Thursday, November 28, 2013

Špilberk Castle

Špilberk Castle is an old castle on the hilltop in Brno, Southern Moravia. It began to be built as early as the first half of the 13th century by the Přemyslid kings and complete by King Ottokar II of Bohemia. From a major royal castle established around the mid-13th century, and the seat of the Moravian margraves in the mid-14th century, it was gradually turned into a huge baroque fortress considered the heaviest prison in the Austro-Hungarian empire, and then into barracks. This prison had always been part of the Špilberk fortress. In 1620, after losing The Battle of White Mountain on November 8, the leading Moravian members of the anti-Habsburg insurrection were imprisoned in Špilberk for several years. The town of Brno bought the castle in 1560 and made it into a municipal fortress. The bastion fortifications of Špilberk helped Brno to defend itself against Swedish raids during the Thirty Years' War, and then successful defence led to further fortification and the strengthening of the military function of the fortress. At the same time Špilberk was used as a prison. Protestants were the first prisoners forced to serve time here, followed later by participants in the revolutions of 1848-49, although hardened criminals, thieves and petty criminals were also kept here. Franz Freiherr von der Trenck, Austrian soldier and one of the most controversial persons of the period was also jailed and died here on October 4, 1749. Later, apart from several significant French revolutionaries captured during the coalition wars with France, Jean-Baptiste Drouet, famous as the former postmaster of Saint-Menehould who had arrested King Louis XVI, was the most known of them all. A group of fifteen Hungarian Jacobins led by the writer Ferenc Kazinczy was also especially noteworthy. More than a quarter of a century later, from 1822 on, specially constructed cells for "state prisoners" in the northern wing of the former fortress were filled with Italian patriots known as Carbonari, who had fought for the unification, freedom and independence of their country. The poet Silvio Pellico, who served a full eight years here, made the Špilberk prison famous all over Europe with his book Le mie prigioni - My prisons. The last large "national" group of political prisoners at Špilberk consisted of nearly 200 Polish revolutionaries, mostly participants in the Kraków Uprising of 1846. After that, the Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph dissolved the Špilberk prison in 1855, and after departure of the last prisoners three years later, its premises were converted into barracks which remained as such for the next hundred years.
Špilberk entered public consciousness as a centre of tribulation and oppression on two more occasions; firstly, during the First World War when, together with military prisoners, civilian objectors to the Austro-Hungarian regime were imprisoned here, and secondly in the first year of the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia. Several thousand Czech patriots suffered in Špilberk at that time, some of whom were put to death. For the majority of them however, Špilberk was only a station on their way to other German prisons and concentration camps. In 1939-41, the German army and Gestapo carried out an extensive reconstruction at Špilberk in order to turn it into model barracks in the spirit of the so beloved romantic historicism of the German Third Reich ideology. The Czechoslovak army left Špilberk in 1959, putting to a definite end its military era. The following year, Špilberk became the seat of the Brno City Museum.

Brno City

Brno City -

Brno by population and area is the second largest city in the Czech Republic, the largest Moravian city, and the historical capital city of the Margraviate of Moravia. Brno is the administrative center of the South Moravian Region where it forms a separate district Brno-City District. The city lies at the confluence of the Svitava and Svratka rivers and has about 400,000 residents, its greater metropolitan area[6] is regularly home to more than 800,000 people while its larger urban zone had population of about 730,000 in 2004. Brno is the capital of judicial authority of the Czech Republic – it is the seat of the Constitutional Court, the Supreme Court, the Supreme Administrative Court, and the Supreme Public Prosecutor's Office. Beside that, the city is a significant administrative centre. It is the seat of a number of state authorities like Ombudsman, Office for the Protection of Competition[9] and the Czech Agriculture and Food Inspection Authority. Brno is also an important centre of higher education, with 33 faculties belonging to 13 institutes of higher learning and about 89,000 students. There is also a studio of Czech Television and the Czech Radio, in both cases by law. Brno Exhibition Centre ranks among the largest exhibition centres in Europe (23rd in the world). The complex opened in 1928 and established the tradition of large exhibitions and trade fairs held in Brno. Brno is also known for hosting motorbike and other races on the Masaryk Circuit, a tradition established in 1930 in which the Road Racing World Championship Grand Prix is one of the most prestigious races. Another notable cultural tradition is an international fireworks competition, Ignis Brunensis, that usually attracts one or two hundred thousand daily visitors. The most visited sights of the city include the castle and fortress Špilberk and the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul on Petrov hill, two formerly medieval buildings that form the characteristic cityscape and are often depicted as its traditional symbols. The other large preserved castle near the city is Veveří Castle by the Brno Dam Lake. This castle is the site of a number of legends, as are many other places of Brno. Another important monument of Brno is the functionalist Villa Tugendhat which has been included in the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites. One of the natural sights nearby is the Moravian Karst.
History of Brno
Brno was recognised as a town in 1243 by Wenceslaus I, King of Bohemia, but the area had been settled since the 2nd century. It is mentioned in Ptolemy's atlas of Magna Germania as Eburodunum. From the 11th century, a castle of the governing Přemyslid dynasty stood here, and was the seat of the non-ruling prince. During the 14th century, Brno became one of the centres for the Moravian regional assemblies, whose meetings alternated between Brno and Olomouc. These assemblies made political, legal, and financial decisions. They were also responsible for maintaining regional records. During the Hussite Wars, the city remained faithful to Sigismund, Holy Roman Emperor. The Hussites twice laid siege to the city, once in 1428 and again in 1430, both times in vain. During the Thirty Years' War, in 1643 and 1645, Brno was the only city to succeed in defending itself against Swedish sieges, thereby allowing the Austrian Empire to reform its armies and to repel the Swedes. In recognition of its services, the city was rewarded with a renewal of its city privileges. In the years following the Thirty Years' War, the city became an impregnable Baroque fortress. In 1742, the Prussians vainly attempted to conquer the city, and the position of Brno was confirmed with the establishment of a bishopric in 1777. In 1805, The Battle of Austerlitz took place about 10 kilometers (6 miles) southeast of Brno. In the 18th century, development of industry and trade began, and continued into the next century. Soon after the industrial revolution, the town became one of the industrial centres of Moravia and the Austro-Hungarian Empire – sometimes referred to as the "Moravian Manchester". In 1839, the first train arrived in Brno. Together with the development of industry came the growth of the suburbs, and the city lost its fortifications, as did the Spielberg fortress, which became a notorious prison to which were sent not only criminals, but also political opponents of the Austrian Empire. Gas lighting was introduced to the city in 1847 and trams in 1869. Mahen Theatre in Brno was the first theatre building in Europe to use Edison's electric lamps, Thomas Edison then visited Brno in 1911 to see the theatre. During the "First Republic" (1918–1938), Brno continued to grow in importance – Masaryk University was established (1919), the state armoury and automotive factory Československá státní zbrojovka Brno was established (1919), and the Brno Fairgrounds were opened in 1928 with an exhibition of contemporary culture. The city was not only a centre of industry and commerce, but also of education and culture (see the section on notable people from Brno). In 1939, Brno was annexed by Nazi Germany along with the rest of Moravia and Bohemia. All Czech higher education institutions were closed down on 17 November including four universities in Brno. 173 students were sent to Sachsenhausen concentration camp and Kounic's students residence was transformed into Gestapo headquarters and prison. Brno was liberated on 26 April 1945 by Red Army after more than two weeks of heavy fighting. After the war, and the reestablishment of the Czechoslovak state, the majority of the ethnic German population (except antifascists, members of the resistance, mixed marriages, etc.) was expelled to Germany or Austria. The expulsion of some 20,000 Germans is referred to as Brno death march. 

