Square of the Order of the Knights of the Cross with a Red Star or Kreuzherrenplatz

Period: 1850–1918


This small square is bordered to the east by the Church of the Most Holy Saviour which was built during the years 1578–1659. This church (or rather its arcade) is also mentioned in Description of a Struggle, where it is simply called the “Seminary Church“ (Seminarkirche), as it was commonly referred to by Prague’s Germans. On the north side of the square is the Church of Saint Francis Seraph of Assisi of the Order of the Knights of the Cross with a Red Star which was built between the years 1679 and 1688 following the example of Saint Peter’s in Rome. This church is also mentioned the in Kafka’s story. And finally Kafka speaks of Charles Street, in particular of the wine bar U Kostků where the house U Zlatého stromu – the Golden Tree (Karlova 6) was to be found, and where today is a hotel of the same name.

I had to flee, it was relatively simple. Now, turning left towards Charles Bridge, I could dodge into Charles Street. It’s winding, there are dark entrances to houses and wine bars, which are still open; no need for despair.
When we walked through the arcade at the end of the embankment to Kreuzherrenplatz, I threw myself with my arms aloft into the street. However, I fell in front of a small door to the Seminary Church, there was a step there which I was not expecting. It made a little noise, the nearest lamp was quite far away, I lay in the dark.
A fat woman with a lantern emerged from one of the wine bars to look at what was going on in the street. The piano within played quietly on, with only one hand, for the pianist had turned to face the door which was still half open, some man wearing a coat buttoned right up to his neck opened it agape. He spat and then pressed the woman so tightly to himself she had to raise the lantern up to protect it. “Nothing at all is happening,” he shouted into the room, then turned on his heel, went back in together with the woman and the door clicked shut behind them.
When I attempted to get up I fell back again. “It’s black ice,” I said, feeling the pain in my knee. Still I was glad the people from the wine bar had not seen me so I could remain lying there until dawn.
My acquaintance apparently got as far as the bridge before he noticed my absence, because he came back to me in a while. I did not observe any surprise on his face when he leaned over me – he almost bent just his neck, like a hyena and started to stroke me with a soft hand. He rubbed my cheekbones back and forth and then placed the palm of his hand on my forehead: “You’ve hurt yourself, haven’t you? Well there’s black ice and one has to be careful – didn’t you tell me yourself? Does your head hurt? No? Oh, your knee. Hm. That’s nasty.”
But he did not attempt to lift me up. I leaned my head on my right arm – my elbow resting on the cobblestones – and said: “So we’re back together again.” And since I was once again overcome by that fear, I pushed both my hands into his knees, so that I could shove him off. “Go away, go away,” I said at the same time.
His hands were in his pocket as he stared out into the empty street, then at the Herrenkreuz Church and then at the sky. In the end, when noise of some carriage could be heard roaring from one of the nearby streets, he recalled my presence: “Well, have you nothing to say, my dear fellow? Don’t you feel well? And so why don’t you get up? Should I look out for some cab? If you want, I’ll bring you some wine from that wine bar. But you mustn’t stay lying here in such cold. And after all, you do want to get to Petřín.”
“Of course,” said I, getting up on my own, but also with severe pain. I staggered and must have focused sharply on the in the statue of Charles IV so as to be sure of where I was standing.

This guided walk is a part of the “Democracy on the Brink. Historical lessons from the late 1930s” project supported by the Europe for Citizens programme of the European Union.

Další místa na téma "A literary walk through Kafka’s Prague on the trail of his story Description of a Struggle"