Gothic Churches in the Čáslav and Posázaví Regions Diary

The Church of Saints Peter and Paul in Čáslav

The Church of Saints Peter and Paul in Čáslav

I traveled with arsviva again, this time to Gothic churches in the Čáslav and Posázaví regions of central Bohemia. After the last trip spent seeing Romanesque and Gothic buildings in South Bohemia, I was psyched. We would have the same enthusiastic, informative, organized expert as our guide, too. During the last tour I had especially enjoyed visiting churches in villages because they played an integral role in the village’s identity and had helped me come to the realization that each village was unique, with its own story to tell.

 

My best friend ever

My best friend ever

I was not sure if I would be able to go on the tour when my cat, Bohumil Hrabal Burns, suddenly died of a tumor in his mouth two days before the excursion. I lived alone and did not socialize much, and he had been my best friend, who had gotten me through so many troubles and heartbreaks over the previous 15 years. He always sat on my lap when I wrote on the computer. He always relaxed on my chest when I read in the evening. Since I worked mostly at home, we were almost always together. I would never have children. I cared about him as I would for my own child. He and I were inseparable.

Bohumil Hrabal Burns, 1999 - 2014

Bohumil Hrabal Burns, 1999 – 2014

At times I felt bitter. Why did he have to die now? One day it became apparent that he had a tumor in his mouth, two days later he had to be put to sleep. He was supposed to be taking vitamins for his liver, and I was certain that his condition would be improving. It was so hard to see him so sick on my bed. He just wanted to die alone. He would not rest on my lap anymore. And it was the worst moment of my life when I had to take him to the doctor to put him to sleep, knowing he would never be coming back to the place he had called home, where he had shown me so much love. I couldn’t imagine life without him.

Český Šternberk Castle

Český Šternberk Castle

The tour began, and I was happy. I was glad I was on the excursion and excited about the day to come. First, we stopped at Český Šternberk Castle to take in the view and to use the bathroom in a pub. I had toured the castle last year and had written about it for a travel agency.
Perched on a hill overlooking the Sazáva River, Český Šternberk Castle dominates the Posázaví region with its imposing, massive Gothic exterior. It looked both protective and threatening at the same time. I recalled the eclectic collection of treasures from Renaissance chests to Rococo furniture inside the castle. The castle’s history began sometime before 1242. I remembered seeing the Sternberg clan’s eight-pointed star throughout the castle, which is currently owned by one of the family. I would see that star on the tour that day as well.

The Neo-Gothic interior of the Church of Saint Havel

The Neo-Gothic interior of the Church of Saint Havel

Then we were ready to devote our time to Gothic churches. The first was the Church of Saint Havel in Otryby. It had Romanesque and Gothic features, dating from around 1200. I was amazed at the portals before I entered the church. The side portal was French Gothic, dating from the 13th century. It never failed to amaze me that something that old could stand the test of so much time, so many centuries. I wondered who the people who had walked through that portal during the Middle Ages had been. Who were they, what had they done for a living? Had they been beggars, merchants or farmers? Maybe nobility?

The Neo-Gothic portal

The Neo-Gothic portal

The main portal was of a totally different nature, in 19th century Neo-Gothic style. The interior was Neo-Gothic, too, which strangely complemented the Early Gothic construction and the Romanesque apse. I liked the mixture of styles and have always been a fan of Neo-Gothic features, but I wondered what the entire church had looked like when it was pure Early Gothic or Romanesque style.

The Church of Saint Havel

The Church of Saint Havel

The Church of Saint George in Malejovice was next on the itinerary. It was typical of Early Gothic village architecture, dating from 1250 or earlier, but parts were much younger. The tower dated from 1886 and the main altar from the end of the 18th century. The windows were NeoRomanesque, hailing from the 18th and 19th century. It was intriguing to see so many styles in a relatively small space. The different styles offered a sort of a pictorial narration of the church’s history.
CASPOSMalejovice2
Church of Saint George in Malejovice
Then we stopped in a town with a busy outdoor market on the main square. It was called Ulhířské Janovice, named after Jan Sternberg, who founded a settlement there back in the 13th or 14th century. First we entered the Baroque Church of Saint Alois on the square. The church had been built in 1777, completed in 1792. Its main portal dated from 1784.

