Its predecessor was originally a Romanesque style bridge called “Judith” after King Vladislau’s (1140 - 1172) wife. Judith Bridge was built in 1158 to 1171AD, but was badly damaged by high waters in 1272 sadly its remains could not withstand the barrage of ice, wood and other material brought by yet another flood one year after. The destruction of the bridge was considered a national disaster at that time.
A wooden bridge was used tentatively for a long time after this disaster. It was on the 9th July in 1357 at 5:31 AM, that King Charles IV (1346 – 1378) set a cornerstone to mark the building of the new bridge. The date, along with an exact timing, was chosen in accord to the Sun-Saturn conjunction, which according to astrologers, was a particularly suitable and lucky time for such action. It was the young Swabian builder Peter Parléř and his building guild, who finished the bridge at the beginning of 15th century. Its length is 520m and width 10m and rests upon 16 pillars, it is built from bohemian sandstone and guarded by entrance gates. They lead to the Old Town (Staroměstská) which is also Parléř’s work. The Little Quarter towers (Malostranské mostecké věže) are both from a different period.
The balustrade side walls bear thirty sculptures and sculptural groups of saints, installed in years 1683 – 1714. These are works of several famous baroque artists (M.B.Braun, father and sons Brokoff to name just a few). The sculptures, damaged during floods which have hit the bridge many times throughout its history (eg. in 1784, 1890), have been subsequently replaced by works of contemporary sculptors. Since 1965 the original sculptures, made from bohemian sandstone, are being replaced by their respective copies and the originals are stored in the lapidary of the National Museum (Národní muzeum) and in National Gallery (Národní galerie).
Charles Bridge used to be the primarily traffic route for transporting people
and goods from one side of the river to the other well into the 20th century. A
number of measures were introduced such driving and walking on the right side
from 1707 and oil lighting from 1723 which was superseded by gas lighting in
1866. Its lamp-posts were adapted for the use of electricity and are in use even
today. Various surface modifications like asphalt and pavements were settled by
laying down cobblestones in 1970’s.