Old Town inside the walls.
Besides this residential base (Old Town, Lesser Town and Prague Castle) many at that time suburban settlements were located in the area of today’s centre of Prague (Nebovidy, Obora, Újezd and Rybáře on the left bank of the Vltava and Rybník, Újezd Sv. Martina, Podskalí, Opatovice, Chudobice, Poříčí and Zderaz on the right bank).
In 1257, in the location of the left bank settlement, King Otakar II founded the Lesser Town. The original inhabitants were moved out and German colonists were invited to found the town. Another Prague town which was founded on the left bank was Hradčany. It emerged in the 1330’s as a serfdom town administered by the Prague Castle burgrave. It wasn’t promoted to a royal town until 1598 by Rudolph II. A huge intervention into the development of Prague‘s settlement was the foundation of the New Town in 1348. This newly founded town emerged in a very short time and absorbed some of the previously mentioned settlements. The area of Prague thus almost doubled in size and Prague gradually started to absorb its surroundings.
The first mentions of most villages located in today’s Prague territory come from the period between the 11th and the 15th centuries. At that time, however, they were at a considerable distance from Prague. It was then that the residential base of today’s city was created and is still clearly visible at its periphery. In the 19th century, only two villages emerged on the outskirts of Prague (Klánovice and Háje) and very close to Prague, in the former vineyards and fields emerged new suburbs, later separate towns: Karlín, Vinohrady and Žižkov (other suburbs, e.g. Smíchov came into existence in place of older built-up areas). Two new cadastral areas were created in the 20th century (Černý Most, Kamýk) by separating them from existing municipalities (see the map).
On the other hand, a surprisingly large number of villages that had existed in the territory of present-day Prague disappeared over the centuries. The first settlements were absorbed by the New Town and Lesser Town, others were absorbed by the spreading of Prague, its suburbs or other bigger villages. Many villages (further from the Prague of that time) disappeared by themselves over the centuries, most often as a result of the Thirty Year’s War. Some of them have been preserved in the form of modest remains of settlements or only in local names, most often by preserving street names. We do not know the location of some of them (Aloisov, Babice, Baně, Betáň, Blatov, Břevnovek, Čertousy, Dvorce, Emšany, Hnidošice, Hostašovice, Hradiště, Humenec, Chaby, Chodovec, Chudobice, Chvaly, Kateřinky, Klukovice, Krteň, Krušina, Kuromrtvy, Lipany (Prague 5), Litochleby, Lhota, Litožnice, Nebovidy, Netluky, Nová ves, Obora, Ohrada, Okrouhly, Olšany, Opatovice, Paběnice (Babenice), Písek (Rybáře), Podbaba, Podhoř, Podskalí, Podviní, Poříčí, Práče, Pratěnice, Psáry, Roztyly, Rybník, Slavětice, Strnady, Středouň, Svépravice, Sychrov, Šárka (Újezdec), Šešovice, Tehovičky, Tejnka, Tryskovice, Újezd, Újezd sv. Martina, Vidrholec, Xaverov, Záběhlice (Prague 5), Zderaz, Žabovřesky, Žák).
Further development of the territory of today‘s Prague occurred through expansion to the suburbs. After a long period of stagnation, some Prague suburbs started to grow in connection with the economic development in the 19th century. Besides suburbs, which developed from former settlements, the suburb of Karlín was newly founded. Its construction began in 1817. Individual suburbs soon grew to become the size of a town and merged with Prague into one agglomeration. Gradually, even suburbs were promoted to towns or small towns (1879 Královské Vinohrady, 1881 Žižkov, which was separated from Vinohrady in 1877, 1885 Vršovice, 1895 Košíře, 1898 Libeň, 1898 Nusle, 1902 Vršovice, 1902 Vysočany, 1903 Karlín, 1903 Smíchov, 1904 Bubeneč, 1907 Břevnov and in 1913 Uhříněves).
After Great Prague had been created in 1920, the town consisted of 38 municipalities; however, only 17% of the area was developed. In the times of the First Republic, the population in the town doubled and the housing became more continuous. After World War II, the first small-scale housing estates were built, only to fill the gaps in the housing development. It wasn’t until the 1960’s that the large-scale construction of large, mostly panel housing estates began – Petřiny (1959–1965), Chmelnice (1959–1962), Jarov (1959–1962), Červený vrch (1960–1962), Hloubětín (1961–1965), Malešice (1961–1966), Spořilov (1961–1967), Zahradní Město (1962–1968), Pankrác (1962–1967), Novodvorská (1964–1971), Krč (1964–1971) and Prosek (1964–1971). In the 1970’s and 80’s the huge development of housing estate complexes continued in addend territories Severní, Jižní and Jihozápadní Město and other housing estates: Kyje – Lehovec, Lhotka – Libuš, Letňany, Černý Most, Dědina, Košík, Měcholupy – Petrovice, Modřany – Komořany, and Řepy. And yet, even today, a number of areas in Prague are not developed and many suburban municipalities have not been affected by mass construction and thus preserved their original character.