Monastery of Kladruby

Monastery of Kladruby -

Established by Prince Vladislav I in 1115, the Benedictine monastery at Kladruby was set into a sparsely settled landscape inhabited by Slavonic population. It was provided with vast estates; in particular, in a triangle formed by the Mže River, the Úhlavka River and the frontier forest. The first Czech monks were soon joined by missionaries from the nearby town of Zwiefalten. Close relation with Zwiefalten were being kept even later, when the Czechs recovered their numerical superiority in the monastery. Several times, the monastery became a venue of discreet diplomatic negotiations. For example, against the background of the culminating conflict between the Czech church and the temporal lords, Přemysl I met here representatives of the curia. After having been Gothicized, the original Romanesque church was consecrated in King Wenceslas I’s presence in 1233. Sometime around 1233, under Abbot Reiner, the village of (Old) Kladruby was established in the vicinity of the monastery; namely, next to the current churchyard. By virtue of the astute Abbot Reiner’s purposive acquisition activities, the monastery considerably expanded its estates around Kladruby. During the second half of the 14th century, the power and significance of the monastery constantly grew thanks to new privileges and progressive economic method. Another important feature was the development of the nearby locality of Kladruby, which was elevated to the township at that time. The monastery then possessed 128 villages administered by three provosts based at Kladruby, Touškov and Přeštice. Kladruby Monastery several times feasted Emperor Charles IV. Soon afterwards, however, Kladruby became a point of intersection where interests of the country’s top dignitaries incessantly clashed, thereby endangering the position of the monastery per se. Wenceslas IV decided to undermine the position of one of his most adamant adversaries, The Prague Archbishop John of Jenštejn, by establishing a new bishopric conceived to take over the estates owned by the monastery at Kladruby. Upon the death of Kladruby monastery’s Abbot Racek in 1393, however, the opponents managed to thwart the King’s intentions by promptly electing a new abbot, with the election immediately approved by the Archbishop’s Vicar, John of Pomuk. The resulting fierce conflict brought the archbishop into exile. After having been tortured, the half-dead John of Pomuk was thrown by the King’s adherents from the Prague Charles’ Bridge down to the Vltava River. Originally, the Hussite revolutionary movement only meant material damage to Kladruby, since the monastery had to provide financial aid to Emperor Sigismund. In 1421, however, the partially fortified monastery was conquered by John Žižka of Trocnov, with the monks having fled in time to Regensburg with their most precious possessions. Afterwards, the Benedictines intermittently returned and fled, but they eventually failed to prevent the neighbouring Utraquist and Catholic aristocrats from annexing the monastic lands. In 1467, the monastery was devastated due to the fights of the baronial league and the Crusaders against King George of Poděbrady. Until the late 15th century, consequently, the monastery frequently had to pawn and sell its property. The economic situation improved only slowly, with new mining and fish-pond-cultivating activities modestly contributing to the rehabilitation of the monastic domain. Simultaneously, the nearby townships of Touškov and Kladruby started to flourish again. Featured by the demanding reconstruction of Our Lady’s church (re-consecrated in 1504) and increasing diplomatic activities, the resurgence of the monastery did not last for long. With the position of the monastery perpetually unstable, even the fairly competent abbots failed to successfully face a host of unfavourable events at that time. Several misfortunes, including the extensive fire, which devastated the monastic buildings in 1590, along with prematurely abdicating abbots and incessant internal quarrels, only testify that the development of the monastery during the 16th century was not favourable. The Thirty Year’s War resulted in conquering and plundering the monastery and the nearby township by both the warring parties. Nevertheless, the monastery managed to take advantage of the Catholic Church’s post-war boom to retrieve the worst losses in a short time (as late as the mid-17th  century, Kladruby Monastery possessed two townships and 28 villages). For that reason, the monastery could afford to carry out a challenging repair of Our Lady’s church as early as 1653. At that time, the grave of the monastery’s founder, Prince Vladislav I was uncovered, with the princely remains transferred to the altar situated in the nave. Within the framework of the 1728 remodelling, the remains were transferred to the high altar. The comprehensive reconstruction of the convent was completed in 1670, with the prelate’s old residence erected between 1664 and 1670. Notably, the monastery became a place of pilgrimage in 1658. the late 17th century and the first half of the 18th century witnessed the genuine heyday of Kladruby, with the monastery irreversibly securing its position in the surrounding landscape and going down in the history of Czech architecture. At that time, the monastery entered its final stage, marked by the activities of the so-called great abbots and builders; namely, Maurus Fintzgut, Josef Sieber and Amandus Streer. By regaining its farmstead at Přeštice in 1705 and buying some minor estates, the monastery virtually completed the rehabilitation of its property, thereby creating a material base for its subsequent activities. Consequently, in 1712 the monastery commenced the far-reaching remodelling of its dome. Supervised by the distinguished Baroque master-builder, Johann Blasius Santini – Aichel, the remodelling was completed in 1726, bringing about the culmination of the Czech Baroque Gothic style, primarily represented by Santini. One of the largest ecclesiastical structures throughout Bohemia, Our Lady’s church at Kladruby was completed and consecrated in 1726. After that, the works continued by erecting the new convent and the prelate’s new residence. The design was allegedly made by Kilian Ignaz Dientzenhofer. By 1739, north and south wings had been completed, with the monks being ushered into the new convent. The construction works, as a whole, were completed before 1770. The above mentioned abbots managed to stabilise the monastic estates, accelerate their economic development, strengthen the order and discipline within the monastery, and considerably enhance the monastic library. Moreover, they bolstered the monastery’s prestige by buying sacred remains and various works of art, as well as by gaining new privileges. Orientated towards the enlightened system of government, the state authorities, however, tended to increasingly interfere with the monastic jurisdiction, with the threat of dissolving the Benedictine order and closing the monastery still looming. Like many other monasteries, the Benedictine convent at Kladruby was eventually dissolved by Emperor Joseph II in 1785, two years after the death of Amand Streer who had no successor. The monastery’s movables were sold up by auction and the monks dispersed. Consisting of 38 villages, 15 farmsteads and 9 mills, the domain was then administered by a religious fund. In 1798, the monastic structures were utilised as a military hospital, temporarily housing Trappist monks from France before they left for Russia. Between 1800 and 1818, the monastery served as barracks, hospital and disabled soldiers’ home. In 1825, Kladruby Monastery (along with the surrounding lands and 23 villages) was bought by Field Marshal Prince Alfred Windischgrätz at 275 500 guldens. Nevertheless, he only paid one half of that amount, with the rest remitted thanks to his loyal support of the Austrian monarchy. Windischgrätz principally proved his loyalty by uncompromisingly intervening against insurgents in Prague, Vienna and Hungary in 1848. Having their ancestral residence nearby at Tachov, the lords of Windischgrätz paid little attention to Kladruby. In 1864 they established a brewery inside the original convent, with Our Lady’s church left to its fate. The situation did not change until 1918, when the Windischgrätz family lost its Tachov domain due to the land reform. Moreover, the main family line died out and the estates had to be divided. The new owner, Aladar Windischgrätz moved to Kladruby along with his great library and family archives. The Windischgrätz family possessed the Kladruby domain until the 1945 confiscation executed in compliance with the presidential decree. Administered by the Czech Ministry of Agriculture and the National Land Office, the lands were cultivated by Czechoslovak State Farms and Czechoslovak State Forests. Negotiations on allocating the monastic property to the Benedictine Order were held in 1946, with a pertaining allocation decree already issued, but the Benedictines did not take over the property. Accordingly, the property was conveyed to the Prague-based National Cultural Commission. After 1960 the condition of the monastery deteriorated due to housing headquarters of a state farm. After having been taken over by the Pilsen-based Regional Conservation Office in 1967, the monastery at Kladruby was opened to the public. Comprehensive reconstruction works have been conducted here since early 1970s, with the most substantial progress achieved after 1989 thanks to crucial financial contributions by the state authorities or other sources, including the Phare Programme of the European Union. 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Milotice Castle

Milotice castle is one amazing medieval manor house, which in the 16th century was converted into a magnificent baroque palace. Milotice is another beautiful monument in the Republic of Czech. It is located in the Czech region of Hodonin. Milotice has the status, Chateau. Until today the original architecture of the castle has not been preserved, hence having acquired the 18th century style. The original Milotice was built on the local uneven land in the 14th century. Total reconstruction in the 16th century made it a model in the spirit of the Renaissance tradition. Milotice castle was restored during the 17th century, but the last significant change in the 18th century made it what visitors see today. Today Milotice is open for public visits and you can learn a lot about the last family that lived in the castle - Seilern-Aspang. Ladislav Seilern was the last owner of the mansion, but since 1941 it held German citizenship, the castle Milotice was withdrawn in favor of the state and his family was forced to leave the palace. The earliest baroque ornaments of Milotice appeared in 1680, but the original plan of Renaissance palace with four floors, two wings and towers of the four corners of the structure was preserved. Between 1720 and 1750 the most significant improvements to the castle took place. The then owner, Karl Anton Sérenyi wished the castle to become more opulent and ornamented to appear beautiful facade pediments, additional sculptural ornaments and mythological deities on the architecture of the entrance. He also built stables, spas, and also organized a riding school in the castle of Milotice. Ceremonial entrance to Milotice can be reached by a beautiful stone bridge decorated with stone sculptures that were made by Jacob K. Schletterer in 1740. In interior terms Milotice has not much to boast off. The beautiful decorations and mortars at the premises were made between the 1723-1725 years by the Italian, Giovanni M.Fontana. As in the Vranov Castle, Milotice central hall is the hall of ancestors, where you can see a huge mural depicting the House of Sérenyi. Milotice castle is surrounded by a beautiful baroque garden. Today it regularly holds various cultural events including concerts and folklore. Quite often the castle Milotice is the host of weddings.

