National Cultural Monuments of the Czech Republic

Prague Astronomical Clock

The Prague astronomical clock was first installed in 1410, making it the third-oldest astronomical clock in the world and the oldest one still operating. It is mounted on the southern wall of Old Town Hall in the Old Town Square. The clock mechanism itself is composed of three main components: the astronomical dial, representing the position of the Sun and Moon in the sky and displaying various astronomical details; &apos ...
Founded: 1410 | Location: Prague, Czech Republic

Historic Centre of Prague

Prague is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe in terms of its setting on both banks of the Vltava River, its townscape of burger houses and palaces punctuated by towers, and its individual buildings. The Historic Centre represents a supreme manifestation of Medieval urbanism (the New Town of Emperor Charles IV built as the New Jerusalem). The Prague architectural works of the Gothic Period (14th and 15th centuries ...
Founded: 10th century | Location: Prague, Czech Republic

Jan Hus Memorial

The Jan Hus Memorial stands at one end of Old Town Square. The huge monument depicts victorious Hussite warriors and Protestants who were forced into exile 200 years after Hus, and a young mother who symbolises national rebirth. The monument was so large that the sculptor designed and built his own villa and studio where the work could be carried out. It was unveiled in 1915 to commemorate the 500th anniversary of Jan Hus ...
Founded: 1915 | Location: Prague, Czech Republic

Church of Our Lady before Týn

The Church of Our Lady before Týn is a dominant feature of the Old Town of Prague and has been the main church of this part of the city since the 14th century. The church's towers are 80 m high and topped by four small spires. In the 11th century, this area was occupied by a Romanesque church, which was built there for foreign merchants coming to the nearby Týn Courtyard. Later it was replaced by an early Gothic Church ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Prague, 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

St. Vitus Cathedral

The Metropolitan Cathedral of Saints Vitus, Wenceslaus and Adalbert is the seat of the Archbishop of Prague. Up to 1997, the cathedral was dedicated only to Saint Vitus, and is still commonly named only as St. Vitus Cathedral. This cathedral is an excellent example of Gothic architecture and is the biggest and most important church in Czech Republic. Located within Prague Castle and containing the tombs of many Bohemian ...
Founded: 1344 | Location: Prague, Czech Republic

Charles Bridge

The Charles Bridge is a famous historic bridge that crosses the Vltava river in Prague. Its construction started in 1357 under the auspices of King Charles IV, and finished in the beginning of the 15th century. The bridge replaced the old Judith Bridge built 1158–1172 that had been badly damaged by a flood in 1342. This new bridge was originally called the Stone Bridge (Kamenný most) or the Prague Bridge (Pra ...
Founded: 1357 | Location: Prague, Czech Republic

Clementinum

The Clementinum is a historic complex of buildings in Prague. Until recently the complex hosted the National, University and Technical libraries, the City Library also being located nearby on Mariánské Náměstí. The Technical library and the Municipal library have moved to the Prague National Technical Library at Technická 6 since 2009. It is currently in use as the National Library ...
Founded: 1622 | Location: Prague, Czech Republic

Historic Centre of Cesky Krumlov

Situated on the banks of the Vltava river, Český Krumlov was built around a 13th-century castle with Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque elements. It is an outstanding example of a small central European medieval town whose architectural heritage has remained intact thanks to its peaceful evolution over more than five centuries. The historic city center of the city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Construction of ...
Founded: c. 1240 | Location: Český Krumlov, Czech Republic

St. Vitus' Church

St. Vitus" Church in Český Krumlov is together with the castle an architectural landmark of the town. The church was built on the site of an older building around 1400. The consecration was carried out in 1439. Around 1500, the burghers built a large music gallery in the western part of the church, and further important remodelling followed in the Baroque period. Apart from other things, a new sacristy wa ...
Founded: 1400-1439 | Location: Český Krumlov, Czech Republic

St. Nicholas Church

The Church of Saint Nicholas was built between 1704-1755 on the site where formerly a Gothic church from the 13th century stood. It has been described as the most impressive example of Prague Baroque. In the second half of the 17th century the Jesuits decided to build a new church designed by Giovanni Domenico Orsi. A partial impression of the original planned appearance of the church at the time the Jesuits chose the in ...
Founded: 1704-1755 | Location: Prague, Czech Republic

Cesky Krumlov Castle

Český Krumlov Castle dates back to 1240 when the first castle was built by the Witigonen family, the main branch of the powerful Rosenberg family. By the 17th century the Rosenbergs had died out and the dominion of Krumau was given to Hans Ulrich von Eggenberg by Emperor Ferdinand II and Eggenberg was named Duke of Krumau. After the death of Hans Ulrich's son, Johann Anton I von Eggenberg, the castle was administrated ...
Founded: 1240 | Location: Český Krumlov, Czech Republic

Karolinum

Karolinum is a complex of buildings located in the Old Town of the City of Prague. Karolinum, the seat of the Charles University in Prague, is one of the oldest dormitories situated in the Central Europe. Shortly after the establishing of Charles University in 1348, the young institution encountered several organizational problems. One of the major complications was the lack of lecture and accommodation rooms for teacher ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Prague, Czech Republic

