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CESKY KRUMLOV, in Bohemia’s deep  south, is one of the most picturesque towns in Europe. It’s a little like Prague in miniature – a Unesco World Heritage site with a stunning castle above the Vltava river, an old town square, Renaissance and baroque architecture, and hordes of tourists milling through the streets – but all on a smaller scale; you can walk from one side of town to the other in twenty minutes.

There are plenty of lively bars and riverside picnic spots – in summer it’s a popular hangout for backpackers. It can be a magical place in winter, though, when the crowds are gone and the castle is blanketed in snow.

CESKY KRUMLOV is best approached as an overnight destination; it’s too far for a comfortable day trip from Prague. Consider staying at least two nights, and spend one of the days hiking or biking in the surrounding woods and fields.

History of the town of CESKY KRUMLOV

According to legend, the name Krumlov is derived from the German “Krumme Aue”, which may be translated as “crooked meadow”. The name comes from the natural topography of the town, specifically from the tightly crooked meander of the Vltava river.

The word ” CESKY” simply means Czech, or Bohemian (actually one and the same), as opposed to Moravian or Silesian. In Latin documents it was called Crumlovia or Crumlovium. The town was first mentioned in documents from 1253, where Krumlov was called Chrumbonowe.

  • The flow of the Vltava River has long been a natural transportation entrance to this region. The area’s oldest settlement goes back to the Older Stone Age (70,000 – 50,000 B.C.). Mass settlement was noted in the Bronze Age (1,500 B.C.).
  • Celtic settlements in the Younger Iron Age (approx. 400 B.C.) and Slavonic settlement has been dated as from the 6th century A.D. The Slavs were represented by two tribes – Boletice and Doudleby. (Prehistorical settlements of the CESKY KRUMLOV region )
  • In the Early Middle Ages the routes along the Vltava river created the trade routes (see Historical Routes in the CESKY KRUMLOV Region). In the 9th century the area was probably owned by the noble Czech family of Slavnikovci, who were slaughtered by the rival family of Premyslovci in 995. This area then became their property.
  • In accordance with the principles of internal colonization and bestowing of sovereign domains in fief to members of a sovereign dynasty, this domain was thus given by the ruling family of Přemyslovci to one of their own lines – The Witigonen in Czech known as the vitkovci.

  • According to the legend, the family of Witigonen has its origins in Ancient Rome. The family was related to the Roman Ursini family, who is said to have resided on the mountain “Mons Rosarum” near the city of Rome.
  • After Rome was plundered by the hordes of the Visigoth leader Totila in 546, the family left Rome and one of its members named Vitek (in German, Witigon) travelled together with his wife and child up to the north, passed the Donau river and settled in Southern Bohemia.
  • He started a new family there and gradually acquired extensive domains, which he gave to his five sons before his death. Each son received a coat-of-arms with a five- petalled rose, the color of which symbolized each particular dominion.

  • So much for legend – historical reality offers us some slight variations. Vitek did not come to South Bohemia in the 6th but the 12th century, and he did not come from the Italian family of Ursini but from the family line of a Czech Princess of the Přemyslovci.
  • In 1173 Vitek of Prcice was mentioned as an envoy to the Emperor Friedrich Barbarossa, and in 1179 he apparently settled in Southern Bohemia. The fact that his domains were not liable to the so-called law of escheat indicates his strong influence, as his property did not have to return to the hands of the family of Premysl.
  • Vitek could freely dispose of his properties and therefore gave it to his four sons – Jindrich of Hradec; Vitek II senior, predecessor of the Lords of Krumlov; Vitek III junior, founder of the family of Rosenberg; and Vitek IV.
  • It is likely that the then newly founded residences Nove Hrady (New Castles), Rozmberk (Rosenberg), Trebon and Krumlov fell into the rank of domains of the Vitek family, while Krumlov would have been their fourth castle in the rank. This historically important moment is rendered in the painting “Division of the Roses”, which can be viewed in the sightseeing tour at the CESKY KRUMLOV castle.

# In 1251 the Bohemian King Premysl Otakar II gained Austrian lands through marriage to Anna Maria of Bamberg. Premysl Otakar II, with his well-thought out colonization policy, tried to populate the sporadically settled Šumava region in the Czech-Austrian borderland and this way integrate his domains in Bohemia with his newly gained territories in Austria.

# His efforts in this sphere, however, had its consequences in territories ruled by the sovereign family of Vitkovci, which resulted in particular centres of conflicts with the most powerful aristocratic family in the country.