The painted main altar of the Church of Saint Alois

The painted main altar of the Church of Saint Alois

The intriguing feature of this church was that the altars were painted onto the walls. The guide explained that this was cheaper and quicker than decorating the church with real, three-dimensional altars and statuary. I recalled the spectacular painted main altar at Hejnice Basilica in northern Bohemia. You would not even guess that the altar in Hejnice was painted; it looked so real. What surprised me about the main altar in this church was that even the statues were painted on.

Uhlířské Janovice, Church of Saint Giles, ceiling panting

Uhlířské Janovice, Church of Saint Giles, ceiling panting

Nearby was the Church of St. Giles, which could not be more different. The church had a Romanesque nave and a 14th century Gothic presbytery and sacristy. The one-nave church was made out of quarry rock with sandstone. A Romanesque window adorned the north side. However, the church did not only boast Romanesque and Gothic styles. The altar was Rococo while the pulpit was in Empire style.
It was a typical Gothic construction with Gothic wall painting. These frescoes dated from the 13th or 14th century but were in poor condition. They depicted the martyrdom and celebration of Jesus Christ. Even though a fire ravaged the church in the early 20th century, the frescoes and the Gothic presbytery had been saved. The church was rebuilt four years later, but the frescoes were not discovered until 1895. They were restored in 1953. I thought about the Stalinization of the 1950s, when Czechoslovakia was under harsh Communist rule and was surprised that frescoes in a church would have been restored then.

Wall paintings in the Church of Saint Giles

Wall paintings in the Church of Saint Giles

In the frescoes it was possible to make out Christ being taken to Jerusalem, and I saw the gate of Jerusalem with a palm tree in the background. I could make out Christ with a halo above his head, but the scene of the Last Supper was hardly visible. King David and King Solomon were present in the paintings, too. It was difficult to see the Crucifixion scene. The frescoes I liked best were the stars on what had been a blue background and the Sternberg family coat-of-arms.

Košice, Church of the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary

Košice, Church of the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary

Then came the village of Košice, where the Church of the Birth of the Virgin Mary was located. As we entered the church through a magnificent Gothic portal, we saw an old inscription, but I am not sure what it said. The church had been originally built in Early Gothic style. The oblong nave and elongated square presbytery were Gothic, dating from 1300. The vaulting, which astounded me, hailed from 1563. One astounding feature of this church was its western tower, also going back to 1563. The tower had a Late Gothic portal and an inscription that dated from the year that the tower was built. The altar was much younger, from NeoBaroque days. I was so amazed that so much of the Gothic construction of this church remained. It was almost as if by walking through that Gothic portal, I had stepped into the Middle Ages.

The ceiling painting in Košice

The ceiling painting in Košice

I knew many castles, but I had never heard of the Sion Castle ruins. Located eight kilometers from the popular town of Kutná Hora, the castle had been constructed from 1426 to 1427 for Hussite leader Jan Roháč from Dubé as a representative seat rather than as a fortification. During the 15th century the castle had been the last stronghold of the Hussite revolutionary movement, when the followers of martyr Jan Hus took on several Catholic monarchs, including the King of Bohemia and the Holy Roman Empire. Hussite factions fought on both sides. The castle had then consisted of a triangular ground plan and a two-storey rectangular palace where Jan Roháč had lived.

A monument at the Sion Castle ruins

A monument at the Sion Castle ruins

It was conquered by Emperor Zikmund Lucemberk after a four-month standoff during September of 1437 and ended the Hussite wars. During the attack about 100 cannonballs damaged the castle palace. After the emperor’s victory, the castle was razed. Two days later Jan Roháč from Dubé was tortured in Prague and executed, most likely in Old Town Square. I tried to imagine the defeated Jan Roháč in red clothes and gilded restraints as he was hanged in public on my favorite square in the world.
The moat had been preserved. We had to walk over flimsy wooden planks to get over it. I looked at these foundations and was amazed at what a story these ruins told in a scene that so resembled a painting by Caspar Friedrich.

