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 the rule of Zacharias of Hradec in the 2nd half of the 16th century. At the beginning of the 19th century Telč played an important role in the entire south-west region of Moravia, which was still growing with the arrival of the railway. Because the historical centre of the city, surrounded by fish ponds and city gates, has retained its unique shape over the centuries, in 1992 it was inscribed in the UNESCO List, which brought with it increased interest and a subsequent influx of tourists from around the world.
Besides the monumental 17th-century Renaissance château with an English-style park (a rebuilding of original Gothic castle), the most significant sight is the town square, a unique complex of long urban plaza with well-conserved Renaissance and Baroque houses with high gables and arcades.
The Gothic castle was built in the second half of the 14th century. 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, the façade decorated with sgraffito, and the state apartments and living quarters received stucco ornamentation together with trompe l'oeil and chiaroscuro paintings in 1553. The counter-reformation brought the Jesuits to the town, who built the church of Name of Jesus in 1666-1667, according to the plans of Domenico Orsi. The column of the Virgin and the fountain in the centre of the square date from the 18th century.
The Abbey of Saint-Etienne, also known as Abbaye aux Hommes ('Men"s Abbey'), is a former monastery dedicated to Saint Stephen (Saint Étienne). It is considered, along with the neighbouring Abbaye aux Dames ('Ladies" Abbey'), to be one of the most notable Romanesque buildings in Normandy. Like all the major abbeys in Normandy, it was Benedictine.
Lanfranc, before being an Archbishop of Canterbury, was abbot of Saint-Etienne. Built in Caen stone during the 11th century, the two semi-completed churches stood for many decades in competition. An important feature added to both churches in about 1120 was the ribbed vault, used for the first time in France. The two abbey churches are considered forerunners of the Gothic architecture. The original Romanesque apse was replaced in 1166 by an early Gothic chevet, complete with rosette windows and flying buttresses. Nine towers and spires were added in the 13th century. The interior vaulting shows a similar progression, beginning with early sexpartite vaulting (using circular ribs) in the nave and progressing to quadipartite vaults (using pointed ribs) in the sanctuary.
The two monasteries were finally donated by William the Conqueror and his wife, Matilda of Flanders, as penalty for their marriage against the Pope"s ruling. William was buried here; Matilda was buried in the Abbaye aux Dames. Unfortunately William"s original tombstone of black marble, the same kind as Matilda"s in the Abbaye aux Dames, was destroyed by the Calvinist iconoclasts in the 16th century and his bones scattered.
As a consequence of the Wars of Religion, the high lantern tower in the middle of the church collapsed and was never rebuilt. The Benedictine abbey was suppressed during the French Revolution and the abbey church became a parish church. From 1804 to 1961, the abbey buildings accommodated a prestigious high school, the Lycée Malherbe. During the Normandy Landings in 1944, inhabitants of Caen found refuge in the church; on the rooftop there was a red cross, made with blood on a sheet, to show that it was a hospital (to avoid bombings).