Medieval castles in Czech Republic

Prague Castle

Prague Castle, dating from the 9th century, is the official residence of the President of the Czech Republic. The castle was a seat of power for kings of Bohemia, Holy Roman emperors, and presidents of Czechoslovakia. The Bohemian Crown Jewels are kept within a hidden room inside it. According to the Guinness Book of Records, Prague Castle is the largest ancient castle in the world, occupying an area of almost 70,000 m2. ...
Founded: 870 AD | Location: Prague, Czech Republic

Vysehrad

Vyšehrad ('upper castle') is a historical fort built probably in the 10th century on a hill over the Vltava River. Situated within the castle is the Basilica of St Peter and St Paul, as well as the Vyšehrad Cemetery, containing the remains of many famous people from Czech history. It also contains Prague's oldest surviving building, the Rotunda of St Martin from the 11th century. Local legend holds that Vy& ...
Founded: 10th century | Location: Prague, Czech Republic

Karlstejn Castle

Karlštejn Castle is a large Gothic castle founded 1348 by Charles IV, Holy Roman Emperor-elect and King of Bohemia. The castle served as a place for safekeeping the Imperial Regalia as well as the Bohemian/Czech crown jewels, holy relics, and other royal treasures. It is one of the most famous and most frequently visited castles in the Czech Republic. Founded in 1348, the construction works were directed by the la ...
Founded: 1348 | Location: Karlštejn, Czech Republic

Spilberk Castle

For over seven centuries, Špilberk Castle has dominated the skyline of Brno. From a major royal castle and the seat of the Moravian margraves, it gradually turned into a huge baroque fortress, the heaviest prison in the Austro-Hungarian empire, and then a barracks. Today, Špilberk houses the Brno City Museum. The castle was established in the mid-13th century by Czech King Přemysl Otakar II as a seat f ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Brno, Czech Republic

Telc Castle

The Gothic castle of Telč was built in the second half of the 14th century by the lords of Hradec. At the end of the 15th century the castle fortifications were strengthened and a new gate-tower built. In the middle of the 16th century the medieval castle no longer satisfied Renaissance nobleman Zachariáš of Hradec, who had the castle altered in the Renaissance style. The ground floor was vaulted anew, ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Telč, Czech Republic

Italian Court

The Italian Court is a palace in Kutná Hora. Originally, it was the seat of the Central Mint of Prague, named after the Italian experts who were at the forefront of the minting reform. After its reconstruction at the end of the 14th century, the Italian Court became a part-time royal residence. For many centuries, the Italian Court was the centre of the state economic power: it contained the royal mint and was the ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Kutná Hora, Czech Republic

Pardubice Castle

The history of the feudal residence on the site of the current Pardubice castle goes back to the end of the 13th century. It underwent numerous reconstructions. The most significant took place at the end of the 15th century and beginning of the 16th century under the rule of the lords of Pernštejn. The original castle was transformed into a palace. A new, massive fortress was built around it. Thus, a combination of ...
Founded: 15th century | Location: Pardubice, Czech Republic

Krivoklát Castle

Křivoklát Castle was founded in the 12th century, belonging to the kings of Bohemia. During the reign of Přemysl Otakar II a large, monumental royal castle was built, later rebuilt by king Václav IV and later enlarged by king Vladislav of Jagellon. The castle was damaged by fire several times. It was turned into a harsh prison and the building slowly deteriorated. During the 19th century, the family of Fürstenberg b ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Křivoklát, Czech Republic

Melník Castle

The Mělník castle belongs to the most important sights of this town. Since Princess Ludmila, the grandmother of the Good King Wenceslas, who was born in Mělník, the castle has been the residence of the queen widows of Bohemia. Under Emperor Charles IV, Mělník became a royal town. His last wife built the chapel of the castle with its gothic vaults. The last queen who resided in Mělník, was the wife of king Jiri o ...
Founded: 1542 | Location: Mělník, Czech Republic

