So Many Churches And Castles In The Czech Republic
On our visit to Central Europe we had many chances to visit the churches and castles in the Czech Republic. We started with the biggest castle complex on our stay in Prague. When we headed south to Cesky Krumlov, we enjoyed a constant view of the towering castle and the churches on the hills in that great medieval town. A day trip further south let us see the summer palace of the Rozmberk family and their beautiful Vyssi Brod Cistercian Abbey. The last of the castles in the Czech Republic that we visited was the stunning Lednice castle built by the House of Lichtenstein.
Most of the castles in the Czech Republic are no longer in private use. Some of the castle buildings have been turned into working buildings for the government. Some have portions that have been converted to museums.
Most of the interiors of the castles in the Czech Republic have not been renovated or decorated to show life at the time the castles were in use. Most have little to see inside. It was certainly not like visiting the magnificent palaces of St Petersburg in Russia. But we did find some exceptions. The museum at Cesky Krumlov provided a brief glimpse of family life and history. The castle at Lednice had a stunning interior and exterior view of castle life.
The large churches we saw were ornate inside and out. But most churches stood empty with few people attending services. At one point, almost all of the country was Catholic. But that number steadily dropped with the religious persecution through the world wars and the rein of Communism. On a recent census, only about 30% of people stated any religion at all. We were told that the Czech Republic today has some of the highest numbers of atheists, agnostics and people with religious indifference of any nation in the world. But we could not pass visiting the stunning churches on our tour of the castles of the Czech Republic.
We Started At The Castle In Prague
Our first stop in the Czech Republic was in Prague. Everywhere in the city we saw the Prague Castle and St Vitrus Cathedral high on the hill. We saw it from different perspectives and at different times of day.
One day we walked around the outside of the massive castle complex. Many of the buildings are being used as government offices today. The buildings were quite distinctive, many decorated on the outside in a traditional sgraffito style. We would see this style on many stops in the Czech Republic. The most beautiful buildings we saw were in the small town of Slavonice!
The main gate into the castle grounds is manned by guards. We did not see a ceremonial changing of the guards as we saw on visits to other major castle grounds.
When we left the Prague Castle we wandered down the hill through the Wenceslas Vineyard. We got a great view back over the city through the vineyard.
The Prague Castle is the perfect spot to start a tour of the castles in the Czech Republic.
The St Vitrus Cathedral Dominated The Prague Skyline
The Vitrus Cathedral dominates the view of the Prague Castle when seen from afar anywhere in Prague. It was great to walk around this beautiful church.
The inside view of the castle did not have much to see. But we were glad we saw the inside of the St Vitrus Cathedral. It was even more impressive up close. I walked mesmerized from stained glass window to stained glass window. I was not sure what stories they were telling but they were beautiful.
We started with the biggest of the castles in the Czech Republic on our first stop in Prague. The Prague Castle and St Vitrus Cathedral set the bar high. But we were not disappointed as we continued to explore the others.
A Walk Around The Medieval Castle Of Cesky Krumlov
We stayed in the medieval town of Cesky Krumlov for 3 nights. From all over this quaint small town we saw the colourful painted tower of the Cesky Krumlov Castle. The original Gothic castle was founded by the Lords of Krumlov in the thirteenth century. The Rozmberk family inherited the castle and surrounding areas from the Lords of Krumlov in 1302. This began a long period where the Rozmberk family dominated the history of this region. We saw many former Rozmberk properties as we toured through Bohemian Czech.
We started our tour of the Cesky Krumlov Castle from the main town and walked up though a succession of courtyards. When we crossed the first bridge everyone crowded around the wall to look down in the moat. There was one bear still living in the moat. Most of the day she stayed under the bridge but one early morning we caught sight of her.
The outside of the buildings were decorated with frescos. Where the fresco was still visible or where there was historical information about the fresco design, the frescos had been restored. But in many places blank spots remained.
We walked to the furthest end and looked out over the viewpoint. It was a good view of the small medieval town of Cesky Krumlov.
We had now visited both the biggest and second biggest of the castles in the Czech Republic.
A Look At Life In The Castle At Cesky Krumlov
There was a small museum at the Cesky Krumlov Castle. Several of the rooms were set up as portrait galleries to show the various people who had lived in the castle. Documents showed the history of the families. We saw the five-petalled rose that was the coat-of-arms of the Rozmberk family.
Several of the rooms showed the living spaces. We were quite interested to see many different designs of the ceramic fireplaces. We first saw these when we visited Russia on our Baltic cruise.
One room was dedicated to medieval weapons. And another showed off the musical instruments of the time.
Even though we did not get to see the inside of the castle renovated, it was great to get a view of the life inside of one of the castles in the Czech Republic.
The Churches of Cesky Krumlov
The castle tower and church spires stood as prominent landmarks in the small town of Cesky Krumlov.
We were not surprised to find a St Vitrus Cathedral in Cesky Krumlov. It stood high on a hill overlooking the town.
One day as we wandered in Cesky Krumlov we went up to the Cathedral. We walked around to the back and found a small courtyard with several burial markers.
When we went inside we saw an ornately decorated church. Over the years of Rozmberk control, the church was continually renovated.
On another high spot in Cesky Krumlov we saw the St Jost Church. The distinctive green spires formed part of the magnificent skyline of this small medieval town. We did not get a chance to go into this church.
On our visit to Cesky Krumlov, we got a good look at the churches and castles in the Czech Republic.