# Conflicts had their origins for example in the foundation of the royal town CESKY Budejovice or the Cistercian Monastery Zlata Koruna (Golden crown), both founded by King Premysl Otakar II in 1263.

# Zlata Koruna was supposed to restrain the influence of the Rosenberg monastery in Vyssi Brod, founded by Peter Wok von Rosenberg in 1259. Frequent disagreements and armed clashes between Premysl Otakar II and members of the particular branches of the Vitkovec family eventually weakened the power of the Bohemian King.

# The town name was first mentioned in a letter of Duke Otokar Styrsky in 1253. The town was established essentially in two stages. The first part was built spontaneously below the Krumlov castle, called Latran and settled mostly by people who had some administrative connection with the castle.

# The name and foundation of this part of town is shrouded in legend as well – the castle and town were allegedly built in a place where the Vitkovci overcame a nest of bandits that had been kidnapping and thieving. To the memory of the villain´s hiding place it was called Latran (Tales and Legends of CESKY KRUMLOV).

# The reality is, however, more prosaic – latus in latin means lateral, side part and residences below the castle were given this name.

In 1302 the Krumlovian branch of the Vitkovci died out, and according to the law of escheat their domains should have passed to the king. At that time the Krumlovian estates consisted of a relatively extensive network of castles and smaller subject towns which were sources of numerous incomes for aristocracy. A member of another powerful branch of the Vitkovec family, Jindrich von Rosenberg, asked the king Vaclav II (Wenceslav II) to override the law of escheat and vest the Krumlovian estates to The Rosenbergs. They later made Krumlov the main residence of their family.

The second part of the town was founded as a typical settlement on a “green meadow”, i.e. in a place where no previous settlement had been. The town subsequently took shape as a typical colonisation ground plan with a quadratic square in the centre with streets from its corners leading to the town walls. This part of the town and its first Magistrate Sipota were first mentioned in 1274. Since the very beginning of the town both Czech and German nationalities were represented, occasionally even Italian.

In the last third of the 15th century CESKY KRUMLOV was granted permission to hold weekly and annual markets. The markets were held regularly every Monday while the annual markets always began on the Sunday before St. Havel\’s Day and lasted 8 days. Gradually the town was allowed to hold four annual markets, plus a horse and cattle market. Krumlovians traded with Bohemian as well as Upper Austrian towns. Silver mining began to be supported by the lordship and council board, and Krumlov  was considered a free upper town (see History of Mining in CESKY KRUMLOV) for a certain period of time.

<> In 1420s the method of town administration was modified – the mayor was placed at the head of twelve town councillors who made up a town council. Each town councillor was a mayor for one month and then replaced by another. Besides the mayor and town councillors there was another important person, a town magistrate, who held executive (police) and judical power.

<> Together with the town\’s “great” council board there was also so-called small board whose members were called aldermen. The community of Latan had its own magistrate and its own representatives in the town board.

<> The town was administered only by the wealthy townspeople such as butchers, maltmasters and drapers. Poorer citizens usually did not have access to the town council board. Councillors had to be approved by the Rosenberg´s lordship.

In the 16th century the town was ruled by the last Rosenbergs who considerably influenced the present appearance of the town and its surroundings. The Renaissance magnate Wilhelm von Rosenberg, the most considerable aristocratic personality of the politics and culture of that time, especially initiated reconstructions of townhouses as well as the castle into Renaissance style.

On 14th August 1555 Wilhelm joined the two parts of town which had been up to then seperate, Latran and the Old town, to prevent litigations concerning particular privileges. Before the town´s unification, Latran had been an individual administrative unit and its dwellers often disputed with those living in the other parts, especially for the privilege to brew white wheat beer, which was very popular and thus a very profitable product. Further problems had been caused by support payments for parish, the church, bridges, the local shepherd and the messenger.

Peter Wok von Rosenberg, the last member of the family, was forced by debts to sell Krumlov to Emperor Rudolf II of Habsburg in 1601, who placed his illegitimate son Don Julius there for a short period of time. In 1611 the town faced the heavy assault of the Passau army, during the Thirty Years\’ War it was occupied by the Emperor´s army, and in 1648 it was invaded by the Swedish army.

