Music and the Spoken Word: ‘Charles Bridge — strength, unity and hope’

Editor’s note: “The Spoken Word” is shared by Lloyd Newell each Sunday during the weekly Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square broadcast. This will be given March 1, 2020.

Here in Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic in the heart of Europe, beautiful and historic sites are at nearly every turn. The German writer Goethe once called this city “the most precious stone in the … crown of the world” (in Shirley Bakal’s “‘From the Nation to Itself’: Prague’s Opera Centennial,” The Opera Quarterly, spring 1985, page 30).

This Gothic stone bridge, known as Charles Bridge, is one of the most well-known landmarks in the world, and among the most breathtaking. Commissioned by the king of Bohemia in the 14th century, the bridge crosses the Vltava River, connecting the two sides of Prague, and leads to Prague Castle on the hill.

But in many ways, Charles Bridge is more than a convenient means of travel. It signifies strength, unity and hope. Think of the millions of people who have passed here over the centuries: travelers, merchants, hostile fighters and friendly visitors. This bridge has survived world wars, occupations, natural disasters and the day-to-day life of a busy city for over 600 years. Charles Bridge has become a connecting point for Prague, for the Czech Republic, and, in a sense, for all of Europe.

That’s what bridges do. They connect people — usually crossing barriers that would otherwise be impassable. They unite us with people who were once separate, distant. They allow us to interact, cooperate and understand one another. With so many forces that divide us, we need more of these kinds of bridges because they lead us to hope.

The Charles Bridge in Prague, Czech Republic
The Charles Bridge in Prague, Czech Republic Credit: Shutterstock

Václav Havel, the well-known Czech writer and first president of the Czech Republic, likely crossed this bridge many times. He observed, “Hope is not a conviction that something will turn out well, but a certainty that something has a meaning regardless of how it turns out” (see “Havel: A Life,” by Michael Zantovsky, published in 2014, page 419).

Charles Bridge has certainly been through good times and bad, moments of darkness and light. And through it all, it still stands, strong and steady, a reminder that unity is possible and worth pursuing, even if there are obstacles in the way. No matter how deep, dark, or troubled the waters, there’s always a way to get to the other side of our differences, connect with one another, and find meaning. There’s always a path to hope.

Tuning in …

The “Music and the Spoken Word” broadcast is available on KSL-TV, KSL Radio 1160AM/102.7FM, ksl.com, BYU-TV, BYU Radio, Dish and DirectTV, SiriusXM Radio (Ch. 143), the tabernaclechoir.org, youtube.com/TheTabernacleChoiratTempleSquare and Amazon Alexa (must enable skill). The program is aired live on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. on many of these outlets. Look up broadcast information by state and city at musicandthespokenword.org/schedules.