Did Pravčická Brána get its name from the village of Pravčice?
The similarity of the two names induces one to look for a connection between the name of this stone bridge in the Děčín Highlands and the name of a village near the town of Kroměříž. But in onomastics (the study of the origin and form of proper names) the common wisdom applies that two things that appear the same may very well have a totally different origin. This is the case with the two names in the title. The name of the Moravian community, as the professional literature explains, means the "village of people from Pravkov or Pravcov". So how did a sandstone bridge nearly 300 km far from Pravčice get this name?
In the past there had been romantic hypotheses about the origin of the name "Pravčická Brána", in which the tourist and national history literature of the past indulged themselves, and this tendency persists up until today. Visiting the natural beauties of "Saxon-Czech Switzerland" came into fashion in the early 19th century when a pub was built under Pravčická Brána in 1826 along with a bark-covered cottage. The legend of the hermit Prebisch, who allegedly settled here and gave the stone bridge its name, pays homage to the romantic view of the time. Just as unlikely, and a figment of folk etymology, is the opinion that the word "převis" (ledge) got its name from the Slavonic word BRÁNA (gate). This was cleverly formulated by F. Němeček, who derives the German name PREBISCHTOR from the word PŘEVIS. Such views have been handed down persistently in the tourist literature. For example, a brochure about Hřensko from 1980 simply quotes: "The name of Pravčická Brána is arguably of Slavonic origin. The Germans called it "Prebischtor" according to the legendary hermit Prebisch".
Let us leave romanticism and look into the written sources. When interpreting names one must draw conclusions only after carefully studying the various sources and weighing their value. The giant arch surely did not escape the attention of the first inhabitants, who due to its singularity and enormity (spanning 26.5m at its base, 16m high) had no need to distinguish it by a deanthroponymic attribute and simply called it the "Great Gate". We find the first written reference to it from 1410, when the forests here were contested by two powerful families – the Berks of Dubé, living at the castle Wildenstein, and the more southern Wartenberks. One border marking at that time shows (as does another document from 1451) the "Great Gate" (Grosses Tor), through which the border at that time ran to the mouth of the Kamenice River to the Elbe. When the border dispute was resolved in 1492, the border of the estates was moved north (i.e., to today’s national border), which is why Pravčická Brána now lies in the territory of Bohemia. Just how long the common name was used cannot precisely be determined. A similar list of field-names contained in the feudal land and duties register of 1722 shows only DAS THOR, PRIEBSCHGRUND and PRIEBSCHGRUNDWAND.
With time, however, it was necessary to give the gate a concrete name. This was for the simple fact that by giving it a name it would increase the influx of foreign visitors to these remote areas, where previously mostly native inhabitants came looking for work in the forests. And so the tourist literature soon shows the name of the gate as PREBISCHTOR. Even an engraving from 1804 bears the name DAS THOR AM PREBISCHGRUNDE, but the text of the guidebook in which the engraving was reproduced already speaks about the gate as PREBISCHTOR. The name was taken from the names of nearby landmarks such as PREBISCHGRUND, PREBISCHKEGEL and PREBISCHHORN, shown for example in the descriptions of borders from 1583, 1618, 1634 and 1647, and in agreements on dividing the Benešov estates. The land records of 1653 show the name of the lowland as BRIEBSGRUND. This name probably comes from the name PREBISCH, somewhat widespread among residents here.
With the boom in tourism the number of visitors from the Czech inland also increased gradually. An important tourist destination such as this gate thus was one of the first in the land to receive a Czech name. The German form of the word was made to resemble a similar Czech word. And so right from the beginning it was done in a non-uniform way, as the following summary shows. Finally, in the 1930s, the term PRAVČICKÁ BRÁNA became fixed and is the official name today. The name PRAVČÁRNA is also used colloquially.
A summary of the evolution of the name "Pravčická Brána", as monitored in written records, where possible:
|Grosses Tor, Tor ||1410 - 1804 |
|Prebischtor ||1804 – present|
|Brána Přebišova ||1882 |
|Přebičská brána lub Prebištor ||1888 |
|Přebišská brána ||1903 |
|Velká brána Převýšovská ||1904 |
|Převyšovská brána ||1908, 1923, 1924, 1934, 1936 |