The Church of Saint Andrew

The Church of Saint Andrew

Then we hustled through a forest with steep inclines to get to a field where we could see the Church of Saint Andrew with its remarkable wooden bell storey in Chlístovice. We did not go inside because it was not open, but I read that the presbytery was polygon-shaped without supporting pillars, and it had a rectangular nave. While the church dated back to 1352, the entranceway was Baroque.

The Church of Saint Markéta in Křesetice

The Church of Saint Markéta in Křesetice

The next stop was Křesetice, the Church of Saint Markéta. This church had a rectangular presbytery with crisscrossed, ribbed vaulting. One Gothic window had been preserved in the presbytery. The Baroque high tower dated from 1680. Many features of the church hailed from NeoBaroque days. The wooden organ loft was probably NeoBaroque. The windows of the nave and the pulpit were NeoBaroque, too.
The church had been the home of a spectacular Late Gothic Madonna, but it was not on display there anymore, unfortunately. A marble portal dated from 1706. The ceiling painting did not seem to complement the NeoBaroque interior with Gothic elements. It was too modern, dating from 1946. The children and rainbow depicted on the ceiling jumped directly out of the 20th century and marred the interior, in my opinion.

The 1946 ceiling painting in Křesetice

The 1946 ceiling painting in Křesetice

Next we came to Čáslav, where I had waited for a train for two hours about eight years earlier. I did not know the town at all, though. Dominating the town, the deacon’s church of Saints Peter and Paul stood at 12 meters high with a tower that loomed 88.5 meters over Čáslav. Not surprisingly, it was listed as a cultural monument in the Czech Republic. Just one look at the massiveness of the exterior overwhelmed me. This was one of the most powerful churches I had ever seen. Its history goes back to the 12th century, even before the founding of the town.

The exterior of Čáslav Church of Saints Peter and Paul

The exterior of Čáslav Church of Saints Peter and Paul

It had been through some tragic times. Several fires had made rebuilding necessary, and it was plundered more than once during the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries. During the 18th century the interior was changed to Baroque, but during the 19th century, Neo-Gothic furnishings were installed.
One can still see Romanesque elements of the church. Originally, the Romanesque Church of Saint Michael had been located where the sacristy stands today. The Church of Saint Michael had boasted a rectangular nave with apse. A Romanesque portal that still exists had an intriguing tympanum. A Romanesque tower had been preserved with its bell storey and Romanesque latticed windows.

The exterior of the church in Čáslav

The exterior of the church in Čáslav

The Gothic style was also well-represented in this huge sacral building. It had a 13th century early Gothic presbytery and Gothic ribbed vaulting that overwhelmed me. I just stared at that vaulting, gaping. For some reason Gothic vaulting made me feel a deep spiritual connection. The organ loft also dated from the Late Gothic period. During the Middle Ages the presbytery had been covered in wall paintings. I tried to imagine the space with brightly colored frescoes giving it a certain vibrancy. Now all that was left of the wall paintings there was the head of Saint Christopher.

The vaulting in Čáslav

The vaulting in Čáslav

There were other frescoes in the church, though, but they were younger, from about the 15th century. These included the red Crucifixion of Saint John scene from the 1430s. The Virgin Mary was missing from the left-hand side. I wondered if she had never been painted or had been painted over.
The astounding church had features from the Renaissance period, too. In addition to Renaissance tombstones, there was a Renaissance holy water font as well as a pewter baptismal font from that era. The tabernacle was Rococo in style. The Chapel of Saint Anne was 17th century Early Baroque with stucco décor and cross-shaped vaulting. The main altar was Baroque, dating from 1794. In the front of the church stood Neo-Gothic altars.