House of the Black Madonna

The House of the Black Madonna is a cubist building designed by Josef Gočár. It is currently in use as the Czech Museum of Cubism and includes the Grand Café Orient restaurant on the first floor. The House of the Black Mother, sometimes referred to as Black Mother of the Lord, was designed and built between 1911 and 1912 on the corner of Celetná Street and Ovocný trh. Josef Goč&aacut ...
Founded: 1911-1912 | Location: Prague, Czech Republic

Estates Theatre

The Estates Theatre (Stavovské divadlo) is a historic theatre in Prague. It was built during the late 18th century in response to Enlightenment thought regarding general access to the theatre, and theatres themselves demonstrating the cultural standards of a nation. The Estates Theatre was designed by Anton Haffenecker and built in a little less than two years for the aristocrat František Antonín Coun ...
Founded: 1783 | Location: Prague, Czech Republic

Wenceslas Square

Wenceslas Square is one of the main city squares and the centre of the business and cultural communities in the New Town of Prague. Many historical events occurred there, and it is a traditional setting for demonstrations, celebrations, and other public gatherings. The square is named after Saint Wenceslas, the patron saint of Bohemia. It is part of the historic centre of Prague, a World Heritage Site. Less a square than ...
Founded: 1348 | Location: Prague, Czech Republic

Bethlehem Chapel

The Bethlehem Chapel is a medieval religious building in the Old Town of Prague, notable for its connection with the origins of the Bohemian Reformation, especially with the Czech reformer Jan Hus. It was founded in 1391 by Wenceslas Kriz and John of Milheim, and taught solely in the Czech vernacular, thus breaking with German domination of the Medieval Bohemian church. The building was never officially called a church, ...
Founded: 1391 | Location: Prague, Czech Republic

Sedlec Ossuary

The Sedlec Ossuary is a small Roman Catholic chapel and one of twelve World Heritage Sites in the Czech Republic. The ossuary is estimated to contain the skeletons of between 40,000 and 70,000 people, whose bones have, in many cases, been artistically arranged to form decorations and furnishings for the chapel. The ossuary is among the most visited tourist attractions of the Czech Republic. Four enormous bell-shaped moun ...
Founded: 1278 | Location: Kutná Hora, Czech Republic

St. Barbara's Church

Saint Barbara"s Church is a Roman Catholic church in Kutná Hora. It is one of the most famous Gothic churches in central Europe and it is a UNESCO world heritage site. St Barbara is the patron saint of miners (among others), which was highly appropriate for a town whose wealth was based entirely upon its silver mines. Construction of the church began in 1388, but because work on the church was interrupted sev ...
Founded: 1388 | Location: Kutná Hora, Czech Republic

Brno Ossuary

Brno Ossuary is an underground ossuary. It was rediscovered in 2001 in the historical centre of the city, partially under the Church of St. James. It is estimated that the ossuary holds the remains of over 50 thousand people which makes it the second-largest ossuary in Europe, after the Catacombs of Paris. It's been opened to public since June 2012. A three-chamber crypt was established under the paved floor of St. James ...
Founded: 17th century | Location: Brno, Czech Republic

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte

The Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte is a baroque French château built between 1658-1661 for Nicolas Fouquet. It was made for Marquis de Belle Île, Viscount of Melun and Vaux, the superintendent of finances of Louis XIV, the château was an influential work of architecture in mid-17th century Europe. At Vaux-le-Vicomte, the architect Louis Le Vau, the landscape architect André le Nôtre, and the painter-decorator Charles Le Brun worked together on a large-scale project for the first time. Their collaboration marked the beginning of the 'Louis XIV style' combining architecture, interior design and landscape design. The garden's pronounced visual axis is an example of this style.

To secure the necessary grounds for the elaborate plans for Vaux-le-Vicomte’s garden and castle, Fouquet purchased and demolished three villages. The displaced villagers were then employed in the upkeep and maintenance of the gardens. It was said to have employed eighteen thousand workers and cost as much as 16 million livres. The château and its patron became for a short time a focus for fine feasts, literature and arts. The poet La Fontaine and the playwright Molière were among the artists close to Fouquet. At the inauguration of Vaux-le-Vicomte, a Molière play was performed, along with a dinner event organized by François Vatel, and an impressive firework show.

After Fouquet was arrested and imprisoned for life, and his wife exiled, Vaux-le-Vicomte was placed under sequestration. The king seized, confiscated or purchased 120 tapestries, the statues, and all the orange trees from Vaux-le-Vicomte. He then sent the team of artists (Le Vau, Le Nôtre and Le Brun) to design what would be a much larger project than Vaux-le-Vicomte, the palace and gardens of Versailles.

The Marshal Villars became the new owner without first seeing the chateau. In 1764, the Marshal's son sold the estate to the Duke of Praslin, whose descendants would maintain the property for over a century. It is sometimes mistakenly reported that the château was the scene of a murder in 1847, when duke Charles de Choiseul-Praslin, killed his wife in her bedroom, but this did not happen at Vaux-le-Vicomte but at the Paris residence of the Duke.