Development of administrative division
Although the towns of Prague formed a territorially continuous whole, they were still administratively separate. After unsuccessful attempts by Charles IV (1367–1377) and later by Jan Želivský (1421–1424) and Jan Pašek (1524–1528) to join the Old Town and the New Town, the unification of the four towns of Prague (Old and New Town, Lesser Town and Hradčany) hadn’t taken place until 1784. The court decree of 12th February 1784 by Joseph II created a unified Prague.
Despite efforts to negotiate unification with the suburbs, only few of them had joined Prague before World War I. In 1883, the State Diet approved the incorporation of Vyšehrad as VI quarter of Prague (the Town of Vyšehrad Hill was constituted in the 15th and 16th century. They had sought its incorporation since 1845.) In 1884, Holešovice-Bubny became VII quarter of Prague and the last town to join Prague before World War I was Libeň in 1901.
Negotiations with the biggest or closest Prague suburbs dragged on through the last quarter of the 19th century into the beginning of the 20th century. They were held mostly in the years 1881, 1896, 1902 and 1911, yet with no result.
Just like in 1784, the formation of an administratively unified city had to come from the government’s intervention from above, regardless of the fact that the territories, housing, infrastructure, transport, and so on had been interlinked for a long time. This time, the unification was amended through the Act on Establishment of Great Prague of 6th February 1920 (Act No. 114/1920 Coll.), which came into force on 1st January 1922. This act connected the following municipalities to Prague Bohnice, Braník, Břevnov, Bubeneč, Dejvice, Hloubětín, Hlubočepy, Hodkovičky, Hostivař, Hrdlořezy, Malá Chuchle, Jinonice, Karlín, Kobylisy, Košíře, Krč, Liboc, Malešice, Michle, Motol, Nusle, Podolí, Prosek, Radlice, Sedlec, Smíchov, Strašnice, Střížkov, Troja, Veleslavín, Královské Vinohrady, Vokovice, Vršovice, Vysočany, Záběhlice and Žižkov. At the same time, Prague was divided into 13 districts, marked with Roman numerals as Prague I–XIX. (Prague I–VII, i.e. the original Prague, formed one district.) In 1946, a separate district was established for Prague VII and in 1947, XX district was established (Strašnice, Hostivař and part of Záběhlice – Zahradní Město). In 1949, after administrative reorganization, Prague was divided into 16 districts, this time marked with Arabic numerals. After this change, the area of Prague was 171.5 km2.
Further territorial expansion of Prague came exclusively from above and directively. In 1960, Čimice, Ruzyně and parts of cadastral areas of some other municipalities joined Prague (Dolní Chabry, Ďáblice, Háje, Petrovice, Kunratice, Řeporyje, Přední Kopanina, Nebušice, Lysolaje, and Holyně). At the same time, Prague was divided into 10 districts, which are still preserved today in the state administration.
A number of other municipalities were joined to Prague by the Act on the City of Prague ( Act No. 111/1967 Coll.), which came into force on 1st January 1968: Háje, Chodov, Kunratice, Libuš, Modřany, Lahovice, Velká Chuchle, Řepy, Nebušice, Lysolaje, Suchdol (Prague - West), Dolní Chabry, Ďáblice, Letňany, Čakovice, Kbely, Kyje, Horní Měcholupy, Petrovice, Štěrboholy (Prague - East). The area of Prague grew to 290.7 km2.
The largest single amalgamation of neighbouring municipalities into Prague occurred on 1st July 1974, when the following municipalities became part of the metropolis: Cholupice, Písnice, Šeberov, Újezd u Průhonic (connected to Prague 4), Lipence, Lochkov, Radotín, Řeporyje, Slivenec, Stodůlky, Třebonice, Zbraslav, Zličín (Prague 5), Přední Kopanina (Prague 6), Březiněves ( Prague 8), Běchovice, Dolní Počernice, Klánovice, Koloděje, Satalice, Újezd nad Lesy, Vinoř (Prague 9), Benice, Dubeč, Kolovraty, Královice, Křeslice, Nedvězí and Uhříněves (Prague 10). This time, the area of Prague grew to 495.66 km2.
Adapted from the publication by Barbora and Marek Lašťovkovi: Plán Prahy podle indikačních skic stabilního katastru (1840–1842)
For more information, visit the Prague City Archives’ website: http://www.ahmp.cz/eng/index.html