HRAD STRAKONICE : FRAGMENTS OF HISTORY

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Fragments of history

The area around the Otava River had been settled long before stone castles and tribune churches were built. The first Slavs came into the region in the 8th century.


At the Dawn of History

We can only guess what the medieval Strakonice Castle looked like but we know for certain that a document of Wenceslas I from 1235 undoubtedly mentions it. One of the Bavarian lords must have had a fortified mansion there at the time because he added the title “of Strakonice” to his name. Another preserved document from 1243 describes the castle’s appearance in the middle of the 13th century and states that Bavarian of Strakonice donated the church and the manor, except for his own house, to the knights of the Order of Saint John of Jerusalem.  The date given – the year 1243 – is the official date of the order’s arrival to the castle. Since then, the histories of the order and Strakonice Castle were closely connected for many centuries. The knights of Saint John – the Johanites – did not choose the castle to be their residence by chance. Their duty was, apart from military service, also to take care of pilgrims, especially the pilgrims heading to the Holy Land. They built a hospital on the banks of the Otava River, which provided the necessary water and took care of the pilgrims travelling on the long distance routes. One of them led from Prague to the Bavarian Danube Region, and there was another one from Pilsen to České Budějovice and Upper Austria.

 

The noble house of Bavor – founders of the castle  

Bavor I – the High Chamberlain of the Kingdom of Bohemia
The power of the Strakonice lords from the Bavarian family, with an arrow in the coat of arms, increased significantly at the turn of the 12th and 13th centuries and lasted for more than a hundred years. In the beginning, there was the Olomouc Bishop Bavarian, and a chamberlain of the same name, documented in his post from 1208 to 1224. The first verifiable Bavarian living in Strakonice was Bavarian I, most likely the son of the Olomouc chamberlain and his wife Bolemila.

Bavarian I is remembered in Strakonice as the nobleman who, as mentioned before, gave half of his castle and a major part of the adjacent lands to the Order of Saint John in 1243.

As legend has it, Bavor I was in the Holy Land in 1190 and promised that he would build a new convent for the Military Order of the Crusaders of the Red Star when he came home. We have a historical document evidencing this which dates back to 1225. Another document – confirmation – survived in which the Czech king, Ottokar I (1192-93, 1197-1230), confirms that Bolemila, Bavor’s wife, gave some villages to the Order of Malta. Another important year was 1243, when Bavor I gave the convent a church and house in Strakonice as well as the Lom, Ptákovice, Miloňovice, Radošovice, Sousedovice and Krty villages. Then the Order started to extend their property and bought other neighbouring villages.

Thanks to the Order, at the beginning of the 14th century Strakonice had not only a hospital but a school as well.

Bavor I was a mighty nobleman closely connected with the reigning Přemyslid dynasty. Even under the reign of Wenceslaus I he served as a royal steward until 1251. He was especially favoured by Ottokar II of Bohemia (Přemysl Otakar II), with whom Bavarian I had spent time from the half of the 13th century, the time when the young and ambitious Přemysl was still waiting for his throne.

His importance can also be proved by the fact that he was the attestant of the first three decrees of the newly crowned Ottokar II of Bohemia in November 1253. He was among the first mentioned on these documents together with Vítek of Hradec and the Zvíkov castle warden Konrád.

As a reward for his loyalty, he gained the highly important title of Summus Camerarius (the Royal Treasurer) on 9th July 1254 and thus Bavarian I became of very high social rank. He held this post until his death in 1260. The Royal Treasurer was one of the highest clerks at the royal court with judicial rights at provincial courts.


Bavor II – called the Great, the family’s growth in power
Both Bavarian I and later his son loyally served Ottokar II during his whole reign, even in the unsettled times of 1265 and 1276-78. Bavarian I also took part in the Battle of Kressenbrunn against the Hungarians in 1260, which was Ottokar II’s biggest military success. Bavarian I died shortly after the battle, in autumn of the same year.