Olomouc Castle

The first written mention of the castle in Olomouc is included in the Cosmas Chronicle in 1055. The king Wenceslas III, the last Přemyslid, also stayed at the castle and was assassinated here in 1306. In 1767 the young Mozart stayed in the house of the Chapter Provost on the castle grounds and composed Symphony No. 6 in F major here. Some of the recent celebrities who have visited the site are Mother Theresa or Pope John ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Olomouc, Czech Republic

Konopiste Palace

Konopiště is a palace, which become famous as the last residence of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, heir of the Austro-Hungarian throne, whose assassination in Sarajevo triggered World War I. The bullet that killed him, fired by Gavrilo Princip, is now an exhibit at the castle"s museum. The castle was apparently established in the 1280s by Prague Bishop Tobiaš as a Gothic fortification with a ...
Founded: 1280s | Location: Benešov, Czech Republic

Cesky Sternberk Castle

Ceský Sternberk Castle is an early Gothic castle which was constructed, named and still owned by members of the same family. Today it is a residence that bears a long historical and architectural heritage and represents an attractive tourist destination open to the public. It is considered one of the best preserved Gothic Bohemian castles. The castle was initially built in 1241 by Zdeslav of Divisov, later called Zdesla ...
Founded: 1241 | Location: Český Šternberk, Czech Republic

Bouzov Castle

Bouzov Castle 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 Buz 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 Bouz ...
Founded: c. 1300 | Location: Bouzov, Czech Republic

Hrad Helfštýn

Helfštýn castle was probably established at the end of the 13th century by the marauding knight Friduš (or Helfrid) of Linava who used the castle as a base for robbing merchants during the unsettled times that followed the murder of Wenceslas III, the last Pøemyslide, in 1306. As Friduš"s escapades could not be ignored, young King John of Luxemburg sent his troops to deal with the bandit ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Lipník nad Bečvou, Czech Republic

Bezdez Castle

Bezděz Castle construction began before 1264 by order of Přemysl Otakar II. It was one of the most important royal castles in the Czech lands until its destruction in the Thirty Years" War. A year after Přemysl’s death, the castle Bezděz, which was still unfinished, became the place of imprisonment of Queen Kunhuta and her underage son Václav II (or Wenceslas II), kept under lock and ...
Founded: c. 1260 | Location: Bezděz, Czech Republic

Kost Castle

Kost Castle is is privately owned by Kinský dal Borgo noble family. It was first proposed by Beneš von Wartenberg in 1349 as a possible construction site and was completed by his son Peter von Wartenberg. It retains most of the original features and is overall very well preserved and maintained. The castle is known for its so-called 'White tower'. In about 1414 the family of Zajíc von Hasenburg moved there; later the ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Libošovice, Czech Republic

Tocnik Castle

Točník Castle was built during the reign of Wenceslaus IV at the end of the 14th century above the already existing castle Žebrák as his private residence. The two castles, Točník and Žebrák, make up a pictoresque 'couple,' standing almost right next to each other. The area where the castle stands was inhabited by people two thousand years ago, but it was not until the 14th century when the Bohemian and Germa ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Točník, Czech Republic

Veverí Castle

According to legend, the castle Veveří was founded by Duke Conrad of Brno in the middle of the 11th century. Nevertheless, the first written mention about the castle is from the years 1213 and 1222, when King Přemysl Otakar I used the fortified castle as a prison for rebellious peers. Initially, it was apparently a wooden or masonry residence situated near the Romanesque church of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary west ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Brno, Czech Republic

Hrubý Rohozec Castle

Hrubý Rohozec is a castle in Turnov. The original structure was connected to a polygonal tower by a defensive wall. Its purpose, in the 14th century, was to monitor the trade route running below it. Between the two parts of the castle Jan von Šelmberk, and later Konrad Kraiger Kraigk, built Gothic palaces. During the Renaissance the Wartenberg family rebuilt the complex in the style of a chateaux. Albrecht ...
Founded: c. 1280 | Location: Turnov, Czech Republic

Roudnice Castle

Roudnice Castle was built in the 12th century by Bishop Jindřich Břetislav, the nephew of the Czech king Vladislav I, to protected an important trade route from Prague to Upper Lusatia along the Elbe. The castle complex included several farm buildings, protected by a fortified wall; the castle itself had walls that were two meters thick, and watch towers in each corner. In the mid-14th century, it was rebuilt in ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Roudnice nad Labem, Czech Republic