The interior of the church in Čáslav

The interior of the church in Čáslav

I loved the way all these architectural styles came together to give each church its own personality. There was a little something of almost everything in this church that loomed protectively over the town and made me feel safe. This was one of the most monumental holy sites I had ever seen. And to think I had only been familiar with the train station before this trip!

The Crucifixion of Saint John wall painting

The Crucifixion of Saint John wall painting

To get to the Church of Saint Mark in Markovice, we had to walk down an overgrown path surrounded by high grass in a cemetery that must have been neglected for some time. Only the presbytery still existed, and it looked very modest from the outside as someplace one might easily overlook. Inside, though, were Gothic wall paintings, but the centuries had not been kind to them. It was possible to make out scenes from the martyrdom of Christ and to see Saint Peter in what used to be green drapery. Another part of the wall showed Moses accepting the 10 Commandments. The paintings were probably symbolic of the Old and New Testament.

The wall paintings in Markovice

The wall paintings in Markovice

I tried to imagine it as it had looked at the end of the 13th century or the beginning of the 14th century when it was founded. The place with wall paintings must have been stunning. I stared in awe at its original Late Gothic portal from 1531. I also admired the Gothic windows. An Early Baroque altar dated from 1667. The church had been repaired in 1531, when it served as the parish church. But when the parish was moved to nearby Žleby (where there is a spectacular chateau, by the way), this church’s condition began to deteriorate. Though it was renovated in the 17th century, it still was not in good condition.
Among the wild, high grass we saw the grave of Alois Eliáš, a Czech military leader, politician and supporter of the resistance during World War II, even though he had served as chairman of the Nazi Protectorate government from 1939 to 1941. The Nazis executed him for his resistance activities in June of 1942, when they were killing prisoners to avenge the assassination attempt and subsequent death of high-ranking Nazi Reinhard Heydrich.

A fragment of a wall painting in Markovice

A fragment of a wall painting in Markovice

The more I read about Eliáš, the more intrigued I was. He had made a name for himself fighting with the Czechoslovak Legion during World War I. He had spent part of his military career in Čáslav, not far from Markovice and had met his future wife in Čáslav. During the democratic First Republic Eliáš also advised Czechoslovak Minister of Foreign Affairs and future president Edvard Beneš. Although he was a member of the Nazi government during World War II, he was a symbol of the Czech nation to many Czechs living under the regime. He stayed in contact with underground organizations and the foreign resistance led by Beneš. One intriguing story about his resistance work concerned how he, his wife and his doctor murdered a pro-Nazi journalist by poisoning the bread they gave him.
However, his resistance work did not go unnoticed by the Germans. The Nazis put him on trial, and he received the death penalty. Eliáš languished in prison for a while, and then the assassination attempt on Heydrich took place. After that, the Nazis sent prisoners to concentration camps or to the execution grounds. He was taken to the Kobylisy execution area and shot during June of 1942.
Perhaps Eliáš’ grave had not been looked after for some time because during 2006 his ashes had been brought to Vítkov in Prague. Yet I had read his urn had to be hidden from the Communists because the totalitarian regime considered him to be a traitor. I wondered why he had a grave when his ashes had been in an urn all this time. Maybe initially he had been buried there, but then his wife had been allowed to take his ashes home. I also wondered why he had been buried in this long-neglected church cemetery, where the grass was seemingly never mowed.

An ancient portal in Okřeseneč

An ancient portal in Okřeseneč

The next stop was Okřesaneč, at the Church of Saint Bartholomew. The one-nave sacral building dated from 1300 and featured early Gothic construction. Yet there were Romanesque elements as well. The late Romanesque portal and three Romanesque windows enthralled me. While the sacristy on the north side and the nave were Gothic, the south side featured a Baroque side altar. The church also had a late Gothic tower with three floors. The cross-shaped ribbed vaulting in the presbytery was stunning. The interior was very modest. The church also included Neo-Gothic furnishings. The early Baroque altar featured Saint Bartholomew from 1680. Even though it had experienced Baroque and NeoBaroque reconstruction, the original core of the church was medieval.