His successor and heir was his son Bavarian II, sometimes referred to as Bavarian the Great. During his relatively short lifetime, the power of the Strakonice Bavarian family was significantly increased, reaching its peak under Bavarian III. Bavarian II married Ottokar II’s bastard daughter Agnes, so their children, Wenceslas II’s brothers and sisters-in-law, had partly Premyslid blood in their veins.

There is an interesting story behind the bastard children of Ottokar II. In 1252, the young king married the significantly older successor to the Austrian throne, Margaret of Austria. It was a marriage of convenience. However, the aging Margaret was not able, despite many years of trying, to give birth to an heir. According to the chronicler, she blamed her husband for not having children. Therefore, Ottokar II asked his wife to choose herself a woman for him among their servants and told her he would show her who is infertile within a year. Margaret chose Agnes of Kuenring and three children were born from this relationship: a son Nicholas and daughters Agnes (the future wife of Bavarian II) and Elisabeth. The king had them all legitimized.

The young Bavarian II probably came into contact with the royal court in his youth. It is thought that he was sent there to be educated and he was given special care by the king himself. The young Bavarian was first seen at public at the ceremonial founding of the new Cistercian abbey Zlatá Koruna in 1263.

Starting in the year 1267, Bavarian II of Strakonice began to be listed on the king’s documents several times a year. Historians cannot rule out his possible participation in Ottokar II’s Lithuanian crusade in the years 1267-68.

After 1270, Bavarian decided to develop his Strakonice residence and began the castle’s reconstruction works. He rebuilt the old castle palace on the southern side of the complex: it was heightened and extended and connected with the Johanite part of the castle. In the south-west corner of the premises, a square habitable tower sprang up: the new castle’s fortification including the Rumpál tower.

Throughout the whole period of the Bavarians of Strakonice, the secular and Johanite parts of the castle were strictly separated.

The development of Horažďovice also continued during Bavarian II’s tenure.

Bavarian II received yet another reward for his loyal service to the king in 1277. He was named the royal marshal whose duty was to take care of the finances at the king’s court. Due to his post of marshal, Bavarian II fought in Ottokar II’s last battle in 1278 – the Battle on the Marchfeld.

The decades after Ottokar II’s reign were rather tough. The aristocracy, opposed to the king, began to plunder the manor property, and the armies of neighbouring countries were heading for Bohemia – the Brandenburg margraves Otto IV and Otto V, Henry IV of the Piast dynasty and Rudolph I from Moravia. At this time, Bavarian II was replaced by his son Bavarian III. The Bavarians lived through the era of Otto’s reign over Bohemia without major complications, not getting involved in the aristocratic skirmishes of different interest groups that lasted until 1284.


Bavor III and his capitulation to a dead king
The start of Bavarian III’s engagement in politics was marked by extensive construction works on Strakonice Castle, especially on its Johanite part. During Bavarian III’s reign, the cloisters were vaulted and the construction of the church was completed. However, even more construction work was carried out in Horažďovice; its administrative rights were transferred from the nearby Prácheň in the middle of the 13th century. In the beginning of 1289, Bavarian III became Count of the highly important royal castle Zvíkov. As a nobleman of great importance, he regularly attended the meetings of the principal court in Prague, where property and criminal issues of the aristocracy were registered, discussed and judged.

