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.
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.