Františkovy Lázně is a spa town in the Karlovy Vary Region of the Czech Republic. Together with neighbouring Karlovy Vary and Mariánské Lázně, it is part of the renowned West Bohemian Spa Triangle. In 2021, the town became part of the transnational UNESCO World Heritage Site under the name 'Great Spa Towns of Europe'.
The salutary effects of the surrounding springs were known from the late 14th century on. The sources from which, according to ancient law, water was drafted and brought to the city, were first used locally for salutary purposes. Later, the water was also shipped in earthenware bottles and in 1700, it reportedly sold more water than all other spas in the Empire combined. About 1705, an inn was erected at the site of a mineral spring later known as Franzensquelle.
In 1793, the town was officially founded under the name Kaiser Franzensdorf, after Emperor Francis II, and later renamed Franzensbad, under which name it became a famous spa (Bad). The spa was founded by Eger-based doctor Bernhard Adler (1753–1810). He promoted the expansion of spa facilities and the accommodation for those seeking healing and promoted the transformation of the swampy moorland with paths and footbridges to well-known sources.
When in 1791 Adler had a pavilion and a water basin erected at the Franzensquelle, he sparked the Egerer Weibersturm ('Women's storm of Eger') by numerous women who earned their livelihood in the scooping, transport and sale of the water in Eger. Feeling their water-bearing rights threatened, they demolished his premises. The town council of Eger intervened and made the extension of Franzensbad as a health resort possible. The result was an extensive recreation area, with easy access from the city of Cheb. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was one of the most famous guests in the early days; his visits to Franzensbad with Johannes Urzidil were extensively reported in the book Goethe in Böhmen (1932, revised 1962 and 1965). Another famous visitor was Ludwig van Beethoven, who was accompanied by Antonia Brentano and her family.
During the 19th century, patients included numerous aristocrats, especially Russian nobles, and at the same time widely known doctors bolstered the reputation of Franzensbad as a therapeutic resort. Franzensbad offered one of the first peat pulp baths in Europe, popular especially with female guests. A public spa house was built in 1827. The writer Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach portrayed her stay in her early work Aus Franzensbad in 1858. Other notable guests included Theodor Herzl (in 1904), Emperor Francis Joseph I of Austria and Archduke Charles I of Austria.
In 1862, Franzensbad became an autonomous municipality and obtained town privileges three years later. Until 1918 it was part of the Bohemian crown land of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy.
After World War I, the town's reputation began to fade. Then part of the new state of Czechoslovakia, the spa lost much of its patronage and was hit hard by the Great Depression of 1929. After World War II, the German-speaking population was expelled under the Beneš decrees; many of them settled in Bayreuth in the German state of Bavaria. The spa, officially renamed Františkovy Lázně in Czech, was nationalized under the rule of the Communist Party. After the Velvet Revolution of 1989, a stock company was established to revive the status of Františkovy Lázně as a venue for international guests.
The local natural mineral water has a relatively high content of dissolved carbon dioxide. The effects of the carbonic baths are shown in the better performance of the cardiovascular system, in the mild decrease of blood pressure in the pulse, in the lower occurrence of chronic inflammatory processes in the body, and also in terms of rheumatics, and in the improved blood circulation in tissues and the vegetative stabilisation.
The townscape of Františkovy Lázně is largely shaped by neoclassical and Belle Époque buildings of the Habsburg era, as well as by extended parks and gardens with numerous springs and bathhouses.
The Social House is the dominant feature of the spa centre. It was built in 1877 in neo-renaissance style. It is the venue of congresses, balls and other social events and the building also houses a casino.
Theatre of Božena Němcová was built in the current area in 1868. New theatre building was built in neoclassical style in 1927–1928 and interiors were decorated in Art Deco style.
The town has two museums: the Town Museum and small Museum of Motorcycles and Cars.References:
Built around AD 90 to entertain the legionaries stationed at the fort of Caerleon (Isca), the impressive amphitheatre was the Roman equivalent of today’s multiplex cinema. Wooden benches provided seating for up to 6,000 spectators, who would gather to watch bloodthirsty displays featuring gladiatorial combat and exotic wild animals.
Long after the Romans left, the amphitheatre took on a new life in Arthurian legend. Geoffrey of Monmouth, the somewhat imaginative 12th-century scholar, wrote in his History of the Kings of Britain that Arthur was crowned in Caerleon and that the ruined amphitheatre was actually the remains of King Arthur’s Round Table.
Today it is the most complete Roman amphitheatre in Britain.