Konopiště is a palace, which become famous as the last residence of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, heir of the Austro-Hungarian throne, whose assassination in Sarajevo triggered World War I. The bullet that killed him, fired by Gavrilo Princip, is now an exhibit at the castle's museum.
The castle was apparently established in the 1280s by Prague Bishop Tobiaš as a Gothic fortification with a rectangular plan and round towers protruding from the corners. Accounts show that the Benešévic family from nearby Benešov were the owners in 1318, and that in 1327 the castle passed into the hands of the Šternberks. In 1468 it was conquered by the troops of George of Poděbrady after a siege that lasted almost two years. In 1603 the estate was purchased by Dorota Hodějovská of Hodějov, who made Renaissance alterations to the old gothic fortification. The Hodějovský family fortified their property because of their active participation in the anti-Habsburg rebellion in 1620. Albrecht von Waldstein acquired the castle and after him it was passed to Adam Michna of Vacínov. Michna gained notoriety through his repression of the serfs, who revolted against him and conquered Konopiště in 1627. The Swedes occupied and plundered Konopiště in 1648, and the Vrtba family then purchased the dilapidated structure.
After 1725 they had it transformed into a Baroque style château. The drawbridge was replaced by a stone bridge, and near the east tower a new entrance was inserted in the wall. In 1746 the upper levels of four of the towers were destroyed and one tower was completely demolished. During repair of the interiors mythological and allegorical frescoes were painted on the ceilings of the great hall and marble fireplaces with carved decorations by Lazar Wildmann were created. Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria bought Konopiště in 1887, with his inheritance from the last reigning Duke of Modena, and he had it repaired between 1889 and 1894 by the architect Josef Mocker into a luxurious residence, suitable to the future Emperor, which he preferred to his official residence in Vienna. The extensive 225 ha English-style park, with terraces, a rose garden and statues, was established at the same time.
Konopiště has been open to the public since 1971. Visitors can observe the residential rooms of Franz Ferdinand who was also an enthusiastic hunter, a large collection of antlers, the third largest European collection of armoury and medieval weapons, a shooting hall with moving targets and a garden with Italian Renaissance statues and greenhouses.References:
The Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood is one of the main sights of St. Petersburg. The church was built on the site where Tsar Alexander II was assassinated and was dedicated in his memory. Construction began in 1883 under Alexander III, as a memorial to his father, Alexander II. Work progressed slowly and was finally completed during the reign of Nicholas II in 1907. Funding was provided by the Imperial family with the support of many private donors.
Architecturally, the Cathedral differs from St. Petersburg's other structures. The city's architecture is predominantly Baroque and Neoclassical, but the Savior on Blood harks back to medieval Russian architecture in the spirit of romantic nationalism. It intentionally resembles the 17th-century Yaroslavl churches and the celebrated St. Basil's Cathedral in Moscow.
The Church contains over 7500 square metres of mosaics — according to its restorers, more than any other church in the world. The interior was designed by some of the most celebrated Russian artists of the day — including Viktor Vasnetsov, Mikhail Nesterov and Mikhail Vrubel — but the church's chief architect, Alfred Alexandrovich Parland, was relatively little-known (born in St. Petersburg in 1842 in a Baltic-German Lutheran family). Perhaps not surprisingly, the Church's construction ran well over budget, having been estimated at 3.6 million roubles but ending up costing over 4.6 million. The walls and ceilings inside the Church are completely covered in intricately detailed mosaics — the main pictures being biblical scenes or figures — but with very fine patterned borders setting off each picture.
In the aftermath of the Russian Revolution, the church was ransacked and looted, badly damaging its interior. The Soviet government closed the church in the early 1930s. During the Second World War when many people were starving due to the Siege of Leningrad by Nazi German military forces, the church was used as a temporary morgue for those who died in combat and from starvation and illness. The church suffered significant damage. After the war, it was used as a warehouse for vegetables, leading to the sardonic name of Saviour on Potatoes.
In July 1970, management of the Church passed to Saint Isaac's Cathedral (then used as a highly profitable museum) and proceeds from the Cathedral were funneled back into restoring the Church. It was reopened in August 1997, after 27 years of restoration, but has not been reconsecrated and does not function as a full-time place of worship; it is a Museum of Mosaics. Even before the Revolution it never functioned as a public place of worship; having been dedicated exclusively to the memory of the assassinated tsar, the only services were panikhidas (memorial services). The Church is now one of the main tourist attractions in St. Petersburg.