The turning point of Bavarian III’s life was the crowning of the Bohemian king Rudolph I of Habsburg. Bavarian III and several other noblemen formed an opposition and did not attend the election of the new Bohemian king, and it was not long before Rudolph’s revenge came. In the summer of 1307, he led a military campaign against the western-Bohemian aristocracy. Bavarian III did not plan to surrender easily and fortified himself and his supporters in nearby Horažďovice. However, the siege did not last long. By the beginning of July, Bavarian’s situation was no longer sustainable and he decided to surrender to the king but there was a different factor in play at that time; the king’s health was worsening. On July 3rd 1307, he died in the field camp and a stratagem, unique in our history, followed. With the king’s death, Bavarian’s resistance de facto came to an end and the soldiers could have peacefully returned home if it was not for one of the deceased king’s supporters, Henry I of Rožmberk. The king promised him Zvíkov for his support. He was probably the initiator of the following performance. Bavarian III, who knew nothing of the king’s death, was ready to surrender and return the Zvíkov Burgrave. So, on July 3rd, the king’s corpse was arranged ready for an audience as if nothing had happened. The unsuspecting Bavarian III knelt down in the darkened tent in front of the dead king and gave up Zvíkov, which immediately fell into the hands of Henry of Rožmberk. Not only was the Rožmberk’s trick described in the chronicles of the time, it got onto painted canvases as well.

This act meant a total abolition of the formerly stable relationship between the two families, in spite of Bavarian’s wife being Henry’s daughter.

After the events in Horažďovice, Bavarian III lived in seclusion. He reappeared at the crowning of the new king John of Luxembourg. On 25th November 1315, he received Prácheň Mountain as a gift, together with permission to build a new castle there. He began with its construction immediately.

Bavarian III was the last member of the dynasty who was actively involved in public life. Due to his opposition to Rudolph of Habsburg, he entered the history books, following his father. The rest of the family members were of a different ilk, however.

In 1315, Bavarian III was commissioned with the title “of Bavorov”. He built a humble mansion in this little city and lived there until his death.


The division of the Bavor property, Strakonice in the hands of brother William
In years 1312-1315, the property was divided among the Bavarian II’s three children. The oldest, Bavarian III, kept Bavorov, Horažďovice and Prácheň. His brother Vilém got Strakonice and its surroundings and the youngest Mikuláš (future father of Bavarian IV) gained Blatná.

Having moved away from Strakonice, Bavarian III lost contact with the Order of Saint John and even began to sympathise with another order; the Cistercians living in Zlatá Koruna. He demonstrated his sympathies by giving them a generous gift. His motives for this act were not only to ensure the salvation of his soul or to secure a good relationship with his neighbours but there also was a little bit of wickedness in it; he supported the monastery that was causing trouble for the Rožmberk family. In return, Bavarian III stipulated a funeral in the monastery, a daily requiem mass, other masses on the jubilee of his death and the maintenance of eternal light. The original Gothic gravestone has not unfortunately been preserved. Today, there is a baroque epitaph above Bavarian’s grave.

His wife Markéta, who outlived him by 40 years, was buried in the family tomb of the Rožmberks in Vyšší Brod. The marriage was childless. Bavorov and its vast lands fell permanently into the hands of the Rožmberk family.

Bavarian III died in the beginning of year 1318, shortly after his return from Vienna, where he attended the signing of a petition of unsatisfied Bohemian noblemen who were opposed to the reigning couple, John of Luxembourg and Elizabeth of Bohemia. Bavarian’s public appearance at this event was the last in the family’s history. His successors took no further interest in politics.

In the time of Bavarian III’s successor, Vilém of Strakonice, the castle was still divided into two distinct parts – one secular, the other belonging to the Order. Vilém lived in the south-western part with a large palace, its own chapel and a tower in one corner, while the Rumpál tower guarded the west entrance to the castle. In the eastern part, he had a kitchen that was connected with the Order’s commendam.


Bavor IV – called Bašek and the emphyteutic right to Strakonice
Vilém’s successor was Bavarian IV of Blatná, known as Bašek. He is known for a decree from December 8th 1367 which is sometimes considered to be the charter declaring Strakonice a city. However, this is false. We can trace the beginnings of the developing city back to the beginning of the 14th century.  For example, a print of the city’s seal from 1352 has been preserved.

