Střekov Castle (Schreckenstein) is perched atop a cliff above the River Elbe, near the city of Ústí nad Labem. It was built in 1316 for John of Luxembourg, the father of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV, to guard an important trade route to Germany. After changing hands several times, the castle was acquired by the Lobkowicz family in 1563. Its strategic importance led to occupations by Imperial Habsburg, Saxon, and Swedish forces during the Thirty Years' War, as well as successive sieges by Austrian and Prussian armies during the Seven Years' War.
Although Střekov Castle was heavily damaged during those conflicts and abandoned as a military installation by the end of the 18th century, the 1800s saw many poets and artists visiting the castle, drawn by a new trend of interest in romantic ruins. Goethe declared the view from the castle's position above the Elbe to be the most beautiful in Central Europe, while Richard Wagner's opera Tannhäuser was supposedly inspired by his visit to Strěkov. The castle was confiscated by the Nazi regime and later the Communist government, but was restituted to the Lobkowicz family in the early 1990s.
Střekov Castle is divided into two sections connected by an arched bridge spanning a natural moat— an unusual style for the 14th century, when it was first built. The castle’s semiround bastions, inspired by French architecture, are possibly the first example of that type of defensive design in Bohemia. The connecting round tower, a smaller tower guarding the castle entrance, and an irregular oblong section of the castle date back to the very earliest period of construction.References:
Ceský Sternberk Castle is an early Gothic castle which was constructed, named and still owned by members of the same family. Today it is a residence that bears a long historical and architectural heritage and represents an attractive tourist destination open to the public. It is considered one of the best preserved Gothic Bohemian castles.
The castle was initially built in 1241 by Zdeslav of Divisov, later called Zdeslav Sternberg. The development of new firearms in the 14th century posed an unexpected threat to the defensibility of the castle. Its 13th century architects hadn't foreseen the danger of long-range firearms and its reinforcement became a necessity. During this period the Ceský Sternberk castle's fortifications were improved through the construction in the north of a three-story tower, which was connected to the castle by a rampart. In 1467 the castle was seized by the royal armies of George of Podébrady. Later, the ruined castle was regained by Sternberk's aristocracy, who, by the turn of the 15th to 16th century, had reconstructed the castle, renewed its defensive system and expanded it with the construction of a new cylindrical tower in the south and the Dungeon in the north. The castle managed to survive the looting of the rebels in 1627, during the Thirty Years' War. With the death of Jan Václav in 1712, the Holicý branch of the Sternberg family died out and its ownership passed to other families, who in 1751 built the lower palace next to the surrounding wall.
The ownership of the castle was returned to the Sternberg family in 1841 when Zdenék of Sternberg from the Konopisté branch of the family bought it. It remained in Sternberg's ownership until 1949 when it was nationalized by the Communist government of the Republic of Czechoslovakia. After the fall of Communism and the Velvet Revolution, in 1992, Ceský Sternberk castle returned to Jirí's son, the count Zdenék Sternberg, the current owner of the castle.
Ceský Sternberk Castle was originally built as a Gothic castle. Eventually it underwent several periods of reconstructions and further fortification and the Gothic architectural features were in parts concealed by the new reconstructions. Especially the interiors of the castle were realized under the Baroque and Rococo styles. In 1760, the master Carlo Brentano performed the elaborate stuccoing and renderings of the halls' interiors. The castle offers a rare collection of 545 copper engravings, depicting the entire history of the Thirty Years' War. Also, historical weapons and hunting trophies are exhibited within the castle's halls.