Frýdlant Castle

sometimes cited also as Frýdlant v Čechách is a town in the Liberec District of the Liberec Region in the Czech Republic. It has approximately 7,500 inhabitants and lies in the historic Bohemia region on the outskirts of the Jizera Mountains.
The area once belonged to the Lordship of Zawidów (Seidenberg) in Upper Lusatia, held by the Bishops of Meissen. The town was first mentioned in 1278, when the Bieberstein noble family was enfeoffed with Friedland-Seidenberg by King Ottokar II of Bohemia and took their residence at Frýdlant Castle. Upon the extinction of the line in 1551, the lordship fell to the House of Redern.Meanwhile the Kingdom of Bohemia had become a part of the Habsburg Monarchy. Christoph von Redern opposed Emperor Ferdinand II during the Counter-Reformation and after the Defenestration of Prague was among the uprising Bohemian Protestant estates, who were defeated at the 1620 Battle of White Mountain. Redern saved his life, but his lands were seized by the Emperor and given in reward to his General Albrecht von Wallenstein, who titled himself "Duke of Friedland" and took his residence at Jičín. The nominal sovereignty of Friedland-Seidenberg was also revoked at this time. Until 1918, FRIEDLAND in BÖHMEN was part of the Austrian monarchy (Austria side after the compromise of 1867), head of the district with the same name, one of the 94 Bezirkshauptmannschaften in Bohemia. In 1875, a railway line Liberec - Frýdlant - Zawidów was put into operation. Lines to Mirsk (Friedberg) and the Frýdlant–Heřmanice Railway to Zittau followed soon. The new town hall was erected in 1893 according to plans by the Viennese architect Franz Neumann. In 1938, it was occupied by the Nazi army as one of the municipalities in Sudetenland. The German-speaking population was expelled in 1945 (see the Beneš decrees) and replaced by Czech settlers.
In the 13th century the castle was held by the Ronovci House. It was first mentioned in 1278, when the Bohemian king Přemysl Otakar II removed the lordship from the Ronovci and gave it to Rulek of Bieberstein. The nowadays building consists of a Gothic castle with a high tower and a Renaissance chateau. The castle had a museum as early as 1801 and today is one of the most visited in the Czech Republic. 

Rožmberk Castle

Rožmberk is a castle situated in South Bohemia near Rožmberk nad Vltavou in the Czech Republic. Considered as one of the oldest castles in Bohemia, it stands on a promotory carved out on three sides by the river Vltava. It was first mentioned in 1253 in a document signed by Vok "von Rosenberg". It is regarded as the cradle of the House of Rožmberk, also known as the "Lords of the Rose", a historical Czech aristocratic family. 
The Rožmberk castle was founded in the first half of the 13th century either by Vítek the Younger of Prčice, or by his son Vok of Prčice, a member of the powerful Vítkovci family (Witikonides in Latin; Witigonen in German) who later styled himself Vok of Rožmberk (Vok de Rosenberch) after this castle. The original castle, known as Horní hrad (Upper Castle), consisted of a high tower known as the Jakobínka (9,6 m diameter) with corbelled raparts and a palace. The structure was completely surrounded by castle walls with a moat. Within a short time, a tributary town grew in the barbican. The castle became the administrative and economic centre of the family's lands, a part of which Vok gave to the newly established Cistercian monastery in Vyšší Brod. In 1302, when the cadet Krumlov branch of the Vítkovci died out, Vok's offspring inherited Český Krumlov and they settled there permanently. After 1330 Jindřich of Rožmberk built the Dolní hrad (Lower Castle), which was defended by ramparts placed above the moat, which was cut through the neck of the rock. In 1420 Oldřich II of Rožmberk (1403–1462), father of Perchta of Rožmberk, the White Lady, was forced to pawn the castle to the Lords of Walsee from Austria to get money to finance the army he was fielding against the Hussites. The loan was paid off, but in 1465 the castle was pawned again to the Lobkovic family. This loan too was paid off. The Starý (Horní) hrad (Old or Upper castle) burned down in 1522 and was never rebuilt. In 1600 Petr Vok of Rožmberk bequeathed the castle and its estates to his nephew Johann Zrinski of Seryn (1565–1612), son to Nikola Šubić Zrinski. Zrinski rebuilt the Lower castle in Renaissance style. When he died in 1612, the estates were inherited by the Švamberks, relatives of the Rožmberks. But they soon lost the castle because all their estates were confiscated after the Battle of White Mountain by Emperor Ferdinand II, who gifted it to the commander of the Imperial army, Charles Bonaventure de Longueval, Count of Bucquoy, who played an important role in the suppression of the rebellion of the Czech Estates. The Buquoys, whose main residence was in Nové Hrady, repaired and altered their family seat (1840–57), remodelling the building in the style of Romantic Neo-Gothic, and keeping it until 1945 when it was nationalised after the end of World War II.
The castle was opened to the public in the middle of the 19th century as one of the first museums in Bohemia. The Rožmberk tradition is represented by the Renaissance sgraffito decoration of the outside facades and beautiful painted decorations of the interiors. The Gothic fortress was changed during the Renaissance era and then in the 19th century within the "Tudor Gothic Passion" period. The last owners of the castle, the Buqouy family (who were Czech nobles of French origin), transformed it into a museum open to the public, one of the first museums in the Bohemian land. The main palace, with its architectural features of several historic styles, shelters a unique collection of Baroque furniture and paintings as well as a wonderful Renaissance Hall with a famous "musical niche" in the so-called Knight's Hall. The message "Loves disappear, colours fade" was discovered in 2004 carved on a wall in the Knight's Hall. This was done by Spanish soldiers in the 17th century. The interiors, mostly renovated in the Neo-Gothic style, are furnished with valuable pieces of furniture, some of which feature custom wood carvings commissioned for the museum. Neither the style nor the furniture of the castle have been changed since its reconstruction in the Romantic style was completed. The castle picture gallery contains several valuable Czech and European paintings from artists of the Late Renaissance and Baroque eras, such as Bartholomeus Spranger, Karel Škréta, Jan Kupecký, and Norbert Grund. Among them the painting of Perchta, "the White Lady" of Rožmberk, one of the most famous ghosts in Bohemia. She has supposedly appeared several times during the centuries since her death. A local legend has it that if one understands what is written in secret signs on the picture, this one would free her and find a silver treasure. The armoury contains a unique collection of stabbing and cutting weapons, firearms, war relics, and heraldic emblems. The picture gallery is full of remarkable paintings dating as far back as the Renaissance era. The bronze elephant sculpture in the courtyard is a copy made in 2003. The original elephant from 1916 was stolen by Nazis and was lost for 50 years standing here in the yard. The owners found it and it was given back to them to make amends for the Holocaust. Now the elephant is back home in Switzerland and the copy is here to delight visitors, who gently touch it.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Orlík Castle

