Bohemia is historical region of central Europe that was a kingdom in the Holy Roman Empire and later a province in the Habsburgs’ Austrian Empire. Bohemia was bounded on the south by Austria, on the west by Bavaria, on the north by Saxony and Lusatia, on the northeast by Silesia, and on the east by Moravia. It was part of Czechoslovakia, and since 1993 it has formed much of the Czech Republic. Bohemia’s name comes from a Celtic people known as the Boii. The region was the birthplace of many aristocrats and noble families, and at the same time the site of many political and military conflicts. Its long noble and historical tradition is evident in the numerous impressive castles that could be found in its various regions. In this article we focus on castles located in the Czech Republic and open to visitors.
Rozmberk Castle (South Bohemia) : The castle is considered one of the oldest castles in Bohemia. It is regarded as the cradle of the House of Rozmberk, known as the “Lords of the Rose”, a historical Czech aristocratic family. It was built in the 13th century as a fortified estate by the strong family and towers on top of a hill above a small village on the Vltava River. It was used by the family as a base for supervising their estates in the region. The estate consists of the Upper Castle, the remains of which are the Jacobean Tower, and the Lower Castle with its Gothic buildings, which in the 16th century were re-modelled in Renaissance style. The castle houses several collections of paintings, weapons, porcelain and furniture, and also a frescoed banquet hall. [Visit the official site of the castle]
Cervena Lhota Castle (South Bohemia) : This red castle is built in a unique location amid the forests and on a small island at the centre of a small lake. The original Gothic castle, which is considered built in the 14th century, was reconstructed in the 16th century as a Renaissance residence. In the 17th century the island was linked with the mainland by a stone bridge and its roof was covered with red tiles that gave it its name (“cervena” means red). The famous German composer Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf lived here for the last three years of his life. After World War II the castle was used as a children’s hospital and today houses a magnificent collection of furnishings from the Renaissance to the mid-19th century. [Visit the official site of the castle]
Hluboka nad Vltavou Castle (South Bohemia) : Often regarded as one of the most beautiful Czech castles, Hluboka was built in the 13th century by Wenceslas I. The originally Gothic castle was re-modelled many times. In the 18th century under the ownership of the Schwarzenbergs, it was converted into a Baroque residence and in the 19th century English Neo-Gothic elements were added. The castle has 120 rooms and 11 towers with furniture and paintings. There is a winter garden and riding hall where the Ales South Bohemian Gallery is housed. The Gallery has a collection of 57 Flemish tapestries and other examples of Bohemian medieval art. The highlight of the collection is the Adoration of Infant Jesus by the Master of Trebon (1380). [Visit the official site of the castle]
Sternberk Castle (Central Bohemia) : This Bohemian castle on top of a high cliff above the Sazava River and the small village with the same name is a really impressive sight. The early castle in Gothic style was constructed in the 13th century by the Sternberk family. In 1467 the castle was occupied and destroyed by the royal armies of George Podebrady. Later, the ruined castle was recovered by the Sternberks, who, in the 15th and 16th centuries, rebuilt the castle and added a new cylindrical tower to the south and a dungeon to the north. The 17th-century interiors contain impressive Italian stucco work and interesting engravings. [Visit the official site of the castle]
Svihov Castle (West Bohemia) : The very well preserved Gothic castle surrounded by water canals and green meadows provides a fairytale landscape for the visitor. The castle was built in 1480 by the House of Ryzmberk ze Skaly and was besieged by the Hussites during the Hussite Wars. After the Thirty Years’ War, the Emperor of Habsburg, Ferdinand III, ordered its demolition, fearing that it would be a refuge for the resistance against Habsburg. However, due to the continuous postponement of the demolition, only a part of the bastion was damaged. Today the whole castle includes two palaces, a tower, the walls with four bastions and a small church. The castle was used as a shooting location for many films with the most significant being the Danish film A Royal Affair (2012). [Visit the official site of the castle]
Loket Castle (West Bohemia) : The town of Loket, which means “elbow” in Czech, is probably one of the most beautiful places in the Czech Republic. The town got its name due to the town centre being surrounded on three sides by the Ohre River, and the shape the river takes is similar to that of an elbow. The skyline of this medieval town is governed by the presence of the perfectly preserved Loket Castle. The Gothic castle was built in the 12th century and by the turn of the 13th century a settlement was built around the castle walls, which later raised into a royal town. The castle today is divided into nine different parts containing many medieval artefacts of historical interest, prison cells and a chamber of torture. [Visit the official site of the castle]
The history of Bohemia is rich and has been encapsulated forever in the castles located in its wonderful green valleys and meadows. No virtual visit could imitate the atmosphere and uniqueness of these places, but it could give a taste of their beauty.
*[Photo at the top by Petr Stěhule from Pixabay]