Chotěšov Abbey is a former Premonstratensian nunnery founded between 1202 and 1210 by the Blessed Hroznata and settled by nuns from Doksany Abbey. The new foundation soon acquired wealth and influence, to the envy of the surrounding lordships and territories.
In 1421, during the Hussite Wars the nunnery was occupied and destroyed by a Hussite army under Jan Žižka. During the Thirty Years' War, in 1618, the nunnery was again occupied and plundered.
Between 1737 and 1756 the abbey was extensively rebuilt to Baroque designs by Jakub Auguston. On 21 January 1782 however it was dissolved under the rationalist reforms of the Emperor Joseph II. The lands and buildings were bought in 1822 by the Prince of Thurn und Taxis
In 1878 part of the premises were leased to the Order of the Visitation of Holy Mary, also known as the Visitandines or Salesian Sisters, for refugees of their Order from Moselweiss near Koblenz in Germany. They established a community and a girls' school here, which rapidly became well-known, particularly for the study of languages.
After World War I a group of sisters returned to Germany and set up a community in Marchtal Abbey. At the beginning of World War II the school was closed and instead the sisters took over the running of a home for elderly women which was established in part of the premises. All German sisters were obliged to leave the abbey and the country in 1945 after the end of World War II, leaving about 30 Czech sisters to run the home.
All occupants of the abbey were evicted in 1950, when the abbey was requisitioned as accommodation for the Czech army until 1975 when the army left, leaving an estimated 10 million crowns' worth of damage for which compensation has never been received. The buildings have stood empty ever since.
After some years under the control of government agencies, in 1991 ownership of the buildings was divided between the town of Chotěšov and the Visitandine nuns at Chlumec, whose share has since also passed to the town.
The abandoned buildings are in part in a state approaching the derelict and are threatened with collapse, despite their architectural and historical value and the great efforts of the local community to save them.References:
The Church of St Eustace was built between 1532-1632. St Eustace"s is considered a masterpiece of late Gothic architecture. The church’s reputation was strong enough of the time for it to be chosen as the location for a young Louis XIV to receive communion. Mozart also chose the sanctuary as the location for his mother’s funeral. Among those baptised here as children were Richelieu, Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson, future Madame de Pompadour and Molière, who was also married here in the 17th century. The last rites for Anne of Austria, Turenne and Mirabeau were pronounced within its walls. Marie de Gournay is buried there.
The origins of Saint Eustache date back to 13th century. The church became a parish church in 1223, thanks to a man named Jean Alais who achieved this by taxing the baskets of fish sold nearby, as granted by King Philip Augustus. To thank such divine generosity, Alais constructed a chapel dedicated to Sainte-Agnès, a Roman martyr. The construction of the current church began in 1532, the work not being finally completed until 1637. The name of the church refers to Saint Eustace, a Roman general of the second century AD who was burned, along with his family, for converting to Christianity, and it is believed that it was the transfer of a relic of Saint Eustache from the Abbey to Saint-Denis to the Church of Saint Eustache which resulted in its naming. Jeanne Baptiste d"Albert de Luynes was baptised here.
According to tourist literature on-site, during the French Revolution the church, like most churches in Paris, was desecrated, looted, and used for a time as a barn. The church was restored after the Revolution had run its course and remains in use today. Several impressive paintings by Rubens remain in the church today. Each summer, organ concerts commemorate the premieres of Berlioz’s Te Deum and Liszt’s Christus here in 1886.
The church is an example of a Gothic structure clothed in Renaissance detail. The church is relatively short in length at 105m, but its interior is 33.45m high to the vaulting. At the main façade, the left tower has been completed in Renaissance style, while the right tower remains a stump. The front and rear aspects provide a remarkable contrast between the comparatively sober classical front and the exuberant rear, which integrates Gothic forms and organization with Classical details. The L"écoute sculpture by Henri de Miller appears outside the church, to the south. A Keith Haring sculpture stands in a chapel of the church.
The Chapel of the Virgin was built in 1640 and restored from 1801 to 1804. It was inaugurated by Pius VII on the 22nd of December, 1804 when he came to Paris for the coronation of Napoleon. The apse chapel, with a ribbed cul-de-four vault, has at its centre a sculpture of the Virgin and Child of Jean-Baptiste Pigalle that the painter Thomas Couture highlighted by three large paintings.
With 8,000 pipes, the organ is reputed to be the largest pipe organ in France, surpassing the organs of Saint Sulpice and Notre Dame de Paris. The organ originally constructed by P.-A. Ducroquet was powerful enough for the premiere of Hector Berlioz" titanic Te Deum to be performed at St-Eustache in 1855.