Orlík Castle is a chateâu located 500 m northeast of the village of Orlík nad Vltavou, in the northern part of the District of Písek, in the South Bohemia Region of the Czech Republic. The original position of the chateâu, on a rock 60 m above the Vltava valley, was altered by the creation of the Orlík reservoir in 1954-62, and the chateâu is now barely a few metres above the water level. The meaning of the name Orlík stems from the word "young eagle" (Czech: Orel). It is often suggested that this castle would have resembled an eagle or nest perched upon the rocky outcrop above a turn in the River. Orlík was established as a royal castle beside a ford across the River Vltava in the second half of the 13th century, probably by Přemysl Otakar II, although in the Middle Ages it came into the hands of noble families and its ownership changed many times. From 1408 the Zmrzlík of Svojšín family owned it, and during their time the Hussite Captain Jan Žižka of Trocnov stayed in the castle.[5] In 1508 the castle burned down, and was rebuilt as a Renaissance chateâu by the new owners, the Lords of Švamberk. In 1623 the Eggenbergs acquired Orlík, and in 1717 it was inherited by the Schwarzenbergs. At the beginning of the 19th century it became their main residence. The most famous member of the family was Field Marshal Karl Philipp, Prince of Schwarzenberg, who was victorious over Napoleon in the Battle of Leipzig in 1813. In 1802 the chateâu was burned out, and during the subsequent repairs a fourth storey was added to the building. The current Romantic Gothic appearance dates from 1849 to 1860, when partial remodelling in this style was carried out according to plans by Bernard Gruber. The Early Gothic style castle of Orlík was confiscated by the Communist Regime after 1948, but in 1990s was reverted to the Schwarzenbergs. Access to the chateâu is by a stone bridge across the oat. Three round towers rise above the main façade, one of them being the original, built in the 14th century. The passage into the chateâu is cut into the rock and leads to a trapezoidal courtyard, with arcades on the ground floor. The oldest building is the former palace, which dates from the 14th century and forms the north side of the courtyard.The interiors are mainly in the Empire style, from the first half of the 19th century. The Lovecký sál (Hunter's Hall), with quadripartite ribbed vaulting, is original Gothic, and the chapel, also dating from the Gothic period, has a net vault. From an artistic point of view, the most valuable rooms are the state rooms on the first floor; the Greater and Lesser Knight's Halls; Hunting Hall; Blue and Empire Saloons; Library, and the Gun Corridor. The interiors are furnished in the style of the period and feature the family's collection of art works. Adjoining the chateâu is an English style large park, covering 143 hectares, with native and non-native species of trees and shrubs, and a greenhouse with a collection of fuchsias. The Pseudo-Gothic Schwartzemberk vault is situated in the western part of the park.

The Castle in Nové Město nad Metují

The Castle in Nové Město nad Metují -

The history of the castle in Nové Město nad Metují is nearly identical with that of the town itself.  The castle is an integral part of the town's historical preservation area. Both the castle and the town were established in 1501. In the middle of the 16th century the castle was rebuilt in the Renaissance style, and again in the mid-17th century it was rebuilt in the Baroque style. The castle and garden were redone for the last time by the architect Dusan Jurkovic in the years 1909-1915 at the request of the industrialist family Bartoň-Dobenín. During the tour you can see original interiors from that time in the Art Noveau and Art deco styles. Pavel Janák, as well as many other influential Czech artists, contributed to the decorations. In the area surrounding the castle, small Baroque statues by Matthias Bernard Braun attract the attention of visitors. 

Křivoklát Castle

The castle of Křivoklát belongs to the oldest and most important castles of the Czech princes and kings. The history of its construction starts in the 12th century. During the reign of Přemysl Otakar II. a large, monumental royal castle was built to be later rebuilt by king Václav IV. and even later generously enlarged by king Vladislav of Jagellon. The castle of Křivoklát was seriously damaged by fire several times. It became a feared prison and its importance sank rapidly. First during the Romantic époque of the 19th century (when under rule of the family of Fürstenberg that owned the castle until 1929) the castle was reconstructed - and saved. 

Friday, November 22, 2013

Castle Kost

Kost castle is located in the Czech Republic, 80 Km north of Prague. This fortress was originally built after 1371, probably by  Beneš of Wartenberg, who  had  the long hall and tower  erected as a defensive castle. It was then acquired, in 1456 by John Hasenberg, but  he took part in a rebellion against his king ,George of Podebrad and  his son sold Kost castle and the castle Trosky to John of Schellenberg, in 1490. After 50 years, Jan of Biberstein had  the “Renaissance”  wing of the castle built, with the big kitchen. His niece inherited Kost castle, and her husband, Krisof Popel of Lobkowitz, added the brewery, the “Lobkowitz” palace and other farm buildings, which were fortified and joined to the castle. Albrecht of Waldstein’s plans to redesign Kost into a country home while remaining a stronghold were halted by his death in 1634. In 1635, a part of Kost Castle was destroyed by fire after which it ceased to be inhabited by the proprietors.  Bought by the Czernins of Chudenicz, the castle apartments were used as granaries at end of the 17th century. The Castle suffered during the 30-years-war and was supposed to be destroyed. After 1867 Kost castle was in part reconverted in neo-gothic style. In 1798 Casimir Netolitzky bought Kost and the surrounding lands and entailed the property,ensuring inheritance by male primogeniture. Kost castle later passed  by marriage to the dal Borgo Netolický family (1889)  and then to the Kinský dal Borgo family (1993). Kost Castle is dominated by the angular White Tower, which is five storeys high, the south-eastern part pointing towards the Plakánek valley. The tower is a part of the battlements erected from stone blocks. It was destined to the defence. The mansarde roof dates only from the 18th century. The Castle has a smaller cylindrical tower from the end of the 14th century close to  the main gate. Today Kost Castle is one of the major tourist attractions in the Czech Republic, also thanks to its charm, facinating exposition of authentic weapons and lifestyle in the middle ages. It is located in one of the most attractive regions of the Czech Republic: the "Český Ráj" meaning Czech Paradise due to the beauty of its nature and landscape. Visitors of Kost castle can enjoy the magical atmosphere of the surrounding forests and lakes while taking a bike tour or even tour the countryside by horse. The castle offers cultural visits but also many attractions such as a medieval tournament which happens under the castle walls. You can also get married at Kost castle or have your company event in one of the most beautiful and authentic Gothic castles in the Czech Republic. Kost castle in fact can be hired for a variety of events including weddings, company events, filmings and concerts. If your dream is to taste the life of the middle ages you can also rent the accomodation within the castle premises, which is comfortable, romantic, and offers a unique view. 

The Konopiste Castle

The Konopiste Castle was originally founded as a gothic fortress guarding a nearby town of Benesov. Being founded at the end of the 13th century by Tobias of Benesov, it was built at the beginning of the 14th century, following the model of french castles called "castels". The first touch to a medieval structure of the castle was made in the 15th century by Jiri (George) of Sternberk and was followed by Hodejovsky family in the 17th century, who converted the castle into a renaissance mansion. However, the most significant alteration took place in the 18th when members of the Vrtba family rebuilt the castle into a baroque residence. The utterly most important and famous owner of the Konopiste Castle was the archduke Fratisek (Franz) Ferdinand d'Este, a successor to the Austro-Hungarian throne whose assassination in Sarajevo in 1914 became a pretext of the the World War I. This man bought the Konopiste domain in 1887 from the Lobkowitzs family and converted it into a magnificent seat of a Heir. The Chambers were richly decorated with the collections inherited from the Modena's archdukes of d'Este and numerous hunting trophies hanging on the walls as silent witnesses of Franz Ferdinand´s hunting passion. After visiting the interiors of the castle, a close baroque Rose Garden with a Greenhouse provides visitors of a serene place to stroll and absorb the whole experience of their visit of the Konopiste Castle.

Kokořín Castle

Kokořín Castle lies in the middle of a nature reserve on a steep rocky spur above the Kokořín Valley, north of the village of the same name. Originally, a medieval fortress carved in the local sandstone was built there in the days of the King Jan Lucemburský. The first recorded mention of Kokořín dates from 1320. In the same year Sir Jindřich of Osměchov recieved Kokořín manor from the nobleman Hynek Berka of Dubá who – some time in the middle of 14th century - had the original castle built. During the following centuries many prominent noble families owned Kokořín Castle for brief periods. These include, in the 15th century, the well-known warlord Jan Řitka of Bezdědice, Sir Aleš Škopek of Dubá who owned the castle during the Hussite wars, the lords of Klinštejn, Beřkov of Šebířov, Kuplíř, and Hrzán of Harasov gained control in the first part of the 16th century. Eventually, the castle ended up back in the hands of the noblemen of Berka. After the battle on Bílá Hora the possessions of the Berka family were confiscated and bought by the Wallenstein dynasty. After the death of Albrecht von Wallenstein the Kokořín castle was placed in the possesion of the king. By the 16the century the castle failed to meet the demands of the current living standards and had fallen into disrepair. After the Thirty Years War, Emperor Ferdinand III even ordered the castle to be ranked among the so-called "cursed" castles – ones that might no longer be maintained. The castle deteriorated rapidly and in following years it was owned in turn by a whole series of landlords. According to legend, the castle even came under control of robber barons, including Petrovský of Petrovice who spread fear throughout the region. By the end of the 19th century only ruins remained of the castle which, however, increasingly attracted the attention of a whole generation of poets and painters from the romantic period, e.g. K. H. Mácha, Josef Mánes and others. The castle entered into the general public’s awareness in 1895, when a model of its ruins was displayed by the Club of Czech Tourists at a national ethnographic exhibition in Prague causing the castle to be partially open for tourists. In the same year, the Kokořín manor, including the castle ruins, were purchased by Václav Špaček, a aristocrat from Starburg. He allocated a considerable amount of his finances to start complete reconstruction in 1911. Participants in the project for this imposing reconstruction were leading historians of the time (A. Sedláček, Z. Winter and Č. Zíbrt). The reconstruction was finished in 1918 by Václav´s son Jan Špaček who enhansed the original conception from cultural-patriotic dedication to the role of family memorial. Despite some objections to the style of reconstruction, based on the spirit of Late Romanticism, the project represented the first complete preservation of a medieval ruin in Czechia and its recovery by the public. After 1950, based on the agrarian reform laws, the castle was nationalized by the communist government. As late as in 2006, the castle was restituted to the hands of the Špaček family heirs. They intend to reassume the family tradition and keep this popular historical monument open to the public.