The decree from 1367 gave Strakonice the so-called “pukrecht” or right of purchase. It means that the lord of the city sold or rented his dependants all 23 hides (the whole area of the city with all facilities), under strictly given conditions. The right of purchase provided the dependants with significantly more advantageous land ownership. They could bequeath their property to their children and manage it as they wished as long as they met the strictly assigned rents. Bavarian IV died between the years 1380-82.


The inglorious end of the famous House
By the beginning of the 80’s of the 14th century, the number of family members of the Bavarians of Strakonice had decreased to only two under-aged boys, Břeněk and Jan. Their guardian, who was temporarily in charge of their property, was Zdeněk of Rožmitál. In 1394, Břeněk of Strakonice took over the family estate. During the following years, the Bavarian property diminished as it was rapidly being sold off.

The end of the 14th century was marked by the resistance of the Bohemian aristocracy to King Wenceslas IV. The lord of Strakonice, Břeněk, and his uncle Zdeněk of Rožmitál also joined the rebelling lords. They did not get involved in the first phase of the rebellion and did not take part in it until 1396. The situation became serious in 1399 when the royal army set out to besiege Horažďovice, at that time in the hands of Břeněk of Strakonice. The war was short, and it ended after a few weeks with conciliation. Financial problems finally led the lord of Strakonice to sell the rest of his property in 1402 to a minor nobleman Vykéř of Jenišovice, who consequently sold it to the Order of Saint John.

We have only a little information about Jan, who also used the title “of Strakonice”. He left the city and lived mostly in Moravia. There is no record of him after 1400.


Under the sign of the Maltese cross
In 1402 the Knights of Malta owned the whole Strakonice demesne including the town. They knew very well that a sound economic base was the most important factor for their development and that it was a flourishing town, so they started to support its inhabitants by giving them various privileges.


The first ecclesiastical owner of Strakonice Castle was the grand prior Jindřich of Hradec who bought the other half of the castle complex from the Bavarians in 1402. Shortly after that, the castle became of great importance to the Order of Saint John.

 

The Order of Order of Saint John of Jerusalem or the Knights of Malta – the most significant representatives of the Order who influenced both the castle and town

Jindřich of Hradec (1401-1420)
During the Hussite wars, when the Hussites plundered the main residence of the Knights of Malta in Prague, Strakonice became the capital of the Grand Priory for the Lands of the Bohemian Crown. When in 1420 they moved to Strakonice, they also took with them the Order’s archives and insignia. Jindřich was on friendly terms with Strakonice. In 1404 he confirmed the town privileges given by previous owners.

He is mentioned even in Papal Archives (the document is dated 1412). On 25 March 1420, he was a commander in the first big victorious battle of the Hussites near Strakonice by the village of Sudoměř. He was, however, on the opposite side to the Hussites. As the tale goes, Jindřich watched the battle under a dry oak on the Markovec pond dam. His toe was injured in the battle, probably with an arrow or a stone from a sling. The injury was very serious and he died of it in the same year.


Václav of Michalovice (1434-1451)

This Czech nobleman of the Markvartice family loved good food and drink. He suffered from gout and he often complained of it in his correspondence with his close friends from the house of Rožmberk. He also liked cockfighting. In1435 he confirmed the liberties of the town and was appointed the commissioner of the Prácheň region for his participation in fighting on the catholic side. He had constant minor skirmishes with Hussite followers during his tenure as Grand Prior.

Like his predecessor, he took part in another important battle against the Hussites – the Battle of Lipany in 1434.

He was a significant and loyal follower of King Albert. For that reason he was chosen as a leader of deputation who negotiated the release of the deceased King Albert’s son – the underage Ladislaus the Posthumous. On 8 February 1449, important representatives of the catholic aristocracy from southern and western Bohemia met to create the so-called Catholic League of Strakonice, a group opposed to George of Poděbrady (1458-1471). Václav of Michalovice together with Oldřich of Rožmberk was the main initiator of this activity. Several years of negotiations with potential allies preceded its establishment.