The interior of the Church of Saint Bartholomew

The interior of the Church of Saint Bartholomew

Kozohlody was home to the Church of All Saints, constructed around 1300. There were Gothic wall paintings, but they were a bit difficult to decipher. The Last Judgment was pictured, but it was only possible to see Hell. At the top of the eastern side was the Escape into Egypt. Other scenes included the Birth of Christ and the Death of the Virgin Mary with two angels in the foray. On the south side I could barely make out Jesus Christ with Doubting Thomas, and behind the altar were fascinating though faded frescoes of the flogging of Christ. I tried to imagine these wall paintings full of vibrant colors. It was such a shame they had not been better restored and had not stood the test of time so well.

Church of All Saints in Kozohlody

Church of All Saints in Kozohlody

 

The paintings on the triumphant arch

The paintings on the triumphant arch

 

The wall paintings in Kozohlody

The wall paintings in Kozohlody

In Bohdaneč the Church of the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary featured an original Gothic portal with a Gothic presbytery that boasted ribbed vaulting and a rectangular nave. The pulpit hailed from the 13th century. Tombstones in the church went back to 1350. The tower, though, was Baroque, and the benches were younger – from the 18th century. There were two remarkable chandeliers made from Czech crystal. They dated from around 1890.

The church in Bohdaneč

The church in Bohdaneč

In the entranceway I saw a plaque to the hometown victims of World War II and read names of people who had died in the Terezín and Mauthausen concentration camps. I was reminded of my most recent visit to Terezín, when I practically vomited from seeing the inhumane conditions in which prisoners were forced to live and die. Auschwitz had been even harder to swallow, but luckily, I somehow managed to get through both places without becoming physically ill. Seeing plaques referring to those lost in concentration camps certainly made me appreciate life more. Even with the death of my best friend, things were not that bad. The sun was shining, and I lived in a beautiful, democratic country.

The chandeliers in Bohdaneč

The chandeliers in Bohdaneč

The Church of Saint Lawrence in Zbraslavice had a Romanesque core, dating from the 12th century, though not much from that period survived. There was a Romanesque portal, though. The church had been reconstructed around 1300 into Gothic style. There was one spacious Early Gothic nave with an Early Gothic polygon-shaped choir plus a Gothic sacristy. The three-storey tower was of Late Gothic origin.

The main altar in Zbraslavice

The main altar in Zbraslavice

I loved the cross-shaped, ribbed vaulting in the presbytery. It somehow made me feel the presence of something or someone omnipresent. There had been Baroque and NeoBaroque reconstruction, and a lot of the furnishings were Neo-Gothic. Still, the medieval construction was very authentic. Once again, I felt as if I had stepped into a time period I could never know. For some minutes I felt such a strong connection to the distant past.

The Romanesque portal in Zbraslavice

The Romanesque portal in Zbraslavice

The Church of the Elevation of the Cross in Zruč nad Sázavou was first mentioned in writing in 1328. The Gothic portals were breathtaking. Again I wondered about the personal histories of all the people who had walked under those portals back in the Middle Ages. Their stories would never be told, but they must be fascinating. The church had a rectangular nave. The pewter baptismal font hailed from around the turn of the 17th century. The organ dated from 1861. The presbytery featured arched ribbed vaulting. The tower had a pyramid-shaped roof with a bell storey.

The Church of the Elevation of the Cross

The Church of the Elevation of the Cross

There was a Neo-Gothic chateau next to the church, and we had time to walk through the park. Since the town had prospered when a Bata shoe factory had been built there in 1939, the chateau featured a museum about shoe-making as well as an exhibition about dolls. It also offered two tours of its representative rooms. It had begun as a Gothic castle in the 14th century and had been changed into a chateau in 1547. It burned down in 1781, but various owners made repairs. Extensive reconstruction occurred from 1872 to 1878. In 1891 and 1892 it was changed into Neo-Gothic style with a stunning Neo-Gothic gate. There were also gazebos and garden terraces in the park.

