The Baroque bell-tower, which also served as a fire alarm and clock tower, was built together with the Church of St Nicholas. The building, which replaced the earlier Gothic town bell-tower, was designed and built by the influential architect Kilián lgnác Dientzenhofer. His pupil and son-in-law Anselmo Lurago only modified a portion of the interiors. The tower was built in 1739. It was not fully completed until 1755.
Two years later, the building was damaged, during the Prussian siege of Prague. Although at first glance it may seem that the tower belongs with the church of St Nicholas, it was never an ecclesiastical property, but always a secular municipal property of the Lesser Town of Prague. The height of the tower is the same as the height of the adjacent church dome – 79m, the gallery is 65m off the ground, 215 steps up. Running up the entire solid construction is a spiral staircase, mostly brick, timber-framed only in the uppermost section. In addition to the staircase and roof truss, the building also comprises several rooms, serving as the towerman’s abode and office.
Among the interesting aspects of this important monument are the singular black kitchen (the only accessible one in Prague), the Baroque sewer system and the bell of St Nicholas dating from 1576.
Starting in the 1960s, true to the then regime’s practices, the tower came to stand for something else – being a secret police observation centre, for monitoring the surrounding embassies (notably the American, German and British ones).
In the tower, visitors will get acquainted with the demanding life of the towermen – the city’s sentries, the history of the building and the misuse of the monument during the Communist.