But the Catholic League of Strakonice mercenaries were defeated at Rokycany in 1450. Both enemy parties at last met at Pelhřimov and Václav of Michalovice tried to agree a reconciliation. But he was seriously ill and died on 25 August 1451, at Strakonice Castle, so he could not participate in the final negotiations.

Legend says that he died in a small knight’s hall at the warm tile stove which still survives today.


Jodokus (Jošt) of Rosenberg (Rožmberk) (1451-1467)
Provost of Prague’s St Vitus Cathedral and bishop of Wroclaw

Surviving reports characterise him as a tough and purposeful man who could not speak German and spoke only Czech and Latin. He spent most of his life outside his home town of Strakonice. When he was in office a new hospital behind the church of St Margaret was established in a cottage later called “stork house” (it was pulled down in 1970 during the redevelopment of the historical centre of the town). In June 1452 a disastrous fire destroyed a large part of the town.

He was very conciliatory towards treaties against George of Poděbrady. However, catholic gentry used to meet at his house and discuss their resistance against George. The historical name of the group is the Zelená Hora (Green Mountain) League. It was a continuation of the ingloriously ended Catholic League of Strakonice of Václav of Michalovice. The agreement about the origin of the new association was confirmed on 28 November 1465. Jodokus of Rosenberg died in Nisa in 1467 and is buried in Wroclaw.


Jan of Svamberk (1457-1460, 1472-1498)
After the death of Jodokus of Rosenberg, both Zdeněk of Waldstein and, simultaneously, Jan of Svamberk are spoken of as the Grand Prior. Obviously it was due to ban put on Svamberk around 1470 for his conciliatory relationship to the heretic king, George of Poděbrady (he participated with his uncle in the election of George of Poděbrady as the Czech king). Although he tried very hard to achieve reconciliation between the catholic nobility and the king, minor skirmishes and battles occurred continually at the demesne. In 1472 the double-rule at the Grand Prior See finished. Jan of Svamberk became the only Grand Prior.

He tried, first of all, to develop the demesne economically. In 1482 he initiated the establishment of the first guild in the town – the guild of tailors. In the same year the guild of drapers, cutters and sheep shearers were established as well, which was the basis for the subsequent long tradition of the textile industry in Strakonice.

Strakonice also received a lucrative salt right and citizens could establish new ponds.

He did not forget the decanal church of St Procopius. In 1496 a new tenor bell sounded over the town called Jan after him. It was made by master bellfounder Jakub Strakonický and it weighed 180 hundredweight.

He was still alive when again a great fire occurred in the town which destroyed many houses in the Greater and Lesser towns in 1508.

Jan of Svamberk died in 1510 at Strakonice Castle and was buried under the floor of the church of St Procopius.


Jan of Rožmberk (1511-1532)
Like his predecessor, he also supported the development of the town and his rule brought a new character to the castle and town; you can see signs of his modifications there to this day. He started a large renaissance reconstruction of the castle. He had an oriel tower called Jelenka built and it was used as a banqueting hall after deer hunting. A fragment of a mural painting showing the five-leaf rose of the Rožmberks reminds us of the owner even now. Besides Jelenka, the castle was proud of two more towers – the still-extant Rumpál tower and a square tower in the south-west part. The present municipal coat-of-arms also comes from the time of Jan of Rožmberk.

Jan of Rožmberk was the first lord of the town who wished Strakonice would look like a town and not only an amalgamation of four settlements. So he had ramparts with a moat built in the North. People could enter the town through the Horažďovice gate in the east and the Prague gate in the west (its foundations were uncovered during reconstruction of the Great Square in 2010).

There was a small door – a wicket in the middle of the northern wall and a street called Na Stráži led from there to the centre of the town. It has kept its name right up until the present day. The ramparts were reinforced with several bastions.