The pulpit in the Church of the Elevation of the Cross

The pulpit in the Church of the Elevation of the Cross

It was fascinating to be able to visit so many Gothic churches that were normally closed to the public. I was glad I went on the trip and had been happy throughout the tour. Now it was time to go home to an empty apartment, without my loving and faithful Bohumil Hrabal Burns, who I had lived with for so many years. After visiting so many churches, I believed that it must have been his time to die. He had had a long life and would have died much earlier if he had not been on a strict diet. I was glad I was home when he died, that I hadn’t been on a trip when he was feeling so miserable. I realized that everyone had their time.

Zruč nad Sázavou Chateau

Zruč nad Sázavou Chateau

There were things I could not control as much as I wanted to, and in time I would be able to go back to an apartment filled with the joy and excitement of a new cat who got a chance to live a normal life rather than live in a cage in a shelter because of me. I had been necessary for all these generations going back to Romanesque days to believe in God to get them through their trials and tribulations. It was necessary for me to believe, too. Maybe not in God, but in something or someone who had a reason for taking my best friend from me.
I came back to Prague, happy. I was ready to enter my empty apartment, ready to welcome tomorrow as a new day, as a fresh start.

Another wall painting in the Church of Saints Peter and Paul in Čáslav

Another wall painting in the Church of Saints Peter and Paul in Čáslav

Tracy A. Burns is a writer, editor and proofreader.

 

Žleby Chateau Diary

Zleby7

Miraculously, I made the train connection in Čáslav with four minutes to spare and not long afterwards found my way from the train station in the village of Žleby to the chateau. To say Žleby is majestic and romantic is a vast understatement. The chateau looks as if it has emerged from a fairy tale. I inspected the fountain in front of the chateau. It dates from 1860 and shows a member of the Auersberg family, who owned the chateau for over 200 years, grappling with a bison. As I bought my ticket, I was a bit disappointed, though. A 90-minute tour was available, but a third tour did not open until May. So, I would miss the chateau theatre and lower floor library, unfortunately.

ZlebyfountainWhile I waited for the tour to begin on that freezing April morning, I familiarized myself with the history of the chateau as described in a booklet I had purchased. Žleby was first mentioned in writing during 1289. The Lichtemburks owned Žleby until 1356, when Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV gave it to Markvart from Vartenberk. During the Hussite wars, which pitted the radical Hussites and Taborites against the moderate Hussites, Holy Roman Empire, Hungary, the Pope and others, the castle was razed, sharing the same fate as many other places in Bohemia during that bloody time period. Then Jiří from Dubé and Vizmburk restored the castle in Late Gothic style. It was changed into a four-winged Renaissance chateau with an arcaded courtyard at the end of the 16th century and the beginning of the 17th century under another owner. During the first part of the 18th century, Baroque renovations began.

In 1746, while the Schönfelds owned the chateau, their daughter Kateřina married Jan Adam from Auersperg. When Kateřina died, the Auersberg line took over ownership of the chateau, and the family would retain Žleby for 200 years. Baroque restorations continued, and the Auersbergs also designed Rococo interiors. Some years later, owner Vincenc Karel Auersberg and his wife Princess Vilemína Colloredo-Mansfield would become responsible for many changes that gave the place a romantic makeover as they were influenced by English architecture from the first half of the 19th century.

Thus, from the 1840s Žleby took on a more romantic air. The Auersberg couple wanted to give the chateau more of a Gothic character and added a prison and bastions. They fitted the interior with leather wallpaper, wood furnishings, weapons and historic furniture, all of which can be seen in the chateau today. In 1849 Vincenc bought land for the future park. In 1942 the chateau changed hands, and after the war it was nationalized.