In 1875, after thirty years of neglect, the estate was sold to Alfred Sommier in a public auction. The château was empty, some of the outbuildings had fallen into ruin, and the famous gardens were totally overgrown. The huge task of restoration and refurbishment began under the direction of the architect Gabriel-Hippolyte Destailleur, assisted by the landscape architect Elie Lainé. When Sommier died in 1908, the château and the gardens had recovered their original appearance. His son, Edme Sommier, and his daughter-in-law completed the task. Today, his descendants continue to preserve the château, which remains privately owned by Patrice and Cristina de Vogüé, the Count and Countess de Vogüé. It is now administered by their three sons Alexandre, Jean-Charles and Ascanio de Vogüé. Recognized by the state as a monument historique, it is open to the public regularly.

Architecture

The chateau is situated near the northern end of a 1.5-km long north-south axis with the entrance front facing north. Its elevations are perfectly symmetrical to either side of this axis. Somewhat surprisingly the interior plan is also nearly completely symmetrical with few differences between the eastern and western halves. The two rooms in the center, the entrance vestibule to the north and the oval salon to the south, were originally an open-air loggia, dividing the chateau into two distinct sections. The interior decoration of these two rooms was therefore more typical of an outdoor setting. Three sets of three arches, those on the entrance front, three more between the vestibule and the salon, and the three leading from the salon to the garden are all aligned and permitted the arriving visitor to see through to the central axis of the garden even before entering the chateau. The exterior arches could be closed with iron gates, and only later were they filled in with glass doors and the interior arches with mirrored doors. Since the loggia divided the building into two halves, there are two symmetrical staircases on either side of it, rather than a single staircase. The rooms in the eastern half of the house were intended for the use of the king, those in the western were for Fouquet. The provision of a suite of rooms for the king was normal practice in aristocratic houses of the time, since the king travelled frequently.

Another surprising feature of the plan is the thickness of the main body of the building (corps de logis), which consists of two rows of rooms running east and west. Traditionally the middle of the corps de logis of French chateaux consisted of a single row of rooms. Double-thick corps de logis had already been used in hôtels particuliers in Paris, including Le Vau's Hôtel Tambonneau, but Vaux was the first chateau to incorporate this change. Even more unusual, the main rooms are all on the ground floor rather than the first floor (the traditional piano nobile). This accounts for the lack of a grand staircase or a gallery, standard elements of most contemporary chateaux. Also noteworthy are corridors in the basement and on the first floor which run the length of house providing privacy to the rooms they access. Up to the middle of the 17th century, corridors were essentially unknown. Another feature of the plan, the four pavilions, one at each corner of the building, is more conventional.

Vaux-le-Vicomte was originally planned to be constructed in brick and stone, but after the mid-century, as the middle classes began to imitate this style, aristocratic circles began using stone exclusively. Rather late in the design process, Fouquet and Le Vau switched to stone, a decision that may have been influenced by the use of stone at François Mansart's Château de Maisons. The service buildings flanking the large avant-cour to the north of the house remained in brick and stone, and other structures preceding them were in rubble-stone and plaster, a social ranking of building materials that would be common in France for a considerable length of time thereafter.

The main chateau is constructed entirely on a moated platform, reached via two bridges, both aligned with the central axis and placed on the north and south sides. The moat is a picturesque holdover from medieval fortified residences, and is again a feature that Le Vau may have borrowed from Maisons. The moat at Vaux may also have been inspired by the previous chateau on the site, which Le Vau's work replaced.

Gardens

The château rises on an elevated platform in the middle of the woods and marks the border between unequal spaces, each treated in a different way. This effect is more distinctive today, as the woodlands are mature, than it was in the seventeenth century when the site had been farmland, and the plantations were new.

Le Nôtre's garden was the dominant structure of the great complex, stretching nearly a mile and a half (3 km), with a balanced composition of water basins and canals contained in stone curbs, fountains, gravel walks, and patterned parterres that remains more coherent than the vast display Le Nôtre was to create at Versailles.

Le Nôtre created a magnificent scene to be viewed from the house, using the laws of perspective. Le Notre used the natural terrain to his advantage. He placed the canal at the lowest part of the complex, thus hiding it from the main perspectival point of view. Past the canal, the garden ascends a large open lawn and ends with the Hercules column added in the 19th century. Shrubberies provided a picture frame to the garden that also served as a stage for royal fêtes.

From the top of the grand staircase, this gives the impression that the entire garden is revealed in one single glance. Initially, the view consists of symmetrical rows of shrubbery, avenues, fountains, statues, flowers and other pieces developed to imitate nature – these elements exemplify the Baroque desire to mold nature to fit its wishes, thus using nature to imitate nature. The centerpiece is a large reflecting pool flanked by grottos holding statues in their many niches. The grand sloping lawn is not visible until one begins to explore the garden, when the viewer is made aware of the optical elements involved and discovers that the garden is much larger than it looks.