Castle Jindrichuv Hradec

The castle and chateau complex of Jindřichův Hradec, which has spread over the area of three and a half hectares in the course of the centuries, grew from an original Slavic fortified settlement from the 10th century on a rocky headland above the confluence of the Nežárka River and the Hamerský Brook. The shallow valley incision of the brook was used, in the oldest times, for an artificial water reservoir – the later pond Vajgar, serving for the defence of this important fortress.The construction of the mediaeval castle, called “Novum castrum“ (the New Castle) in the oldest preserved historical record from 1220, is connected with the name of Jindřich Vítkovec, the founder of the independent Vítek branch of the Lords of Hradec, which used the coat-of-arms with a golden rose in a blue field. At that time, the round Black Tower and the adjoining palace came into being. The castle, later enlarged into a magnificent chateau, served the Lords of Hradec as their main residence until the family died out in 1604. The members of the family essentially influenced all economic, political and cultural events in this region and representatives of each generation held important positions at the royal court. The importance of the Lords of Hradec was expressed in the gradual enlargement of the residence, from the solid Romanesque-Gothic castle into a majestic Gothic fortress with a complicated artistic solution and flawless fortification. In the latter half of the 16th century, under Adam II of Hradec, the castle underwent aAdam II of Hradec radical rebuilding to a representative chateau, after the example of the pretentious palaces of the Italian Renaissance. The castle fortress thus became a luxurious residence that satisfied the most demanding requirements of a Renaissance nobleman. Under the management of Balthasar Maggi and a number of other Italian builders, Adam’s building and the Spanish wing were built in the third courtyard, and both these buildings were linked by great arcades, and behind them, as the crown of the then building activity, a little music pavilion, the Roundel. This grand reconstruction practically completed the architectural development of the complex. Adaptations made by later owners were only of a partial character and almost did not affect the Renaissance shape of the chateau. Vilém Slavata of Chlum and at KošumberkThe last member of the family of the Lords of Hradec married Vilém Slavata of Chlum and at Košumberk in 1602, and after the death of her brother Jáchym Oldřich in 1604, he became the heir of the vast domain as well as the title “the ruler of the House of Hradec”. In Czech history he became known as the royal vice-regent, who was thrown out of the window of Prague Castle in the second defenestration in 1618. Over the ninety years of the rule of the Slavata family, the chateau did not undergo any essential construction adaptations. However, in the period of 1678 – 1696 the second arcade wing by the Roundel was built and in front of it the garden fountain was set. In 1693, Heřman Jakub Černín of Chudenice acquired the chateau byHeřman Jakub Černín of Chudenice marrying Marie Josefa of Slavata, who got Jindřichův Hradec as her share of the family heritage. The execution of important state functions and the relationship to the ruling House of Habsburg under the first Černíns brought to Jindřichův Hradec prominent visitors from among the members of the imperial court and other representatives of the European political scene. It was under the Černíns that the last major architectural remodelling of the chateau, which concerned the chapel, was carried out. In the years 1709 – 1735, the Gothic chapel of the castle was remodelled in the Baroque style after a design by F.M. Kaňka. In 1773, the chateau as well as the town were struck by a vast fire that destroyed a major part of the Renaissance interiors along with artistic collections. Temporarily roofed and abandoned by the lords, the chateau went on deteriorating. It was used as the economic centre of the domain, and the great arcades were turned into stables, the Roundel serving as a wood and game storage room and as stables. It was the wave of Romanticism that brought new interest in rescuing the chateau. In 1851, the family archives were brought from the Černín Palace into the remodelled premises of the chateau, which became the basis of the present State Regional Archives, still housed in the second chateau courtyard. In the early 20th century, the Viennese architect Humbert Walcher of Moltheim realised partial repairs and adaptations but some part of the chateau remained without repair. The Černíns owned the chateau until 1945, when it was confiscated, pursuant to Presidential Decree No.12/1945. The bad condition of the chateau complex kept on deteriorating and several buildings threatened to collapse. A general reconstruction was started in 1976 and lasted, with intervals, seventeen years. The chateau complex was rescued to the expense of 120 million crowns and reopened to the public in 1993. 

Zleby Castle

Zleby is a pretty village in the district of Kutna Hora in the Central Bohemian Region of the Czech Republic. It is called Zamek Žleby in Czech. The most famous attraction of this place is the Zleby Castle which is a very romantic Baroque style castle which can guarantee to satisfy all your imaginations of how an old castle should be with its architecture and surroundings. The Zleby Castle was first recorded in the late 1200s and is believed to have been built by Henry of Lichtenburg. It is also thought that the castle was initially built on an old foundation that was laid in the 13th century. Another recognized owner of the castle was Zleb of Agnes from whom it was bought by Emperor Charles IV and thus it became a royal asset. Other well known owners of the castle are Markvart of Wartenberg, Stephen of Opocno, Jaroslav of Opocno, Henry Lacembok Chlum and many others.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Buchlov Castle

The Buchlov castle is a royal castle that, along with Bare Hill (Czech: Holý kopec) and Saint Barbara’s Chapel, belongs to significant dominants of Chřiby mountains in Moravian Slovakia, which is a region in south-eastern Moravia, Czech Republic. The castle was built approximately in the first part of the 13th century, but archaeological finds suggest that the area around Buchlov castle was settled in the oldest periods of civilization. The function of the castle was defensive, agricultural and administrative as well. The first form of the castle had a similar ground-plan as buildings of that era. It was created by two massive prismatic towers situated on opposite parts of a rocky plateau. A high palace on the southern part of the yard was built at the same time and it was surrounded by a wall. The second constructional period proceeded already in 70’s of the 13th century. Another tower was built and in the second floor of this tower there was a chapel that belonged to the most valuable objects of early Gothic architecture of the day. There is an opinion that a model for this chapel was one of French royal chapels. Unfortunately, during later capturing of Buchlov Castle by armies of Hungarian king Matthias Corvinus in the second half of the 15th century, the chapel was destroyed so much that it was abandoned. It was replaced by two large rooms serving as store and depository. And although the castle was a permanent possession of a king until the 16th century, it was often given in pawn to aristocratic clans. Nobles of Cimburk owned it in the end of the 15th century. At that time a representative chivalric hall was built. In the year 1511 the castle was given to a private hold, and from the 16th to 18th century various Moravian clans changed its hold. The most important were the nobles of Žerotín, Zástřizl and Petřvald. Constructional work continued in Renaissance style. Some parts of the castle were added in baroque style. However, in 1701, the Buchlovice Castle was finished and in 1751 the owners moved there indefinitely. The last holders became earls of Berchtold’s clan in the year 1800. A family museum came into existence in the castle thanks to the brothers Leopold I Berchtold and Bedřich Berchtold. In the half of 19th century the museum was opened to public. The castle was confiscated on the bases of Beneš decrees in 1945 and became the ownership of Czechoslovakia. Later, it was also added to a list of national cultural monuments. Nowadays it is open to public. Day and night visits with many cultural programmes and actions are held during the year. Saint Barbara’s Chapel also called Barborka came into existence in the 13th century, and it was used as a funeral crypt for holders of a manor of Buchlov. Later it was rebuilt and finished in the year 1672. It is built in early baroque style on a cruciform plan with a central cupola. It is one kilometre far away from Buchlov castle. Two pilgrimage divine services are held to this day. 