Heading Into The Countryside
One day we headed off into the countryside from Cesky Krumlov. Our stop for lunch was in the small town of Rozmberk nad Vltavou. High above the town we saw the Rozmberk Castle that used to be the summer home for the family.
Our next stop was a large abbey complex in the process of being restored.
The Vyssi Brod Cistercian Abbey Grounds
The Rozmberk family also built the original Vyssi Brod Cistercian Abbey close by. It was a large property with many buildings, 12 farms, a water mill and a hospital. Work was being done to restore buildings.
As we walked up the hill we saw the first of many buildings that had exteriors in great shape. As we found in our travels through the Czech Republic, the outside decoration of buildings was stunning.
Our first view of the Vyssi Brod Cistercian Abbey left us wanting more.
The Church At the Vyssi Brod Cistercian Abbey
As with much of the church property in the Czech Republic, the abbey was taken over by the state during the Communist regime. Luckily some of the interior pieces were set aside during this time. During the Communist time, the abbey was only open as a gothic architecture museum and for organ music – not for religious services.
Services were started again in 1991 (two years after the Velvet Revolution ended Communist rule). When Communism collapsed, all church property was returned or the church was compensated for the value. Today services are held every day in Latin. On Sunday they are done in Czech. Today only 6 monks live in the gothic part of the restored buildings.
The church was restored about 5 yrs ago. It is in quite good shape and is a good representation of Gothic architecture. Some of the other buildings are being restored but not all. There is a plan to put in a B&B.
The French Gothic church was built in the standard shape of a Latin cross. The main high altar was built from wood. The centre painting behind the altar is actually four different paintings. They are changed 4 times a year linked to the liturgy.
The church has great acoustics. An opera singer once sang and brought the people to complete silence. We were led through a short rendition of Ave Maria by one of our group.
On our stay in Cesky Krumlov, it was great to do a day trip to see the church that served one of the families and castles of the Czech Republic.
The Amazing Library
We were led through a series of rooms in the library building. The first room we visited was a large galley of gothic art from the 15th and 16th centuries. There were 150 original paintings in the room and a number of statues.
We stopped at a painting of Mary with 2 angels. You could only see the angels if you looked from below the picture. They were created almost like with pinholes to create an impression of angels.
From there we moved through a corridor filled with books to see two large library rooms. There were about 70,000 documents stored here. Some are from the 800s. The documents cover a wide range from philosophy, medical, mathematics and all disciplines. The documents are in multiple languages but the majority are in Latin and German. The largest hall contained just bibles and theological books.
Both rooms were beautiful with exquisite ceiling paintings. The signs on the outside showed the ceilings but they did not do full justice to beauty of the ceilings.
It was great to get a view of the Vyssi Brod Cistercian Abbey as part of our visit to the castles in the Czech Republich. It was a great trip on our visit to Cesky Krumlov and one that many people never see.
The Beautiful Castle At Lednice
After our stay in Slavonice, we had several stops along the way to Bratislava in Slovakia. Our afternoon walking tour provided a last view of castles in the Czech Republic in the Moravian region in Lednice. As we approached the Lednice Castle, I was immediately reminded of the castles we had seen on our Baltic cruise into St Petersburg and along the north coast of France.
It was a massive property. As we entered the gates we got a view of a church and castle that were in remarkable condition. Intricate detail was visible everywhere.
Sculptured gardens surrounded the castle. And in the middle of the gardens there was a large greenhouse.
The outside of the Lednice Castle was one of the big surprises on our visits to the castles of the Czech Republic. But the delight was not finished.
The Inside Beauty Of The Lednice Castle
Most of the castles in the Czech Republic that we visited were mostly views from the outside. In many cases, the insides had not been restored and were used for administration buildings. But the Lednice Castle was the beautiful exception. As soon as we entered the inside of the Lednice Castle, we knew we were in for a treat. Ornate carved wood, sparkling chandeliers and walls of hunting trophies filled the early halls.
We walked through many rooms that showed life in the castle. We saw more of the ceramic fireplaces we had admired on our visit inside the Cesky Krumlov Museum. The furniture was beautiful and the restored tapestries colourful. One whole room was devoted to suits of armour. Another room showed the family history.
The large salons were fully restored. An intricately carved staircase drew our attention. Ceilings were works of wood art. A musician played a period piece on a guitar in one room. It was easy to imagine the grand balls of the past.
The inside of the Lednice Castle was a delightful treat. It was a great stop on our travel to Bratslava and a beautiful way to finish our view of the castles of the Czech Republic.
A Small Taste Of The Castles In The Czech Republic
We started our view of the castles in the Czech Republic with the biggest on our visit to Prague. We then saw the second largest castle in the small town of Cesky Krumlov. As we toured the countryside we saw other castle properties. The library at the Vyssi Brod Cistercian Abbey was beautiful to see. And the Lednice Castle rivalled many we have visited around the world.
As we travelled around the Czech Republic on our group tour with Overseas Adventure Travel (OAT), we got great insight into the more modern times since the first World War. Our visit to see the castles of the Czech Republic gave us an interesting look into the more ancient history of the Czech Republic. But these historical properties and many families were also affected by the more modern history. Most of these properties never were put back in private use when returned to the families. There was just too much work and cost to do the restorations. So it is great that these are now being restored and are now open to the public to view.
Did you see the castles of Bohemia in the Czech Republic? What was your favourite?
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