In 1512 he confirmed the existing privileges of Strakonice’s citizens and even granted them others. They did not have to pay the executioner, this duty was taken over by the Grand Prior and they could also elect the mayor every year, but he had to be confirmed in his office by the prior. Jan of Rožmberk also granted a request of Strakonice citizens when he decided to change appellate proceedings. Until that time appeals had had to go to Horažďovice and from there to the Old Town (Prague). After that people from Strakonice could appeal directly to Prague.

He died in 1532 and was buried in the Rožmberk family tomb in Vyšší Brod.


Jan of Vartenberk (1534-1542)
Right at the beginning of his reign the Order received another name. In 1534 Emperor Charles V invested the Knights of Malta with the Maltese archipelago and the Order started to be called “Maltese”. The main representative of the Order – the Grand Prior – took up residence in the Lesser Town (in Prague) and affairs in Strakonice were administered by the prior.


Václav Zajíc of Házmburk (1555-1578)
Owing to the new political and economic situation, a brewery was installed in Strakonice Castle in the 16th century and it gradually occupied the whole northern wing. The first mention of Strakonice brewery is in the will of the Grand Prior of the Maltese Order Václav Zajíc of Házmburk from 1578. That was also the year of his death. The inventory of Strakonice Castle and the lands belonging to it were made out by a chamber court commission. Václav Zajíc granted the citizens another right, i.e. free hunting in the neighbouring woods.

Václav Zajíc was religiously tolerant. His deputy at Strakonice Castle, prior Jakub Berounský, was even allowed to say Utraquist mass in the castle church and communion of both kinds.


Kryštof Starší (the Elder) of Vartenberk (1578-1590)
Documents of the time say he was generous to his servants, kind to Strakonice citizens and he liked to stay at the castle for long periods of time. He allowed another guild to be established in Strakonice. Tanners received guild rules as well.

Two plague epidemics struck Strakonice during the time of his office. A plague pillar was erected as protection against the disease and it was the foundation of a later sculptural group dedicated to the Virgin Mary. It originally stood in the Great Square. The year 1586 was shown on the original column. Owing to religious tolerance in the Maltese demesne, Utraquist citizens could build their own church. It was built on the site of an original small church which was a part of the St Margaret hospital mentioned in a document from 1318. The renaissance church was built in the place of the original small church, which, together with a cemetery, was part of the St Margaret hospital. The building was finished in 1583 and it was supervised by a builder of Italian origin – Vincenzo Vogarelli from České Budějovice. The church of St Wenceslaus in Lom was also reconstructed, extended and received the right to perform all funerals (up until that time other Strakonice churches could arrange funerals and had their own cemeteries).



The Thirty Years’ War and Strakonice

Jindřich of Logau (1621-1626)
Rudolf of Paar (1626)
Vilém Zdeněk Vratislav of Mitrowicz (1626-1637)
Rudolf Colloredo of Wallsee (1637-1657)
The beginning of the 17th century was not favourable either for the Knights of Malta or for Strakonice. The Thirty Years’ War affected the town very badly. At first the town was plundered by the Swedish army of Ernst von Mansfeld in 1619, and for a second time in 1641. A tale that the Swedish were let into the castle by a mill lad who showed them a small gate opposite Pětikolský mill is associated with this year. The small gate in the third courtyard leading to the Otava River is still called the “Swedish” gate.

A fierce fire broke out in the town in 1626 which engulfed a large part of the town in the direction of Horažďovice. The Town Hall with the archives burnt together with more than a hundred houses and barns. The war together with the fire was disastrous. Even though Strakonice and its immediate surroundings suffered a little less that other parts of the kingdom, the countryside, villages and town were considerably damaged.

A list of tax duties from 1654 gives the damages in Strakonice and its surroundings in greater detail. Strakonice Castle was plundered as well as the castle church. The Prácheň region was more or less deserted. Both villages and towns lost many inhabitants.

