Czech castles and chateaux pay tribute to Charles IV

14-04-2016

With the arrival of spring the country’s many castles and chateaux open to visitors, offering exhibitions, concerts and theatre performances in period dress. This year the events are particularly colorful paying tribute to the King of Bohemia and Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV. I spoke to Simona Juračková of the National Heritage Institute to find out more.

Karlštejn, photo: Magdalena KašubováKarlštejn, photo: Magdalena Kašubová “This year in our castles and chateaux belongs to the House of Luxembourg. Throughout the year we are celebrating the 700th anniversary of the birth of Emperor Charles IV – a very famous, very important person for us – and the celebrations are called the Year of the House of Luxembourg. We will be focusing on the whole House of Luxembourg, not just Charles IV but his sons and other members of the house.”

I understand that the main event of the year is taking place at Karlštejn Castle?

“That’s right. Karlštejn Castle is the heart of our celebrations. At the beginning of May we are opening an exhibition called the Karlštejn Treasure –Culture of the Imperial Court of Charles IV. It is very interesting, there are 400 small items from the period of Charles IV which were hidden in the thick castle walls during the Hussite wars and waited 600 years to be discovered. Now the collection belongs to the Museum of Applied Art and in collaboration with the museum we are preparing the Karlštejn Treasure exhibition. “

What kind of objects are we talking about?

“It is drinking vessels, fashion accessories such as jewelry, buckles, clasps and buttons which were still a novelty during Charles IV’s reign, fashions from Paris which came to the Bohemian court. We see these accessories on paintings which go to show that the court of Charles IV was very fashion conscious.”

I understand there will be night tours as well at Karlštejn Castle?

“That’s right from May to September there will be evening guided tours of the Sacred Space of Nocturnal Karlštejn to be followed each summer weekend with a surprise called Long Live the King! Long Live the Emperor!”

“There is a famous Czech musical called A night at Karlštejn and we will stage this musical at Karlštejn for the first time ever.”

And in what way are they special, these night tours?

“There will be specially dressed guides.”

So- performances in period coustumes?

“Yes, exactly.”

And I understand that you are planning to stage a famous Czech musical at the castle as well?

“There is a famous Czech musical called A night at Karlštejn which everyone in the Czech Republic knows and has seen on TV at least five times and we will stage this musical at Karlštejn for the first time ever.”

An outdoor event, presumably?

“ Yes, it will be an outdoor event, every Friday during the summer holidays.”

We should probably say that the musical is based on the legend that women were not allowed to enter Karlštejn Castle during the reign of Charles IV…

“That’s true, such a legend exists. Karlštejn Castle is not a typical castle, it is not situated at the top of a hill, but lies hidden in a valley. It was not built as a place for living but for prayers and to house the royal treasure. But it is only a legend that women were not allowed on the premises. That is not true.”

What other castles and chateaux will be worth a visit this year? You said there were Charles IV events happening at various places…

Veveří, photo: Kristýna MakováVeveří, photo: Kristýna Maková “We will have Charles IV celebrations at 30 places around the Czech Republic. There are two important events I would particularly like to mention. One is at Veveří Castle, close to Brno, the Moravian metropolis, where we will have an exhibition called Lion and Eagle –the Moravian House of Luxembourg and its Castle. That opens at the beginning of July. And the second important event is at Jindřichuv Hradec chateau in southern Bohemia which will focus the Legend of St George at the time of John the Blind (John of Bohemia).”

I understand that Křivoklát Castle will be showing the Wenceslas Bible?

“Yes, visitors to Křivoklát can admire the Wenceslas Bible, an excellent work of art with numerous miniatures which illustrate the life of the court and society at the turn of the 14th and 15th centuries. There are many details which we can use to improve our knowledge of everyday medieval life.”

And the season will culminate with a nation-wide event at these castles. The Holy Roman Emperor himself will make an appearance at Karlštejn, I understand. Can you tell us more?

“On the last Saturday in August – which is the 27th – we have an event called Night at the Castle which means that dozens of castles and chateaux around the country will be open to visitors until midnight or 1am. There will be special programs and Karlštejn will offer a lavish show at which Charles IV himself will make an appearance. There will be live music, a tasting of grilled delicacies and for the first time ever in the castle’s history there will be fireworks.”

“Karlštejn will offer a lavish show at which Charles IV himself will make an appearance. There will be live music, a tasting of grilled delicacies and for the first time ever in the castle’s history there will be fireworks.”

If you were to pick one event not to be missed this year –what would it be?

“Can I pick two? I am greatly looking forward to seeing the Gothic panel painting of the Madonna of the Golden Crown back in its place at the Zlatá Koruna monastery in south Bohemia. After 78 years it is returning home to the newly restored Abbot’s Chapel of the monastery. It was hidden during WWII, then it was displayed at the National Gallery and now it is coming home and after this weekend it will be back in its original place. So that is one place I would pick and the other is at Kuks. Last year we renovated Kuks Hospital- a beautiful baroque building, absolutely amazing, in the countryside and there will open a new herbal shop selling herbal teas, plants and other products in the courtyard so one of my weekend trips will definitely be to Kuks in eastern Bohemia.”

And are there tours in English and other languages for foreign visitors at all these places? Or ,at least for the major events?

“At the major events we do cater to the needs of foreign visitors and have guided tours in foreign languages – as we do at our most popular sites – such as Karlštejn, Český Krumlov, Lednice or Křivoklát They offer guided tours in English, German and other languages which is not always the case in the more out-of –the-way places but we are trying to improve this step by step.”

How many visitors are you hoping to attract in the course of the summer?

“Last year we had more than five million visitors – so we hope that the weather will be good, the situation in our country will be safe and I hope we will attract the same amount.”

14-04-2016