Bouzov Castle

Bouzov Castle (Czech: Hrad Bouzov) is an early 14th-century fortress first mentioned in 1317. It was built on a hill between the village of Hvozdek and the town of Bouzov, 21 km west of Litovel and 28 km northwest of Olomouc, in Moravia, Czech Republic. The castle has been used in a number of film productions lately, including Arabela, Fantaghirò, and Before the Fall. Bouzov was established at the turn of the 14th century with the purpose to watch over the trade route from Olomouc to Loštice. The minor aristocratic Bůz of Bludovec family were its first recorded owners from 1317-1339. The castle also takes its name from the family. Ownership of the castles was then changed, and the Lords of Kunštát were among the most important medieval owners. According to tradition, the Bouzov castle is often connected with name of the most famous member of this noble dynasty, Jiří z Poděbrady was born in Bouzov in 1420 and was crowned Czech King in 1458. His original title was Jiří of Kunštát and Bouzov. In 1558 the castle burned down, and lost much of its majestic quality. In the course of centuries there were several changes of proprietors; the castle was owned by the lords of Vildenberk, margrave Jošt, the Haugvic and the Pod Štatský families, and in 1696 the barony was bought by the grand master of the Teutonic Order, the Rhenish palsgrave Fanciscus Ludovicus. As various noble families changed possession of Bouzov, in a similar way also its appearance was changed from an early gothic castle to a Renaisssance style. In the time of the lords of Bouzov, the castle played mostly a defensive and guarding role. It probably consisted of a tower and rampart and wooden dwelling houses. The Vildenberks built a stony manor on the western side which was taller than the rampart. Already in the 14th century the castle was significantly widened - a settlement with outhouses was constructed with a ditch and circumvallation, rampart with a 200-foot-high (61 m tall) watchtower and a moat wall built around the castle. During the rule of the Kunštát family, the manor was fortified with a new connected rampart with two bastions, and the moat wall was rebuilt with five round bastions. Later a round gun-bastion was erected and the tallest watchtower was repaired. In 1408 the castle passed into the hands of Viktorin of Bouzov. In 1499 the Haugvics started the construction of a palace on the eastern side and connected the northern and southern dwelling building. In the first half of the 15th century t was converted into a Hussite stronghold, serving as a prison for captured Swedes during the Thirty Years war. In the second half of the 16th century the castle burned out and remained uninhabited. About a hundred years later, the reconstruction of the castle began again with the remodeling of the southern wing. At that time the castle had already lost its defensive function and became an utterly dwelling object. With the arrival of the Teutonic Order, during the 18th century the castle also lost this function. Only the building in the outer settlement remained inhabited, and by the end of the 19th century the ruin of the castle became a tourist goal. The castle gained today's appearance after massive Neo-gothic reconstruction between 1895 and 1910.[3] The Grand Master of the Order of the Teutonic Knights from 1799 to 1939, archduke Eugen Habsburg, decided to rebuilt it in the Romantic, predoninantly Neo-Gothic style, according to the plans of the prominent architects of its time Georg von Hauberisser (1841–1922) of the Munich Polytechnic University; he was the author of Munich and Saarbrücken's town-halls, and also very influential as builder of churches like the St. Paul's church in Munich. The alterations were carried out with the intention of making part of the castle open to the public. Bouzov was fitted with modern furnishings and equipment, including running water and central heating. The order was abolished in 1939 and the castle was confiscated by the fascists, occupied and looted by the Nazis during the WW II. The castle was acquired by the Chief of the Gestapo R. Himmler, who forced the Strahov Monastery to sell it to him for one million crowns, as a present to A. Hitler. Hauberrisser's reconstruction of the Bouzov castle is unique in the was given tocontext of European romantic architecture. After 1989 the Order of Teutonic Knights expressed an interest in the castle, but their request to have it returned to them has so far been rejected. An eight-storey watchtower, 58 meters high, dominates the complex. The buildings are grouped around it in the form of a horseshoe, and the castle is enhanced by a number of towers, and among other things, bastions, battlements, oriel windows and loopholes. The two long bridges, ending with a short drawbridge, span the deep dry moat around the castle. The knights' hall, armoury, which is in one of the few original rooms with preserved Gothic vaulting, bedrooms of the knights and a neo-gothic chapel with its Gothic altar and tombs occupy the central part of the castle. The valuable furniture comes from the private collection of Eugen von Habsburg and the collection of the Order of the Teutonic Knights. Since 1999 the castle has been a national monument. 

Bitov Caslte

The ancient cultural landscape on the confluence of the Dyje and Želetavka rivers has been inhabited since Neolithic times. According to the local findings a Great Moravian fortified settlement used to stand near the castle in the 8th – 9th centuries. The castle was an important support point of the Premyslide dynasty. It was built on a narrow rocky promontory about 70 m above the surface of the river Želetavka, which flows around the promontory. The small town of Bítovec was established below the castle, and served as an important stop for merchants and pilgrims travelling from Austria towards Prague. The king entrusted Prince Conrad Oto to take control over the Premyslide castles. Later, during the reign of Přemysl Otakar I, Bítov became the centre of one of the Moravian regions – the Bítov district. The castle ruled over the areas of Slavonice, Dačice, Jemnice, Moravské Budějovice and Telč. The oldest preserved stone structure at the castle comes from these glorious days – the defence pointed-edge tower with Romanesque foundations. The first written note about Bítov comes from the foundation paper for cannonry at Stará Boleslav, dating back to 1046. The core of the document leads to the assumption that Bítov castle was founded by Prince Břetislav I. The continuous fortification line of castles protecting the Czech-Austrian border was established here, on the river Dyje, at the beginning of the 12th century. It is interesting that a similar fortification line was built also on the Austrian side to protect their land from Czech attacks (Raabs, Pernegg, Walkenstein, and other castles). After the death of the last male Premyslide (the murder of Wenceslas III in Olomouc), the castle, as a fiefdom, becomes the property of the old aristocratic family of the Lichtenburgs in 1307. The Lichtenburgs descended from the large Czech family of the Lords of Ronov. The founder of the family is thought to be Smil Světlický, the builder of the family castle of Světlík (Lichtenburg). The family became wealthy from their silver mines near the today’s Havlíčkův Brod. In 1278 Bítov was in the hands of Rajmund, who becames the founder of the Moravian branch of the Lichtenburgs. He was also the first Moravian Land  Marshall. During Rajmund’s days the castle went through substantial reconstruction – its centre moved higher up the rock towards the east where he had built a massive fortification with three more towers and a new residential quarter. The castle church of the Assumption of Virgin Mary was also newly built. To reinforce their powers the Lichtenburgs built another castle – Cornštejn (meaning sulky or truculent castle, from the German name of Zornstein). Rajmund’s sons Smil and Čeněk made the castle their permanent seat and started calling themselves the Bítov Lords of Lichtenburg. Bítov thus became one of the main Lichtenburg residences for the next 250 years.  The Lichtenburgs bravely fought on the side of the Czech kings against the Prussians, the Hungarians and the Turks. This is also why they always had great authority in Czech politics. The last male heir was Jindřich of Lichtenburg, who died on September 29, 1572, leaving the castle and property to his sisters. Bítov was held by Ludmila, who sold it to Austrian aristocrat Wolf Strein of Schwarzenau (marshal of Znojmo castle) in 1576. The following 36 years of Strein rule at Bítov was a mere episode. Wolf’s son Hanus Wolfart, inspired by the period’s great aristocrats of Italy, after purchasing a chateau in Uherčice launched a costly reconstruction, turning the castle into a renaissance seat in the style of North Italy, with arcaded courtyard and gardens. This, along with the demanding life of a renaissance cavalier (feasts, dances, mistresses, etc.) amassed an enormous debt, forcing him to sell his family holdings. Bítov was sold as the first of them in 1612. He also lost his beloved chateau in Uherčice. The Jankov Lords of Vlašim took their name from the village of Jankov near Benešov. Jan I Jankovský of Vlašim was the first to move to Moravia and in 1405 he is noted as a member of the Land Court. The Bítov dominion was bought by Fridrich Jankovský of Vlašim, one of the most powerful Moravian aristocrats in the aftermath of the events the White Mountain, being also one of the authors of the Moravian constitution. Moravian patriot Fridrich commissioned the building of an agricultural complex within the southern ramparts, establishing a successful brewery there. His son Hynek – imperial councillor and advisor to Emperor Ferdinand III wrote the first Czech work on hippology – The Equestrian Apotheque. During the two Swedish attacks he lent money to his vassals to pay a ransom and protected his castle by giving an unspecified number of beer casks free to the Swedes. In 1638 he extended the castle church and started building a residential palace with an arcaded courtyard and a gate tower. He established a new entrance to the castle and fitted a new bridge. From the outside part of the gunnery wall he attached the so-called Swedish chapel. After his death the castle was inherited by his son Maxmilian Arnošt I. Unfortunately he turned out to be a lunatic and the castle was run by his wife Alžběta. At that time the reconstruction of the southern wing was taking place – the characteristic supportive pillars were erected to reinforce the stability. Maxmilian II Jankovský of Vlašim married the heir of Dietrichsteins and Dauns in Vienna and as a close friend of Joseph I he was ennobled as a count. His wife was Catherine of Lemberg – the last heir of Adam Zrinsky – who brought the famous collection of weapons and her family library to the castle. After Maxmilian’s daughter Marie Johanna married countess Cavriani, and following a long dispute between the heirs, the castle ended up with the nephew of Maxmilian František – Count Daun. The Dauns were an ancient family, originating in the Rhineland town of Daun. Legend says that the name Daun comes from the Celtic “Dune”, which means hill. The time of their greatest social rise was during the Thirty Years’ War, when they were ennobled as counts for their military services. The field marshal and imperial advisor Vilém Jan Antonín Daun received citizenship in Bohemia and Hungary, as well as Moravia. One of his sons, Jindřich Josef, whose wife was the daughter of count Max of Vlašim, Marie Leopoldina, founded the Moravian-Austrian line of the family. Bítov was one of the seats of this line. The castle went through further construction development. A fountain was built in the place of the original well. The northern wing with castle kitchen is built. The Dauns built a theatre instead of an old granary, and on the northern side they added an Empire carriage shed with stables. A number of follies were constructed in the forest park (a rotunda, an ornamental well and the Love Lake), and the gardens were reconstructed too. František’s son Jindřich extended the castle church and tomb. The castle was adjusted to fit the New Gothic period style, complete with the palace interiors. After Jindřich’s death, despite the protests of his brothers Vladimír and Otakar, Jindřich’s widow Antonie Countess Voračická of Bissingen, sold all the furnishings of the palace. After the Dauns the castle was inherited by the Haugwitzs. The Haugwitzs are also an ancient family of Slavonic origin, coming probably from Meisen. Via the Haugwitz estate in Lusatia, from which they derived their name, they moved to Silesia. Their coat of arms was a black ram’s head on a red plate. In Moravia they appeared in the 14th century. In 1752 the Haugwitz counts bought the Náměšť nad Oslavou dominion, which became their family seat. It was Náměšť where they moved all the furnishings from Bítov, including the large collection of weapons. The most famous member of the family was Bedřich Vilém, a prominent politician, Czech and Austrian chancellor and advisor to Marie Therese, after 1759 awarded the Order of the Golden Fleece, and author of enlightenment reforms. In 1906 Bítov changed hands again; it was bought by Jan I Count Zamojski for three million Crowns. The Zamojskis were a Polish aristocratic family based in Poland, Russia, and Austria. Jan chose Bítov upon the recommendation of his relatives the Stadnickys from nearby Vranov. The Zamojskis were famous Polish politicians and military leaders. They spent only two years at Bítov, after which the castle went to František prince Radziwill. The Radziwill princes originated from Lithuania and they were the only princely family in the history of Bítov. Jiří, as a cardinal and bishop of Vilnius and Cracow was one of the candidates for Pope. In 1908 Bítov was taken over by the young prince František, nephew of count Jan Zamojski; he was a well-known conservative politician and leader of the Polish aristocracy. In 1912 František sold Bítov to an Austrian industrialist, Sudeten German Jiří Karel the elder, Baron Haas of Hasenfels.

