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Sunday March 3rd 2024

A Knight's Tale | 2001

A Knight's Tale filming location: St Vitus Cathedral, Prague Castle, Prague
A Knight's Tale location: William arrives in 'Paris': St Vitus Cathedral, Prague Castle, Prague

Just how was this pitched to the studio? A gleefully goofy 14th Century jousting take on Rocky, set to a rock soundtrack and directed by the writer of L.A. Confidential.

The setting is various French cities and medieval London, but the movie was shot in the Czech Republic, and there's surprisingly little in the way of actual locations.

The jousting fields of ‘Rouen’, ‘Lagny-sur-Marne’ and ‘London’ were built on the backlot of the famous Barrandov Studios, in the Prague suburb of Hlubocepy (with the skyline of the contemporary city removed digitally).

The banqueting hall, along with the interiors of ‘Notre Dame’ and ‘Rouen’ cathedrals, was built in the huge, disused ice-hockey arena at Štvanice Stadium on Štvanice Island in the Vltava River in central Prague. The stadium was demolished in 2011.

The facade of 'Notre Dame Cathedral', as William (Heath Ledger) arrives in 'Paris' is that of St Vitus Cathedral at Prague Castle in the Castle District, Prague. The Gothic cathedral stands within the walls of Prague Castle. The biggest and most important church in the Czech Republic, it houses the tombs of many Bohemian kings and Holy Roman Emperors. Although founded in 1344, its construction lasted centuries and it was not fully completed until the 1920s.

As 'the boys' arrive back in town, the old 'London Bridge' is the Charles Bridge over the Vltava River in central Prague, though enhanced with digital additions. The 14th Century arched bridge is inevitably featured in many films – you may remember Jim Phelps (Jon Voight) plunging into the Vltava from the bridge in Brian De Palma's Mission: Impossible.

As an aside, the real London river crossing, the Old London Bridge built in the 13th Century was indeed top-heavy with a couple of hundred houses and shops as seen in the film. At its southern entrance, the severed heads of traitors were displayed (naturally, dipped in tar and boiled to preserve them), impaled on pikes.

Although the houses were eventually removed, this old structure survived until the early 19th Century, when it was replaced with the more practical – though less colourful – London Bridge.

This is the bridge that was sold off in the late 1960s, giving rise to the popular legend that the American oil baron who bought it thought he was buying the much more spectacular Tower Bridge. A new London Bridge crossing the Thames was opened in the 1970s, but you can see the 19th Century structure it replaced at Lake Havasu in Arizona.