Magdalenenberg is considered the largest tumulus from the Hallstatt period (Iron Age) in Central Europe with a volume of 33.000 cubic meters. The central tomb, where an early Celtic Prince was buried, has been dendrochronologically dated to 616 BC. The mound, which is still distinctly silhouetted against the landscape, once possessed a height of 10–12 m (now about 8 m) and a diameter of 104 meters. Little is known about the people who erected it, and current research focusses on the identification of their settlement. In the decades after the Prince's death, 126 further graves were mounted concentrically around the central tomb. At around 500 BC, this tomb was plundered by grave robbers, whose wooden spades were later found by archaeologists.
During the Middle Ages and the Early Modern period, the Magdalenenberg was still seen as a significant landmark, although knowledge about its former purpose had been lost. In the 1640s, when Villingen was shaken by a series of Witch trials, several women confessed under torture to have danced with the devil on the top of the hill.
Archaeologists began to be interested in the site in as early as the 1880s. In 1890, a team led by forest official Hubert Ganter dug a cone from the top of the hill into the central tomb, expecting to find hidden treasures. However, because of the ancient robbery of the tomb, only few finds turned up. Among those were parts of a wooden carriage, the Prince's bones, and the skeleton of a young pig.
From 1970 to 1973, the archaeologist Konrad Spindler led another scientific exploration, now not only focussing on the central tomb, but on the surrounding graves as well. By excavating the whole hill, all 127 graves could be explored and finds like bronze daggers, spearheads, an iberian belt hook and a precious amber necklace were unearthed. Some of those objects are proof for trade connections to the Mediterranean area and the eastern alpine region, others allow rare insights into the Celtic burial rites. They are now on display in the Franziskanermuseum (Franciscan Museum) in Villingen, along with the Prince's wooden burial chamber (one of the largest wooden objects from the era in any museum).
Since 2011, the Magdalenenberg attracted new international attention as the possible site of an early moon calendar. The archaeologist Allard Mees of the Romano-Germanic Central Museum (Mainz) suggested that the alignment of the graves represents the stellar constellation at the time of their erection. Another part of his theory is based on large wooden poles that were found inside the hill and whose function remains a mystery. He interprets them as markers directing to the position of the lunar standstill, thus allowing the Celts to prognose lunar eclipses. His theory is hotly debated among scholars and has been criticized by some for lacking scientific evidence, while others welcomed the new approach.
Since September 2014, a new hiking trail called 'Keltenpfad' (Celtic Path) connects the Magdalenenberg with the Franziskanermuseum. Along the road, panels inform about the site's history and significance. In this context, some of the wooden poles were reconstructed at their historical position.References:
Kroměříž stands on the site of an earlier ford across the River Morava. The gardens and castle of Kroměříž are an exceptionally complete and well-preserved example of a European Baroque princely residence and its gardens and described as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The first residence on the site was founded by bishop Stanislas Thurzo in 1497. The building was in a Late Gothic style, with a modicum of Renaissance detail. During the Thirty Years' War, the castle was sacked by the Swedish army (1643).
It was not until 1664 that a bishop from the powerful Liechtenstein family charged architect Filiberto Lucchese with renovating the palace in a Baroque style. The chief monument of Lucchese's work in Kroměříž is the Pleasure Garden in front of the castle. Upon Lucchese's death in 1666, Giovanni Pietro Tencalla completed his work on the formal garden and had the palace rebuilt in a style reminiscent of the Turinese school to which he belonged.
After the castle was gutted by a major fire in March 1752, Bishop Hamilton commissioned two leading imperial artists, Franz Anton Maulbertsch and Josef Stern, arrived at the residence in order to decorate the halls of the palace with their works. In addition to their paintings, the palace still houses an art collection, generally considered the second finest in the country, which includes Titian's last mythological painting, The Flaying of Marsyas. The largest part of the collection was acquired by Bishop Karel in Cologne in 1673. The palace also contains an outstanding musical archive and a library of 33,000 volumes.
UNESCO lists the palace and garden among the World Heritage Sites. As the nomination dossier explains, 'the castle is a good but not outstanding example of a type of aristocratic or princely residence that has survived widely in Europe. The Pleasure Garden, by contrast, is a very rare and largely intact example of a Baroque garden'. Apart from the formal parterres there is also a less formal nineteenth-century English garden, which sustained damage during floods in 1997.
Interiors of the palace were extensively used by Miloš Forman as a stand-in for Vienna's Hofburg Imperial Palace during filming of Amadeus (1984), based on the life of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, who actually never visited Kroměříž. The main audience chamber was also used in the film Immortal Beloved (1994), in the piano concerto scene.