Czech National Bank

Czech National Bank

North façade on Náměstí republiky

The Czech National Bank (Česká národní banka in Czech) is the central bank and financial market supervisor in the Czech Republic with its headquarters in Prague.

The site on which the Czech National Bank now stands was, after King Wenceslas I founded the Old Town in 1230, located outside the town walls, between the two main entrances to the town: “Havelská brána” (St. Gall´s Gate – now the site of Můstek metro station) and “Odraná brána” (St. Ambrose´s Gate – roughly where the Powder Tower stands today). Despite the location of a square with a hay market in this area, the locality retained its rustic, edge-of-town character, adjacent to the town walls. The main commercial centre in the Middle Ages was the area around Havelský trh (St. Gall´s Market) and the grounds of the Church of Our Lady of the Snows. Construction in the vicinity of the present-day Czech National Bank was at that time concentrated along the moat separating the Old Town and the New Town.

Czech National Bank South View

South façade on Senovážné náměstí

On the free areas along the walls, the wealthier townsfolk established gardens. In the Renaissance (16th-17th centuries), the area still had barns and even fields. In the Baroque period (17th-18th centuries), construction of inns – again with large gardens – began to predominate. The end of the 18th century brought developments in agriculture. One of the first manifestations of the attempt to develop a modern city was the draining of the moats and the planting of avenues of trees in their place (on Na příkopě Street in 1760 and on Národní Street in 1781). The modern built-up area around the present-day CNB and throughout the centre of Prague originated in the 19th century, and especially in the second half of it. After the construction of a second bridge across the Vltava in 1841 (the Chain Bridge, where the National Theatre now stands), the primary route through Prague shifted to Národní Street and Na příkopě Street. These two streets grew rapidly in importance, becoming, together with Wenceslas Square, the commercial centre of the city and attracting the attention of the new financial institutions. The construction of new banks in the second half of the 19th century was concentrated in this area.

Živnostenská banka was established in 1868 and opened for business in 1869, originally as the headquarters of the České záložny loan society. The bank steadily expanded its financial and commercial activities to become the most powerful and important Czech bank. This standard it maintained until it became defunct in 1950 with the unification of the socialist banking system.

By the 1930s, the bank building no longer met either the needs of the growing bank or the then requirements for banking operations. The neighbouring hotels were therefore purchased. In 1928, ten leading architects (including Josef Gočár, Antonín Engel and Jan Zázvorka) were invited to a competition. František Roith´s project was chosen as the winner. František Roith (1876-1942), architect, student of Otto Wagner and Josef Zítek, designed numerous monumental buildings. His Prague works include the Central Municipal Library (1926-30) and the former Poštovní spořitelna building on Wenceslas Square (1929-31).

The first phase of construction commenced in May 1935, on the site of the Blue Star Hotel, and was completed in 1939. The second phase of the project, on the site of the original bank and the Black Horse Hotel, was completed in May 1942. The building is in the International style, a massive and impressive construction. At the time, it was the most modern and lavishly appointed bank building in Prague. The building has been proposed for inclusion in the State Register of Cultural Monuments. It has been the home of the State Bank of Czechoslovakia and, latterly, the Czech National Bank since 1950.

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