Lampposts, Lamplighter, Gas Streetlamps and QR Codes
Have you noticed the variety of street lamps in Prague? They vary in all shapes and sizes, from a cubist lamp post to multiple-armed gas lampposts. Not only do they illuminate the streets, they are also exquisite street furniture. The latest upgrade is a QR code on all 135,000 lamp posts in the city. They give tourist information and the exact location. When you are in Prague during the Advent period, you can see a lamp-lighter at work on Charles Bridge.
Where to find beautiful lampposts?
Not all lamp-posts are equally beautiful. There are quite a few very ordinary ones. Noteworthy street lamps are on Charles Bridge, next to the National Theater on Narodni Street, in the Mala Strana and Novy Svet districts, on Czechuv Bridge, in front of the Rudolfinum Concert Hall and in many more spots in the historic centre.
Probably the most famous lamppost in Prague is the Cubist street lamp, on Jungmannovo Square just behind Wenceslas Square. It is a striking piece of street furniture and in addition to providing light, you can also sit on it because a bench forms the base. This piece of art has been here since 1913. Since this is a museum piece, the glass and metal lamp are replicas. More about the cubist lamp post
Street lamps as monuments
‘Memento Mori’ is a monument in the Folimanka Park under the Nusle bridge. It is a lamppost pointing upwards instead of illuminating the ground. Nusle Bridge, built in 1973, spans the Nusle valley and was a prestige object of the former communist regime. Soon after the opening, the story spread that a mysterious gang attacked lone walkers and flung them over the railings. No action was taken to stop them as the gang allegedly consisted of sons of high-ranking members of the Communist Party.
After the fall of communism, the truth came out: they were suicides. In communist days suicides were never mentioned because they would damage the reputation of the Party and the prestigious bridge.
The Czech artist Krištof Kintera made this monument in memory of the ‘jumpers’. A plaque on the lamppost reads: ‘Memento Mori, in memory of all those people who took their own life in this place.’ More about Nusle Bridge
‘Bike to Heaven’ at Nábřeží Kapitána Jaroše is another striking monument made by Kristof Kintera. It shows a bicycle with rotating parts attached to a street lamp. ‘Bike to Heaven’ serves as a memorial to cyclists’ rights activist Jan Bouchal, Pup to his friends, who was run over at that very spot in 2006 as well as all cyclists who have been killed in Prague.
A plaque on the lamp post reads: ‘Dedicated to Pup and all the cyclists who died in the streets of Prague.’
Lampposts and QR codes
Lampposts not only provide light but help make navigation in Prague easy. Each lamppost has a unique number that indicates the location. Recently, QR codes have been added linking to emergency services and also providing tourist information.
When you walk across Charles Bridge in December, you stand a good chance of meeting the lamp lighter. With a long hooked stick, he switches on the street lamps by pulling a ring so that the gas flow starts. (In the morning the gas lamps are automatically switched off). The lamp lighter goes his round through the Mala Strana district and onto Prague Castle. In the square in front of the castle is the most beautiful gas lamp in Prague: an eight-armed candelabra. Except in the month of December, the lamp lighter is the director of the Gas Museum, Plynárenské Museum. He about two metres tall, the perfect height for a lamp-lighter, and because he knows everything about gas, and gas lamps, he is the right person to light the gas lamps and tell onlookers all about gas and gas lamps. The other months of the year, the gas lamps are lit automatically.
Gas street lamps in Prague
The Czech word for lamppost is kandelábr. This is no coincidence because the word is derived from Latin candelabrum meaning candle.
gas lamps first appeared in Prague to light the streets. They were beautiful cast iron specimens that resembled gigantic multiple-armed candelabra. Three-armed ones were most common and most used. Rare were the eight-armed ones. Only three are left out of the sixteen that once lit the streets of Prague
The most impressive ‘kandelábr’ is on Hradčanské náměstí, the square in front of Prague Castle. It is 8.5 meters high and weighs 5 tons. Four attractive female figures bear the candelabra. The second most impressive is on Loretánská Street, and the third is on Charles Bridge on the Mala Strana side.
How to spot a gas street lamp?
Gas lamps have a bright white light and produce a slight hissing sound. Electric lamps spread a yellowish light and are silent. Over the years, electric street lamps gradually replaced the gas lamps. Many of the old gas street lamps were destroyed, only a few survived. In 2005, the first gas street lamp reappeared on Hradčanské náměstí, a fully restored specimen. About seven hundred lanterns in the centre of Prague are now gas-lit: on Charles Bridge, in Nerudova, Celetná, Karlova, Rytířská and Uhelný Trh all streets in Stare Mesto district.
A lamplighter is no longer needed because the lamps are switched on automatically. Except during the Advent period when the lamp lighter does his daily round just before it gets dark.
Lampposts of the future
Outdated street lighting (not the gas lamps) is slowly being replaced by LED lighting with built-in smart sensors to reduce electricity consumption. These modern lampposts will also have power outlets for charging electric cars and bicycles, Wi-Fi access points, SOS buttons for calling emergency services and other sensors to measure temperature, air pollution and noise.
About 32,000 of Prague’s 130,000 thousand lampposts will be fitted with motion sensors. This means that street lighting can go on and off depending on how busy the street is. They dim when no one is walking in the street and come on as soon as a car, a cyclist or pedestrian approaches.
Visibility: street lamp on display until the end of 2022
‘Visibility’ is a work of art by Jakub Nepraš, and hangs in the arcade of the municipal library on Mariánské náměstí.
The installation resembles an ordinary street lamp but symbolizes the increased activity on Czech fake new platforms. Whenever the lamp receives a warning pulse from the network about new activity from manipulative websites, the lamp shines less brightly and visibility in the public area diminishes. The artist’s message: we need to rely more on our ability to strengthen the ‘visibility’ around us.