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 themselves in history as the birthplace of the Czech national composer, Bedrich Smetana. On the elongated square, which is one of the largest in the Czech Republic, stands a town hall of Gothic origin and a series of Renaissance and baroque houses, many with arcades and vaulted groundfloor rooms. One of the most important of these is the House At the Knights with its remarkable facade. In the past the town was also a significant religious centre; it was in Litomysl in 1344 that the second bishopric to be established in Bohemia was founded.
The cultural traditions of the town go much beyond regional and national frontiers. The exquisite interiors of the castle, especially the baroque castle theatre, the amphitheatre in the castle park and Smetanas house, all offer varied programmes of concerts and theatrical performances and thus emrich the life of the town throughout the year. The chateau complex was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1999.References:
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).