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Wenceslas Square, Prague, Czech Republic

Wenceslas Square – Václavské námestí /Václavák, is one of the main city squares and the centre of the business and cultural communities in the New Town of Prague, Czech Republic. Many historical events occurred there, and it is a traditional setting for demonstrations, celebrations, and other public gatherings. The square is named after Saint Wenceslas, the patron saint of Bohemia. It is part of the historic centre of Prague, a World Heritage Site. Formerly known as Konský trh-Horse Market, for its periodic accommodation of horse markets during the Middle Ages, it was renamed Svatováclavské námestí (English: Saint Wenceslas square) in 1848 on the proposal of Karel Havlícek Borovský.

Less a square than a boulevard, Wenceslas Square has the shape of a very long (750 m, total area 45,000 m²) rectangle, in a northwest–southeast direction. The street slopes upward to the southeast side. At that end, the street is dominated by the grand neoclassical Czech National Museum. The northwest end runs up against the border between the New Town and the Old Town.

In 1348, Bohemian King Charles IV founded the New Town of Prague. The plan included several open areas for markets, of which the second largest was the Ko?ský trh, or Horse Market (the largest was the Charles Square ). At the south-eastern end of the market was the Horse Gate, one of the gates in the walls of the New Town. During the Czech national revival movement in the 19th century, a more noble name for the street was requested. At this time the statue was built, and the square was renamed. On October 28, 1918, Alois Jirásek read the proclamation of independence of Czechoslovakia in front of the Saint Wenceslas statue. The Nazis used the street for mass demonstrations. During the Prague Uprising in 1945, a few buildings near the National Museum were destroyed. They were later replaced by department stores. On January 16, 1969, student Jan Palach set himself on fire in Wenceslas Square to protest the invasion of Czechoslovakia by the Soviet Union in 1968.

The two obvious landmarks of Wenceslas Square are at the southeast, uphill end: the 1885–1891 National Museum Building, designed by Czech architect Josef Schulz, and the statue of Wenceslas.

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