Zleby5The chapel was first on the list. Upon entering the tiny, quaint two-floor chapel, the narrow, high and oblong stained glass windows behind the altar of the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary caught my attention. The windows bewitched me with their dynamic, bright colors. I then studied the main altar and was drawn to the bright red of an angel’s cloak. The chapel was the youngest part of the chateau, in 19th century Neo-Gothic style, the guide – probably a university student – explained. It dated from 1853 to 1858. Still, there were a few items that went back farther than the 19th century. For instance, a side altar hailed from the 15th century. The triptych showed the Virgin Mary with a sculptural grouping of a Pieta in the middle of two statues. I noticed the trickles of blood on Jesus’ crossed hands. The oldest item in the entire chateau was here – a 15th century richly engraved baptismal font. Statues of saints were positioned high on the side walls of the chapel. I spotted the flapping drapery of Saint Elizabeth.

Then we left the interior and walked through the courtyard with its breathtaking Renaissance arcades to another entrance. The inside hallway was dominated by a 16th century knight in armor on the model of a horse cloaked in red. The guide said that the knight weighed 40 kilograms, the horse 20 kilograms. On the walls were very wide moose antlers. I also noticed slits for eyes in some helmets, the shoulder boards and the neck guards of armor, a two-handed sword and a rapier.

Zleby1As we made our way up the Renaissance stairway, the young man leading our group pointed out that the chateau had the second most weapons after Konopiště, a popular chateau located about an hour from Prague. Indeed, on the walls leading up to the next floor I saw many weapons. Ancient rifles covered one wall, and in another place I spotted a white ivory horn with detailed engravings, once used by Polish King Jan III. Sobiesky, who liberated Vienna from a Turkish threat in 1683.

We entered the Knights’ Hall, which was decorated with 14 knights’ armors from the 16th century, hunting trophies, pistols and swords –  one with red and green gem decoration in the hilt caught my eye –  as well as 188 painted glass pictures covering one wall. These glass paintings hailed from 1503 to 1749 and were decorated with allegorical figures, biblical scenes and coats-of-arms. I spotted the coat-of-arms of the Auersberg family above the doors. Three paintings from the beginning of the 16th century showed tournament and banqueting scenes. The ceiling featured stucco designs. An intarsia-designed credence was a delight, too.

We went through the Emperor’s Room with its white swirls and flowers on brown wallpaper and dark brown table with white swirl decoration on the top. Then we moved on to the bedroom, where a brilliantly colored triptych from the 15th century entranced me. The gold and red colors complemented each other. A huge Baroque bed featured columns and a canopy. On the white tiled stove I saw scenes in nature. I noticed the sea, cliffs and a castle in the landscapes. A black and gold jewel chest was riveting as was an intarsia brown table. The golden wallpaper made an everlasting impression on me. Made with leather, it showed flowers with greenery and golden grapes. Little did I know that even more fascinating leather wallpaper awaited me in other rooms.

Zleby9The Prince’s Study was next on the agenda. The velvet leather wallpaper, colored dark blue and decorated with flowers, also heated the room. An intarsia closet was exquisite. In the small Travel Room, historic clothes covered the small bed and also hung on a rack. I noticed the detailed embroidery on the shoulder of one shirt. Silverware was packed in a box that fit into a portable chest that could be lugged around during journeys. The bed itself was enthralling – it could be packed up, appearing as a closet with intarsia design. A travel toilet in a box resembled a crate.

The Rococo Salon was dominated by a tapestry featuring fountains, trees, apples, peacocks and well-dressed women taking a stroll through the idyllic scenery. Again, the wallpaper amazed me. This time it was decorated with flowers and birds. The leather wallpaper in this chateau brought to mind that fascinating leather wallpaper at Šternberk Castle in central Moravia.

Zleby10Soon we came to the Small Men’s Study with its daiquiri tiled stove that boasted coat-of-arms – just one of many tiled stoves that would bewitch me with its beauty. I noticed a postcard of an Austro-Hungarian soldier on the desk that featured intarsia design. The leather wallpaper above the desk consisted of royal blue and brown swirls. I also peered at ancient books with delicate, brown and gold bindings. The Green Changing Room included a sink, bucket and towel rack that closed up into a table so one could take it on journeys.

