Only in Prague by Duncan J.D. Smith

140 51 Prague 1 Subterranean Prague Prague 1 (Staré Město), the House of the Lords of Kunštát and Poděbrady (dům pánů z Kunštátu a Poděbrad) at Řetězová 3 Metro A to Staroměstská; Tram 17, 18 The streets of Prague’sOldTown (StaréMěsto) were laid out during the 12 th and early 13 th centuries, after the Přemyslid Duke Otakar I (1197– 1230) had been made hereditary King of Bohemia by Holy Roman Em- peror Frederick II (1194–1250). One of the functions of Old Town was to house the influx of German merchants arriving during this period. The area’s main thoroughfare was Charles Street (Karlova ulice), part of the Royal Route (Královská cesta) used by coronation processions. The most important buildings in and around the street were construct- ed in the prevailing Romanesque style, their solidly built ground floor reception rooms containing distinctive chunky columns supporting round arches and barrel vaults inspired by Roman architecture. How- ever, during the late 13 th century theVltava flooded many times and the low-lying streets of Old Town, as well as Lesser Quarter (Malá Strana) on the opposite riverbank, were repeatedly submerged. Since the river itself could not be lowered, the city fathers took it upon themselves to raise the level of the streets by one storey. In doing so many grand ground floor rooms became cellars, above which further storeys were added later, in Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque style, thus creating a unique and hidden underworld that will surprise many visitors today (see no. 5). The most impressive of these sunken Romanesque rooms is un- doubtedly the House of the Lords of Kunštát and Poděbrady (dům pánů z Kunštátu a Poděbrad) at Řetězová 3, not properly identified as such until the early 1950s. First built around 1150 as a walled farmstead, the building was then partially buried as part of the flood-protection scheme. The upper storeys were added later and between 1406 and 1438 the building became the property of the senior regional scribe Boček of Kunštát. Then in 1451 it became home to the Czech Hussite nobleman George of Poděbrady (Jiří z Poděbrad) (1458–71), fromwhere he set out on his mission to become a non-dynastic ‘People’s King’ in the wake of theHussiteWars (1420–36) (see no. 34). This he achieved in 1458 follow- ing the death of the Habsburg Ladislaus I (1453–57), although by 1465 he faced growing opposition from Czech Catholics. The Pope excom- municated him and in 1468 a crusade was sent out under the leadership