The Thirty Years´ War brought a new lordship to the town; the Emperor Ferdinand II of Habsburg vested the town to the Styrian family of Eggenberg in 1622 in return for their financial suppor during the war. Afterwards three generations of the Eggenbergs held CESKY KRUMLOV. Only the third-generation personality Johann Christian I. von Eggenberg influenced the town and castle´s appearance by grand construction works and rich cultural and social events.

The family of Eggenbergs died out at the beginning of the 18th century and in 1719 their heirs the Schwarzenbergs came to Krumlov. Under the rule of Joseph Adam zu Schwarzenberg, CESKY KRUMLOV overcame the imaginary borders of parochialism for the third time, and with its high level of architecture and cultural and social events reached the level of the leading aristocratic residences in Central Europe.

The aristocratic court and standard of living followed the example set by the Emperor´s residence in Vienna. In the 19th century CESKY KRUMLOV lost its character of an aristocratic residence; thanks to this it kept its Renaissance-Baroque character. Later constructions were not significant.

In the mid 19th century the population of the town reached 5,000 inhabitants. A battalion of infantrymen was accommodated there, two comprehensive shools were built, a school of music as well as a so-called work school where children whose parents had died or didn’t take care of them were placed. In the town were two breweries (princely and municipal), two paper mills, three mills, a flax spinning mill, and a factory for cloth.

In the 19th century the architecture of the town also changed its appearance. The town walls were demolished as were all but one of the town gates, Budejovicka (see History of Gates and Fortifications in CESKY KRUMLOV). At the end of the 19th century the graphite mines were opened by the castle garden, and a factory for listels and frames as well as a new paper mill in Vetrni began operation. (Economic History of CESKY KRUMLOV)

Bohmerwaldgau which was to become part of a newly constituted Austria. This movement was suppressed by the Czech army and on the 28th of November the region was occupied by Czech forces. By order of the Ministry of the Interior, from 30th April 1920 the town was renamed from Krumau to CESKY KRUMLOV, a name which had already been used in 1439. During World War II there were neither any significant battles in CESKY KRUMLOV nor bombing. Krumlov was liberated in 1945 by the American army and the German population was expelled.

As early as the 19th century, nationality-based problems sometimes broke out between the Czech and German population. After the Declaration of the Czechoslovakian Republic in October 28, 1918, the German population responded with the Declaration of an Independent Sumava Province

Since the mid 1960s, special care has been devoted to the preservation of the historical merits of CESKY KRUMLOV; the town was included in 1992 onto UNESCO\’s List of World Cultural and Natural Heritage.

Architecture in CESKY KRUMLOV

Architecture | CESKY KRUMLOV in Literature | History of Theatrical Culture | History of Music in CESKY KRUMLOV | History of Painting

  • The castle and town were founded in the middle of the 13th century on two meanders of the Vltava river that closely follow each other around. The name of the town is supposed to have come from the old German term, krumme Au, denoting curved meadow.
  • The flow of the river created a deep valley in the rocks, and the river almost curves back on itself at one point of the meander. The rocks slope steeply at an inner curve of the river near the castle as well as in the town. This cut of the river’s isthmus created a very useful protective zone which was then strengthened by the construction of the Cloak Bridge and Horni Gate.
  • The castle itself and its corresponding settlement are situated opposite the town (the end of one part of the town – Horni Gate – is situated at the same heigth as the entrance to the first courtyard of the castle, both separated by a river valley). This configuration of elevations is highlighted by a couple of local architectural giants, mainly the tower of the St.
  • Vitus church and the castle tower. The lower part of the town is spread out across the lee side of a long southern row of the castle, the second largest castle in Bohemia (after Prague castle). The adjacent settlement called Latran (from the Latin word latus – side) is typical for such Witigonen castles as RoZmberk nad Vltavou, Pribenice, and Divci Kamen, and its residences are tucked along a street (Latran) which runs parallel to the meander of the river.

  1. The town church of St. Vitus (St. Vitus Church in CESKY KRUMLOV), situated on a slope above the river in architectural analogy to the castle’s position, was rebuilt in 1439 into a three-naved hall church with a reticulated vault similar to Parler´s conception. Before 1500 a constructional workshop of the Rosenbergs was founded, and this workshop was responsible for the reconstruction of both of the churches – in St.
  2. Vitus church a west church-gallery was built and in 1514 – 1520 a curate´s room (Horni No. 159), ending with an attic gable and stressed with a bay towards the square side. A room decorated with a profiled timbered ceiling and with unique wooden facing has been preserved inside.
  3. Profiled timbered ceilings with cut motives and profiled decking appeared in the town’s middle class architecture from the 16th to 18th century not only in CESKY KRUMLOV, but in its surroundings as well as in CESKY Budejovice and Jihlava.