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Quimper Cathedral

From 1239, Raynaud, the Bishop of Quimper, decided on the building of a new chancel destined to replace that of the Romanesque era. He therefore started, in the far west, the construction of a great Gothic cathedral which would inspire cathedral reconstructions in the Ile de France and would in turn become a place of experimentation from where would later appear ideas adopted by the whole of lower Brittany. The date of 1239 marks the Bishop’s decision and does not imply an immediate start to construction. Observation of the pillar profiles, their bases, the canopies, the fitting of the ribbed vaults of the ambulatory or the alignment of the bays leads us to believe, however, that the construction was spread out over time.

The four circular pillars mark the start of the building site, but the four following adopt a lozenge-shaped layout which could indicate a change of project manager. The clumsiness of the vaulted archways of the north ambulatory, the start of the ribbed vaults at the height of the south ambulatory or the choice of the vaults descending in spoke-form from the semi-circle which allows the connection of the axis chapel to the choir – despite the manifest problems of alignment – conveys the hesitancy and diverse influences in the first phase of works which spread out until the start of the 14th century.

At the same time as this facade was built (to which were added the north and south gates) the building of the nave started in the east and would finish by 1460. The nave is made up of six bays with one at the level of the facade towers and flanked by double aisles – one wide and one narrow (split into side chapels) – in an extension of the choir arrangements.

The choir presents four right-hand bays with ambulatory and side chapels. It is extended towards the east of 3-sided chevet which opens onto a semi-circle composed of five chapels and an apsidal chapel of two bays and a flat chevet consecrated to Our Lady.

The three-level elevation with arches, triforium and galleries seems more uniform and expresses anglo-Norman influence in the thickness of the walls (Norman passageway at the gallery level) or the decorative style (heavy mouldings, decorative frieze under the triforium). This building site would have to have been overseen in one shot. Undoubtedly interrupted by the war of Succession (1341-1364) it draws to a close with the building of the lierne vaults (1410) and the fitting of stained-glass windows. Bishop Bertrand de Rosmadec and Duke Jean V, whose coat of arms would decorate these vaults, finished the chancel before starting on the building of the facade and the nave.

Isolated from its environment in the 19th century, the cathedral was – on the contrary – originally very linked to its surroundings. Its site and the orientation of the facade determined traffic flow in the town. Its positioning close to the south walls resulted in particuliarities such as the transfer of the side gates on to the north and south facades of the towers: the southern portal of Saint Catherine served the bishop’s gate and the hospital located on the left bank (the current Préfecture) and the north gate was the baptismal porch – a true parish porch with its benches and alcoves for the Apostles’ statues turned towards the town, completed by an ossuary (1514).

The west porch finds its natural place between the two towers. The entire aesthetic of these three gates springs from the Flamboyant era: trefoil, curly kale, finials, large gables which cut into the mouldings and balustrades. Pinnacles and recesses embellish the buttresses whilst an entire bestiary appears: monsters, dogs, mysterious figures, gargoyles, and with them a whole imaginary world promoting a religious and political programme. Even though most of the saints statues have disappeared an armorial survives which makes the doors of the cathedral one of the most beautiful heraldic pages imaginable: ducal ermine, the Montfort lion, Duchess Jeanne of France’s coat of arms side by side with the arms of the Cornouaille barons with their helmets and crests. One can imagine the impact of this sculpted decor with the colour and gilding which originally completed it.

At the start of the 16th century the construction of the spires was being prepared when building was interrupted, undoubtedly for financial reasons. Small conical roofs were therefore placed on top of the towers. The following centuries were essentially devoted to putting furnishings in place (funeral monuments, altars, statues, organs, pulpit). Note the fire which destroyed the spire of the transept cross in 1620 as well as the ransacking of the cathedral in 1793 when nearly all the furnishings disappeared in a « bonfire of the saints ».

The 19th century would therefore inherit an almost finished but mutilated building and would devote itself to its renovation according to the tastes and theories of the day.