Immortalising the Devil

People decorate their houses with different things – statues, sculptures, art; that sort of thing. It isn’t often that I see decorations related to devils, but one building in Prague is the exception.

I step off a crowded tram and wrestle my way through the half-term tourist throngs. I am trying to walk along the route from the Staromestska metro station to the Old Town Square. It is popular with visitors because of the marvellous architectural gems – like the Rudolfinum – in this part of the Old Town.

A photo of the Rudolfinum Concert Hall - Prague, Czechia

The Rudolfinum Concert Hall – Prague, Czechia

I dodge to my right into a side street and the sound of the city changes. I’m barely steps away from the weekend crowds the city welcomes. Somehow the hustle and bustle has already faded into the background.

I’m in Žatecka street, in front of number 4. Prague’s records show that a building was first registered here in 1615. [1] It was owned by someone called Žatec and this is what led to the street name – Žatecka. I couldn’t find any reference to this person and why he merited a street named after him though.

The ground floor is a pharmacy. Judging by the layout of the building, the ground floor was always meant for commercial purposes. I can’t find any records suggesting what the original use of the place was, or if it was always a pharmacy.

A photo of the Devil's Corbel - Prague, Czechia

The Devil’s Corbel – Prague, Czechia

The first floor has a semi-circular balcony that unobtrusively juts out of the facade. Underneath, the supporting corbel has been fashioned into a horned devil. It’s a little hard to spot as the darkened stone used means you may not realise there is more to it than a simple corbel. The detail is extraordinary – giant bat wings, horns, and claws gripping a snake.

And before casual passers-by think the owner had satanic tastes, they spot the colourful image of a Madonna surrounded by flowers on the second floor.

The imagery is interesting – heavenly spirits above and the devil below. It’s also obvious that the devil sits on the left of the entrance to the building. Normally, the main door would be centered within the facade, so this is a deliberate choice. The Latin word for “left” is “sinistra” which is where we get the word “sinister” from. I think it’s obvious this is a symbol of the left-hand path of black magic.

As usual, the devil is in the detail. 😀

 

Have you seen any unexpected decorations on houses? 

 

References

[1] Žatecka; Prague Municipal records; Retrieved 2017-11-04; Article is in Czech.

 

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