What are the the balls on Prague’s spires called??


One of the things that fascinates me about Prague are the skewers atop the spires of its many iconic buildings, each of which pierces a shiny ball. It’s a great look.

I am sure there’s a reason for those things, other than the look itself.

I am also sure there is a word for the ball. The skewer too.

I know it’s not spire, because that labels any conical or tapered point on the roof of a building. Prague is said to be the city of a hundred, or a thousand, spires. Most of those have these balls too, and I’ve become obsessed, while I’m here, with finding out what the hell they’re called.

I’m sure more than a few people out there on the lazyweb know. So tell me.

Thank you.


  1. chris heinz’s avatar

    Sorry, no help.

    But, isn’t the architecture in Old Town Prague mind-blowing? After a while, we were like “Enough, you win”, but then, another turret on a turret.

    We stayed over the bridge up the hill at The Red Lion, a couple blocks from St. Vitus.

  2. Stephen Boisvert’s avatar

    Ball and Point finial.

  3. Doc Searls’s avatar

    I think you have a bulls eye, Stephen. Thanks.

    Looking up “ball and point finial” doesn’t yield many results on Bing or Google image searches, but it yields enough. The best image of one is in this blog post here, which I found through this (now removed) image here.

    But I can’t find anything (yet) associating “ball and point finial” and Prague, “city of a hundred spires” — nearly all of which have finials with balls in them.

    And now I’m back in New York, city of boxy buildings.

  4. ttepasse’s avatar

    The german wikipedia has an article about so so called Turmkugel, literally tower ball or orb. According to this article there is a tradition of using the ball interior as a time capsule, somewhat the last build counterpart to the cornerstone.

    Which brings to mind the legend of the Vatican Obelisk which seems to have a gilded ball on the top from its erection in the Circus of Nero in 37 until it’s movement to the new build St. Peters Square in 15xx. According to middle age legend the ball should have contain the ashes of Julius Caesar.

  5. ttepasse’s avatar

    There’s a video of an opening of a Turmknopf and the time capsule therein. It seems it contains foremost a handwritten chronic of the church, some then new photographs and coins of the time. According to the speaker, it will be resealed and updated with documents of our current time.

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