Grand Prior Rudolf Colloredo of Wallsee issued a document on 5 December 1645, based on the decline after the Thirty Years’ War, where he exempted the town from war taxes and allowed the citizens to sell beer to neighbouring villages.

Then in 1649, the city brewery was established.

Both the town and castle saw a great celebration in 1650. The picture of the Madonna with her eyes pierced, which was carried by monk Dominik à Jesu Maria at the head of the attacking imperial army at the Battle of White Mountain on 8 November 1620, was taken to Rome and a church was built for it there. This was the origin of the Virgin Mary the Victorious cult (see in greater detail in reference to St Procopius’ Church). One copy of the picture (reportedly the best) was placed in the castle church in the same year and is still there now.

After the Thirty Years’ War, the strain on relations between the castle owners and city representatives increased. This is evidenced by many archive documents. The castle declined, the Grand Priors were not interested in Strakonice any longer and in 1694 they moved their main residence back to Prague. Even the Prior didn’t have his residence there any longer.


Ferdinand Leopold Dubský of Třebomyslice (1714-1721)
When he was the Grand Prior the last large reconstruction was made at Strakonice Castle. As the castle rooms were not suitable for living in he had a new palace built at the confluence of the Otava and Volyňka rivers. The coat-of-arms and the year of the reconstruction – 1715 – remind us of the Grand Prior. But the building was not a permanent residence of the Knights of Malta either. He also started repairs to the castle church in the baroque style. He confirmed the previous privileges of the inhabitants of Strakonice. In 1716, he permitted the establishment of a new guild of stocking knitters at the request of two masters: Ondřej Tockstein and Jan Pamprle. From 1718, a description of the hospital belonging to the Grand Priory has also been preserved.


Václav Jáchym Čejka of Olbramovice (1744-1754)
The Grand Priors tried to industrialise the town in the 18th century. When Grand Prior Václav Jáchym Čejka found that local stocking knitters made good quality products he called Swiss dyers to Strakonice to teach local craftsmen to dye stockings using a permanent red dye. Their goods increased in value and became very popular.

Jáchym Čejka also began new repairs of the castle and its surroundings. He equipped the new residence with new furnishings and decorated its small hall with paintings. He planted a park in the castle moat and established a pheasantry west of the castle. He also had a footbridge across the Volyňka River built opposite the castle gate.

The pilgrim church was also built under Srpská Hill during his reign. Several legends exist about its establishment. The fact is, however, that in 1718 the Otava River overflowed and water pulled down and carried away the wooden group of sculptures of Calvary from the old bridge across the river. Part of this group, the statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Seven Dolors, was found later on the river bank by a Bezděkov citizen who then erected it in his field under Srpská Hill. Since then people started going there looking for help and miraculous recovery. The authorities even installed a metal cashbox there for sacrificial gifts in 1748. A large stone chapel, finished in 1749, was built thanks to the money and contribution of the demesne owner, Václav Jáchym Čejka. It was consecrated a year later.


Michael Ferdinand of Althan (1769-1789)
The Podsrp settlement came into being in 1771-72. A baroque pilgrim church was built there (1770-74) surrounded with three-sided cloister, consecrated to the Blessed Virgin Mary of Seven Dolors. Building costs were all charged to Count Althan’s account alone. He issued the decree establishing the parish on 7 January 1772. In the same year the plague epidemic reached its height in the town and 424 lives were lost, which was almost a quarter of all inhabitants.

In 1789 the Order founded their John the Baptist hospital in Bezděkov Street.

St Wenceslas’ Church in Lom was reconstructed and extended as well.

In 1784 the traditional distribution of honey gruel ended as that kind of charity did not meet the requirements of the time period. As compensation, the Order paid 213 florins into the coffers and decreed that the poor should be paid the interest on it. The Grand Prior Count Althan also established a foundation for the poor – 8,000 florins.