Červená Lhotka Castle

The existence of an original fortress on the site of today's castle is assumed from sometime around the middle of the 14th century. The first written source is an entry into the land records from 1465, mentioning the division of the property of deceased Ctibor of Zásmuk, also of Vlčetín, between his two sons Petr and Václav. The fortress then might have been sold into the ownership of Diviš Boubínský of Újezd, who sometime around 1530 sold it to the knightly family of Káb of Rybňan. Of the Káb family, the most interesting character was undoubtedly the Knight Jan, a capable manager, active builder, and loyal Habsburg servant, who represented the prestigious office of tax collector in the Bechyňe region. His short life was tragically marked by the plague, which took five of his children in 1557. This might have been the reason that the simple castle chapel on the hill above the lake was built (today the chapel of the Holy Trinity). After Jan's death, Lhota was inherited by his three sons Bohuchval, Zikmund, and Jiří, who first had to compensate their older brother Jaroslav. Zikmund died four years later, and the families of the two remaining brothers Bohuchval and Jiří lived in Lhota at odds. The castle ceased to be their quiet home and became a theatre of squabbles, arguments, and personal assaults. It could be some of the stories captured in the memories of the occasional observers which gave life to the stories of the godless castle lady possessed by the devil, her tragic end marked by the bloody stain under the window on the then snow-white facade. This stain is said to have been the later reason to plaster the entire castle red. Such folklore later became the main motif of the enthralling prose of the Deštná priest Bedřich Kamarýt. In 1597 Bohuchval's son Jan bought his uncle Jiří's share of the castle, and instantly sold the reunited dominion to Vilém Rut of Dírná. The Rut family had owned Dírná since the 14th century, and had bought Deštná from the Rožmberks in 1595. Červená Lhota lay directly in the center and thereby joined the three dominions together. Lhota never was separated from Deštná again. The last of the Ruts, Bohuslav, had to leave the Bohemian lands as an Ultraquist after the Battle of White Mountain. In 1621 Červená Lhota was inhabited by Antonio Bruccio, a knightly commander of the Empirical army, an Italian noble who, in the service of the Slavats, oversaw the confiscation of Tábor and from 1621 served as commander of the municipal forces in Jindřichův Hradec. A fiery Catholic and great Marianic venerator, Bruccio proved to be a good diplomat and manager. He successfully protected the region from post-war pillaging, and strengthened the economic prosperity of Deštná by building a luxurious spa. The only remainder of the spa today is the chapel of St. John the Baptist, built directly above the source of the healing mineral waters. The dominion, evacuated by war, was shortly repopulated and Bruccio's own promise of loyalty to his Catholic subjects contributed to the settling of the area. In 1639 Bruccio died without an heir, leaving great contributions to the Deštná church of St. Otto and the Jindřichův Hradec church of St. John the Baptist, where he was buried. With his death, Lhota lost is function as a residence and served his successors simply as a simple occasional cotttage. After Bruccio's death, Červená Lhota passed into the management of the royal   chamber, from which in 1641 the renowned aristocrat Vilém Slavat of Chlum and Košumberk bought it. His drive, diplomatic skill, education, and high intelligence led him to a high official career. From the position of royal marshall to Karlštejn burgrave to the president of the Bohemian chamber, he became the highest court-master of the Empirical court and soon afterwards the highest chancellor of the Bohemian kingdom, where he remained despite several resignations until his death. His marriage to Lucia Otýlia of Hradec meant the integration into one of the largest dominions in Bohemia at the time, that of Jindřichův Hradec. Červená Lhota then became a sort of summer residence, a place of parties, celebrations, and relaxation namely for the ladies of the Slavat family. Among Vilém's great-grandchildren there were no sons, so with the wedding of the second-born daughter Marie Markéta of Ferdinand Vilém, the oldest of Vilém's grandsons, the castle passed into the hands of the Windischgrätz family. Bedřich Arnošt Windischgrätz and his son Leopold dragged the dominion into great debts due to their out-dated style of economics, so the custodian of his under-aged successor Josef recommended the sale of the dominion. In 1755 the castle then was obtained by the free lords of Gudenus. Franz de Paul, free lord of Gudenus, shortly afterwards initiated several constructions. Not only was the spa chapel in Deštná repaired, but the church of St. Otto was decoratively furnished, most of which is still preserved today. Other building activities were brought to an abrupt halt in 1774 by a great fire, which destroyed essentially all agricultural buildings. In 1776 Červená Lhota welcomed a new owner, Baron Ignác Stillfried, a progressive aristocrat of Prussian Silesia, who immediately sold the Deštná spas into private hands. This definitively marked the end of Červená Lhota's aristocratic flavor. The Baron wrote his chapter of history into the castle mainly as a host and sponsor of the aging composer Karel Ditters of Dittersdorf, whose lifelong pilgrimage ended here at the castle after a four-year residency. In 1820 Ignác's son sold the dominion to Jakub Veith. If this enterprising industrialist and sponsor of Czech artists had any plans with Lhota, he evidently didn't manage to realize any of them. His daughter Terezie sold the castle again in 1835, this time into the princely hands of Heinrich Eduard Schönburg-Hartenstein. Heinrich Eduard Schönburg-Hartenstein, a major in the Austrian army, diplomat and chamberlain, settled in his newly-purchased dominion Černovice in 1823, and bought Červená Lhota in 1835. The center of his dominion, however, was Černovice, which became Heinrich's second home after Vienna. It is curious, then, that he sold Černovice in 1872 and the only item he left for his son Josef Alexandr of his South Bohemian property was Červená Lhota. Josef Alexandr Schönburg-Hartenstein, member of the Crown Council, was also active in diplomatic services. His youngest son and heir was Prince Johann, chamberlain, bearer of the Order of the Golden Fleece, Great Cross of the Order of Leopold, Order of the Iron Crown, Great Cross of the Maltese Order and Order of Christ. His greatest diplomatic accomplishment was fullfilled in his role as ambassador at the Pope's table in the Vatican. The First World War and consequent dissolution of the beloved monarchy caused Johann to withdraw into the solace of his dearest seat, Červená Lhota, where he evidently devoted himself to the reconstruction of the castle. In 1937 he was buried into the newly-built tomb, and thus was spared the destructive events of the new war, which drew the curtains closed for the entire aristocratic history of Červená Lhota castle. After the confiscation of the castle by the Czechoslovakian state in 1946 a children's clinic was established here, a year later it was assumed by the National Cultural Commission, and in 1949 it was opened to the public.