From there we entered the representative rooms. In the hallway the chairs had carved, wooden figures in their backs, and the bench also had a finely carved back displaying coats-of-arms. In the Thirty Years’ War Room the walls were covered in Late Gothic carved wood paneling with swirls cut into the wood. Elegant, dark chairs complemented ivory rifles and swords as well as helmets. There were two secret doors in the room – one led to a dry toilet and the other to the downstairs library.

Zleby11The upper floor library consisted of 6,000 books and 6,000 engravings. The big books had beautiful spines. Smaller books were set on shelves high on the walls. The Gallery enthralled as well. Engravings made up one display case. Paintings on the walls included those with animal scenes and a delicate still life of fruit. The leather wallpaper came from 72 deer. The walls were decorated with wood paneling featuring the geometric motif of the Auersberg “A”. There was also a Renaissance dagger that caught my attention. The coronation sword of Emperor Ferdinand I was compelling, too. A Baroque ebony bureau was made of ivory and tortoiseshell.

The Red Room, though, had the most enticing wallpaper, with its gold and red ornamentation. A painting on the ceiling showed fluttering cherubs.  The Late Renaissance tiled stove from the 16th and 17th century featured Old Testament scenes in the upper part and New Testament scenes in the lower section. The green and brown colors made it attractive as well. The door with intarsia dated from the Renaissance, from 1573 to be exact, and used to be part of the Jihlava town hall. Above me was a beautiful, coffered ceiling.

The Tyrol Room boasted a Baroque tiled stove from the Tyrol region that was just as captivating as the one in the Red Room. The brown stove showed scenes from mythology in white relief. The swirling, white columns on the stove were complemented by the swirling, pine wood columns in the wood paneling hailing from the Tyrol. A wooden Rococo sleigh for children looked precious. A Delft fajan vase was exquisite, and on the walls were impressive fajan plates.

The park at Žleby Chateau

The park at Žleby Chateau

The stunning Blue Salon was decorated with the biggest tiled stove in the chateau, a blue, white and mustard yellow piece hailing from Bavaria and featuring grape harvest scenes from that region. A rare black desk was complemented by gemstones. A Spanish-Moorish bureau from the 17th century graced the room as well. A  Baroque ebony cabinet hailed from 17th century Germany. The walls in the lower half of the space were decorated with light wood panels while the upper part included blue and gold leather wallpaper. The pool table hailed from St. Petersburg, Russia. I looked up at the wood, coffered ceiling. It was astounding.

The Knights’ Dining Room did not disappoint, either. The biggest space in the chateau included an intarsia closet and rare hand-painted goblets with colorful figures. Swords and hunting trophies covered the walls. Another bureau in the room was decorated with an ivory engraving of a man on a horse, spearing a boar.

The park at Žleby

The park at Žleby

Blue-and-white porcelain dominated the space where meals were prepared, and rare rose porcelain from Slavkov in Moravia was exhibited in the kitchen itself with its huge, astounding brickwork. Blue-and-white English porcelain was displayed on a table. A unique, 19th century, cylindrical grill stood out. The kitchen smelled like a bakery. Chateau employees in historic dress were baking bread. A boiling house and smoke house were attached, too. The stove dated from the 19th century.

After the 10 of us on the tour sampled some homemade Easter bread, the eloquent and enthusiastic guide said goodbye. I took a few more photos of the romantic, fairy tale façade with elegant gate before heading to the park. Then I walked down the street to a pub for a fattening, yet tasty, lunch of beef and dumplings. From the pub window I gazed at the chateau. I felt as if I was a trance. I was so drawn to the chateau. I knew that soon I would have to wake up from my trance and get on the train to Čáslav, where I would switch to a Prague-bound train. Looking out the window at the chateau, I decided that I had had a great day. I just wished that more tourists would visit the chateau that was located only 18 kilometers from Kutná Hora, a major attraction.

Tracy A. Burns is a writer, proofreader and editor in Prague, Czech Republic.

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