Josef Maria Colloredo Wallsee (1791-1810)
Under his reign the castle was so dangerous that after 1800, the square tower in its south-west part had to be pulled down to its lowest level. It was covered with a roof adjoining the neighbouring palace.

In 1792 the Grand Prior gave the town capital for establishing the main school, which also offered so-called “preparanda”, preparatory courses for future teachers.

He also had an inspection of the Knights of Malta demesne performed and arranged their comparatively rich archives. Archive documents also speak about a significant visit to Strakonice Castle: Emperor Francis II visited Strakonice in 1800.


Othenius Lichnovsky of Werdenberg (1874-1887)
At the beginning of the 1870s, the area in front of the castle called Dubovec substantially changed its appearance. Manufacturer Stein built his pretentious two-storey palace just next to the castle, which stands there even now. Grand Prior Othenius Lichnovsky built a high blind wall finished with a cylindrical tower in 1871 to obstruct the Jewish manufacturer’s view of his residence, which people started to call a “spite wall”. Both the wall and the tower were pulled down when the road to Pracejovice was built in 1935-37. A park in the castle moat remains from this Grand Prior’s reign.

In the 19th century the Maltese Order also committed to providing medical services on the battlefield. They established military hospitals and hospital trains.

The origin of Czechoslovakia accelerated the end of the 700-year rule of the Maltese Order in the Strakonice district. Due to the Confiscation Act of 1919 and the first agrarian reform, they had to sell the large estate of Strakonice with its three yards, mill, brick factory and brewery in 1925.


Modern History

During World War II the Czech Grand Priory was relieved of their buildings in the premises of Strakonice Castle – St Procopius Church and the dean’s residence. This injustice was not repaired even after the war.

After 1990, the Czech Grand Priory started to negotiate with the České Budějovice diocese about the possibility of getting back the above properties. In 2008 a contract of donation was concluded with the approval of České Budějovice bishop Msgr Jiří Paďour in favour of the Sovereign Order of the Knights of Malta – the Czech Grand Priory. So the Czech Grand Priory again became an owner of their historical property after several decades.

Nowadays the castle premises are owned by three entities. The largest part (more than a half) including the castle courtyards is owned by the city of Strakonice and a smaller part (about a quarter) by the South Bohemian region. The church buildings are owned by the Roman Catholic parish of Strakonice and the castle granary is owned by a private entity.

 

Archaeological Research in 2006 

The end of 2005, but mainly 2006 were very important in the modern history of the castle as this was the time when the thorough reconstruction, planned many years, in fact decades ago, began.

Overburden removal went hand in hand with archaeological research. There had been a lot of research before but a large part of the premises were not examined. The research was done by the Museum of the Central Otava Region headed by archaeologist  Jan Michálek PhD. The chessboard method was applied, which means that the courtyard was divided in squares of 4x4m that were manually examined to the level of the rock subsurface (depth 0.2-2m).

The research brought unexpected discoveries. Stone foundations of a medieval structure were revealed at the level of nearly half a metre under the surface. The finding was dated to the 14th-5th centuries. The research was conducted from the Rumpál tower in the direction of the capitular hall. The already examined squares were then left so as not to waste the time or pose a threat to the deadlines specified for the construction work by the Strabag construction company.

The research at the 2nd courtyard was brought to a definitive close on 16th June 2006 at the southern part of the courtyard.

Work on the new pebble paving began on 3rd July, in the direction of the Rumpál tower and the capitular hall.

In the course of the archaeological research at the south-eastern part of the 2nd courtyard (near the entrance to the museum) a round well was carved in the rock. Its diameter is approximately 2.5m and, according to the drill hole, it is some 12.5m deep and the level of ground water is 4.5m from the courtyard level.

While replacing water supply and sewer systems in the 1st courtyard, the construction company was working in the eastern part of the 12th century burial site. As had been planned, the site was partially uncovered and archaeologists documented the findings and moved bronze artefacts into the museum.

 

 

 

(c) Město Strakonice, 2010
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