National Cultural Monuments of the 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

Historic Centre of Telc

Telč is situated at the south-west tip of Moravia, half-way between Prague and Vienna. According to legend the foundation of the city is associated with the victory of the Moravian Prince Otto II over the Bohemian King Břetislav in 1099. It was this victory that meant the building of a chapel, later to become a church, and a settlement which forms today’s Old Town. The city saw its greatest period of expansion under ...
Founded: c. 1099 | Location: Telč, Czech Republic

Saint James' Church

Saint James' church was founded for German inhabitants who lived in this part of Brno in the 13th century. There is visible the painted heraldry of mother superior from Oslavany Cistercian monastery with the date 1220 on the vault of the presbytery. This date recalls the consecration of the smaller Romanesque church that once stood here before this late Gothic St. James's church and it used to serve Flemish and German col ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Brno, Czech Republic

St. Bartholomew Cathedral

The cathedral of St. Bartholomew is a Gothic church located on the Main Square in Plzeň. It was probably established together with the city around the year 1295. The church became a cathedral in 1993, when the Pilsner diocese was created. The exact date of the start of its construction is not known, but the oldest extant allusion comes from the year 1307, when the townsman Wolfram Zwinillinger bequeathed the malt an ...
Founded: 1295 | Location: Plzeň, Czech Republic

Cathedral of St. Peter and Paul

The Cathedral of St. Peter and Paul is one of the dominating features of the city of Brno. The origins of the church on Petrov dates back to the 1170s. In the Gothic period the church was rebuilt several times. In one of the reconstructions, around 1500, the original consecration to St. Peter was added to by the consecration to St. Paul. In 1296 a collegiate chapter was established at the church. During the Thirty Years&r ...
Founded: 1170s/1743 | Location: Brno, Czech Republic

Holy Trinity Column

The Holy Trinity Column in Olomouc is a Baroque monument built in 1716–1754 in honour of God. The main purpose was a spectacular celebration of Catholic Church and faith, partly caused by feeling of gratitude for ending a plague, which struck Moravia between 1713 and 1715. The column was also understood to be an expression of local patriotism, since all artists and master craftsmen working on this monument were Olom ...
Founded: 1716-1754 | Location: Olomouc, 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

Lednice Castle

The first historical record of Lednice locality dates from 1222. At that time there stood a Gothic fort with courtyard, which was lent by Czech King Václav I to Austrian nobleman Sigfried Sirotek in 1249. At the end of the 13th century the Liechtensteins, originally from Styria, became holders of all of Lednice and of nearby Mikulov. They gradually acquired land on both sides of the Moravian-Austrian border. Membe ...
Founded: 1846-1858 | Location: Lednice, 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

St. Maurice Church

St. Maurice Church is one the most precious buildings of the late Gothic style in Moravia. The three-naved structure has a cross vaulting dating from the middle of the 14th century. A more advanced net vault may be seen in the presbytery. Two asymmetric prismatic towers were built on the western facade. In the western part of the church there is a unique double spiral staircase. The real gem is the late Gothic sculpture ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Olomouc, Czech Republic

Church of Our Lady

The Church of the Assumption of Our Lady and Saint John the Baptist is a Gothic and Baroque Gothic church in Kutná Hora. It is listed in the UNESCO World Heritage List together with the Chapel of All Saints and its ossuary and other monuments in Kutná Hora. It is one of the most important Czech Gothic buildings built in the time of the very last Přemyslids and also a very important and one of the oldest examples of the ...
Founded: c. 1300 | Location: Kutná Hora, Czech Republic

Litomysl Castle

The East Bohemian town of Litomyšl emerged in the 13th century on the site of an older fortified settlement on the Trstenice path - an important trading route linking Bohemia and Moravia. The dominant feature of Litomysl is the monumental Renaissance castle dating from the years 1568 - 1581. The buildings of the castle precincts are not only exceptional for their architectural refinement, but have also inscribed t ...
Founded: 1568-1581 | Location: Litomyšl, Czech Republic

Valtice Castle

The Chateau Valtice belonged to Liechtenstein family from 1387 until 1945. There is one hundred impressive rooms in the four-wing building of the Chateau Valtice. The tour of the Baroque residence, surrounding park and a wine bar in the neighborhood takes at least half a day, and it is accessible only seventeen rooms! The furniture is in the Baroque and Rococo style and it creates a perfect imagine of a life of the rich n ...
Founded: 17th century | Location: Valtice, Czech Republic

Hluboká Castle

Hluboká Castle (Schloss Frauenberg) is considered one of the most beautiful castles in the Czech Republic. In the second half of the 13th century, a Gothic castle was built at the site. During its history, the castle was rebuilt several times. It was first expanded during the Renaissance period, then rebuilt into a Baroque castle at the order of Adam Franz von Schwarzenberg in the beginning of the 18th century. It reache ...
Founded: 1840-1871 | Location: Hluboká nad Vltavou, Czech Republic

Villa Tugendhat

The Tugendhat Villa in Brno, designed by the architect Mies van der Rohe, is an outstanding example of the international style in the modern movement in architecture as it developed in Europe in the 1920s. Its particular value lies in the application of innovative spatial and aesthetic concepts that aim to satisfy new lifestyle needs by taking advantage of the opportunities afforded by modern industrial production. The vi ...
Founded: 1928-1930 | Location: Brno, Czech Republic

Emmaus Monastery

The Emmaus monastery is an abbey established in 1347 in Prague. The area became the only Benedictine monastery of the Bohemian kingdom and all Slavic Europe. In the 1360s, the Cloisters of the Monastery were decorated with a cycle of 85 wall Gothic paintings with parallels from the Old and New Testaments. The Gothic cloisters also feature original faded frescoes with bits of Pagan symbolism from the 14th century. The mon ...
Founded: 1347 | Location: Prague, 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 fami ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Křivoklát, Czech Republic

Brevnov Monastery

Břevnov Monastery is a Benedictine archabbey founded by Saint Adalbert, the second Bishop of Prague, in 993 AD with the support of Duke Boleslav II of Bohemia. Hence the first Benedictine male monastery in Bohemia, it also has the oldest tradition of beer brewing in the Czech Republic, up to today, the Břevnovský Benedict beer is brewed here. The first monks descended form Niederaltaich Abbey in Bavaria, ...
Founded: 993 AD | Location: Prague, 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

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.