Snake Spring

The Snake Spring is the most recent spring made accessible to the public in Karlovy Vary so far. The spring was diverted to the premises of the southwestern pavilion of the Park Colonnade during a reconstruction of the promenade in 2001. The snake-shaped column, through which the spring rises, is decorated at the top with a vase with snake-like handles. The name of the spring is derived from grass snakes that had inhabited areas behind the colonnades in large numbers. The Snake Spring contains less minerals than other springs but is considerably richer in carbon dioxide. Since its opening, it has become very popular among the spa guests.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Dvorakovy Sady

At the end of the 19th century, artistic gardener Jan Hahmann, who had been taking care of Skalník Park until then, finally brought into being his grandiose plan to create a new municipal park. Between 1877 and 1878, he initiated the planting of plane,  oak, maple and elm trees behind the Army Spa Institution on the grounds of the former Winter's Garden. The park was complemented with sandy paths, pyramids of rose bushes, flower beds and a water recess with a fountain. Between 1880 and 1881, a cast-iron concert and restaurant hall known as the Blanenský Pavilion was built according to the design of Viennese architects Fellner and Helmer. In 1966, the restaurant was pulled down because of its poor technical condition, leaving only a part of the promenade, the present-day Park Colonnade. In 1974, the park on the edge of the spa zone between the Thermal Hotel and the Park Colonnade was redesigned by architect Adolf Peter and named Dvořákovy sady (Dvořák Park) in honour of the famous Czech composer . A monument dedicated to Antonín Dvořák by local sculptor Karel Kuneš was erected in the park. You may also admire two monument trees growing on the park grounds. The Park Plane Tree with 452 cm trunk circumference and height of about 23 metres has been growing here for almost 200 years and Dvořák's Plane Tree with 472 cm trunk circumference and height of about 22 metres has been growing here for more than 200 years.

Becher's Villa

Uphill from Karlovy Vary’s famous colonnade with its lavish, pastel-colored buildings, a little off the beaten track in the city’s Westend neighborhood, visitors to the West Bohemian spa town can find a great example of stunning early 20th century architecture: the Becher Villa. Built by Gustav Becher, a member of the famous Becher family, probably best known for founding the Becherovka distillery, the villa went through many changes in its nearly 100-year history. It is hard to imagine that the villa, now fully reconstructed, was at one point completely run-down and was not accessible to the public for over 20 years. Restored to its former glory, it was re-opened to the public in July 2010, and now houses an interactive gallery and several workspaces for artists. I spoke to Jan Samec, the director of both the Becher Villa and Karlovy Vary’s art gallery Gallerie Umění, about who originally built the villa. “It was Gustav Becher, a member of a very well-known family in Karlovy Vary. Many members of this family were doctors, pharmacists, city councilors and even mayors, and worked in other important professions. Gustav Becher at one point took over the well-known liquor company from his father, but in 1901, he signed it over to his step-brothers, because he got married. At the age of 64 he got married to a 24-year-old, and I think it was because she did not like living in the house where he was born, on the colonnade, that he decided to build this villa, in the new, mundane Westend neighborhood.”Westend is a villa neighborhood full of great estates that were built during the city’s heyday, and the Becher Villa provides an interesting insight into the style of architecture that was popular before the First World War. To impress his young wife, Gustav Becher decided to design the house according to what was the height of fashion at the time.“I assume that he had this villa built mostly because of her. It can be described as having in essence a Palladian style, with an atrium in the middle, the way that style of architecture was adopted in Victorian England. At the time, it was even called “Englisch Haus” and since it was built right before the First World War, there was some influence of the Secession style, and also, but rather as a consequence of the reconstruction, elements of art-deco could be found here some eight to ten years later.”However, Gustav Becher himself died in 1921. Since then, the villa changed hands several times, and its owners were not always respectful of the building. Jan Samec briefly sums up the history of the villa between the years 1921 and 1987. “Mr. Becher did not get to enjoy his villa for very long, he died in 1921, and his wife sold it to the association of chemical and metallurgical producers from Ustí nad Labem in the first half of the 1920s, and they used it until 1938, when this part of what was then Czechoslovakia was taken over by Nazi Germany, which installed the regional headquarters of the SS here. When we were reconstructing the villa, we even found an old SS sign, which we kept for reasons of historical documentation, and after the war, the building became the possession of the Czechoslovak state, which transformed it into a youth center.”The youth center, Dům pionýrů a mládeže, was situated in the villa until 1987. The villa was closed to the public for several years after that. In the late 1990s, the education office of Karlovy Vary, to which the building belonged at the time, decided to transform the building into a musical education school. However, the reconstruction was interrupted several times and the building site was vandalized and looted until the villa fell into complete disrepair. It wasn’t until the Ministry of Schools signed it over to the region of Karlovy Vary that the villa could be saved. Gallery director Jan Samec was approached by the region’s officials regarding its renovation and reopening. I asked him how long the actual process took.“I have to say that the preparations took much longer than the actual reconstruction. We had to prepare a report about how we intended to use the space, then we had to apply for building permits and EU funds, because a large part of the 86 million Czech crowns that it cost to renovate the villa, a substantial portion was paid for by the EU, and the rest was financed by the region of Karlovy Vary. So we started the reconstruction itself in 2009, it took 9 months to complete, and was finished in early July 2010.”Part of the reason that the project received EU funding was the unique concept that Mr. Samec came up with: aside from giving the public a chance to see the beautiful villa from the inside, the reopening also brings a very modern gallery to the spa town, where visitors can not just look at art, but interact with it. The name already tells you something: an interactive gallery is a bit different from a traditional one. Here, you can see interactive exhibitions, presenting works that the visitor can change or play with in some form, climb into them, etc. which today is quite fashionable. But we take the interactive concept a bit further. For example, right now, we are showing a porcelain exhibit featuring local artists, and they also teach workshops and other seminars, and we then exhibit the pieces that are created by those who attend the workshops, and so within the three months that the exhibition is going on, it will undergo a big change and be completely different at the end.”In addition to the current exhibition of beautiful ceramics by local artists, titled VARY(I)ACE 3 + 1 = PORCELÁN, the villa also currently has a couch designed by the late architect Jan Kaplicky on display. The ceramic oven, the art library and the several studio spaces in the basement testify to the ambition of Mr. Samec to offer artists’ residencies in the future. For many residents of the spa town, however, the Becher Villa brings back childhood memories, since for decades, most local children and teenagers would visit the youth center in the villa.“I just learned, when we had an opening, that our mayor went here for a first aid course, so I have to say that for the majority of Karlovy Vary residents, this house is very connected to their childhood, and a lot of them came to look at it for that reason.” But even for visitors who do not have this connection to the Becher Villa, the beautifully renovated building, which is open year-round, is well worth a trip.