The street plan of the town centers around an oblong square and creates a rather irregular roundish orderliness which eventually connect to several routes out – Horni Gate  and Dolni Gate over the bridge and through the Mostecká Gate to Latran.. Latrán was closed by the Latránská Gate (at the place where now stands a pub called U mesta Vidne), which was later replaced in the Renaissance period by today’s only preserved gate, Budejovicka Gate.

In Latran (which for some period of time held independent jurisdiction) a hospital church of St. Jost was built near Lazebnicky bridge and later, in 1350, two Franciscan monasteries of Minorites and Clare nuns were founded on the opposite side (see Minorite Monastery in CESKY KRUMLOV).

<> The Italian builders probably remained in the service of the estates even after the Rosenbergs died out, staying through the days of the Baroque. In 1650 the brothers Giovanni Battista and Antonio Perti built a Jesuit seminar (Horni No. 152), a Classicistic-Baroque building with two wings, characteristic of a high order, with Tuscan pilasters holding an arcade corridor.

<> The building – today´s District Museum of National History – gives an impression of robustness within the town panorama. At that time many facades of citizens’ houses were renovated with pilaster tectonics and voluted frontons, and a minorite church was also rebuilt. In 1717 the Marian column, decorated with the sculptures of the famous sculptor Matej Vaclav Jäckel, was built in the square.

<> The entrance of the Renaissance style into the town meant new sgraffito fronts with ashlar tectonics and figural motives, very often with coloured illusive painting. The Italian builder Baldassare Maggi d’ Arogno invited here by Wilhelm von Rosenberg, rebuilt the Gothic tower of the Little Castle with a peristylar gallery and a cooper helmet decorated with little gilded towers and banners in 1580. In 1588 he built the palace of the Jesuit college above the provost´s residence (Horni No. 154) with an inner courtyard and three frontons in the roof.

<> The period after World War II, especially the sixties, are characterized by their lack of expression. Pre-war ideas lost their ardour in an atmosphere of an ideological tension that was severely mediocre in comparison with the previous ages’ elegance, nobility and luxury.

<> It was a period of socialist construction that, on the other hand, provided a half-decent standard of living and public services in those critical times. When several buildings built in conservative socialist style were constructed in CESKY KRUMLOV, enormous housing complexes known as “panelaks” began to appear.

<> The buildings were fitted together by panels of concrete with very poor and simple architectonics with flat roofs. These housing complexes in CESKY KRUMLOV  were built in the areas of Plesivec and Domoradice, where they unfortunately occupied very exposed hills.

<> The end of the 18th century is known as the beginning of industrial production, and the paper manufacturer J. J. Pachner built dozens of standard living houses for workers. Full development of paper production, a spinning mill, graphite production and furniture production arrived around the 1830’s.

<> Until the end of the Baroque era, none of the architectonic styles presented themselves with more significant architecture. The small living houses as well as the villas, arriving later, were influenced very much by the taste and style of German constructional culture at the end of the 19th century.

<> Very soon after the revolution in 1989, new housing facilities were built in Domoradice. Housing complex Sidliste Mír in Cesky Krumlov, New-age architecture from the 1990’s This once again created, after a very long time, an impressive closed central space with small shops and services meant for the residents.

<> Its architectonic design is varied and draws upon traditional shapes and designs with many colours (architect Bruha, architect Skalicky). Later on single buildings in a technically modern architectural style were built in CESKY KRUMLOV, linking Krumlov to the period of functionalism.

<> A new element is the segmental shape of roofs and walls – the first such example was the corporeal building of the District Police Headquarters (architect Zdvihal), followed by the service station Ford (architect Kodeda), and the elegant glass construction of a service station Soda (architect Rampas). In addition, the very small cultured building of the Telecom firm (architect Jiřík and architect Mls) draws attention with its variety of shapes.

Architecture Tour

CESKY KRUMLOV is one of the first places in the Czech Republic to be included among UNESCO World Heritage Sites. This town will enchant every visitor with its exraordinary amount of unique Medieval monuments concentrated in a small integral area. Still retaining its original layout from the 14th century, the town is now a living textbook of Medieval architecture. The visitor who is lucky enough to witness this beauty of countless Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque structures feels as if a magic wand has sent him back to the 16th century.


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