The Křivoklát Castle is an attractive tourist destination; it was founded at the beginning of the 12th century by Prince Vladislav, photo by: Archiv Vydavatelství MCU s.r.o.Prague - Malá Strana, Vltava River, and Charles Bridge, photo by: Archiv Vydavatelství MCU s.r.o.Prague towards the northwest, photo by: Archiv Vydavatelství MCU s.r.o.The beauty of the countryside, known as Bohemian Paradise, has enchanted many artists, photo by: Archiv Vydavatelství MCU s.r.o.Český Šternberk Castle, photo by: Archiv Vydavatelství MCU s.r.o.Koněprusy Caves, the largest cave system in Bohemia, photo by: Archiv Vydavatelství MCU s.r.o.Mělník Chateau and tower of the Church of St. Peter and Paul as seen from the historic locks in Hořín, photo by: Archiv Vydavatelství MCU s.r.o.
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Central Bohemia - Kutná Hora and surroundings

In the Middle Ages, the Kutná Hora area was one of the richest areas in the entire Kingdom of Bohemia due to local extraordinarily rich deposits of silver discovered at the turn of the 13th and 14th centuries. This discovery evoked a similar fever like the Klondike in the 19th century – silver prospectors came here by the thousands. People lived here much earlier, however. This is proven by archeological discoveries of items from the 4th century in the village of Bylany u Kutné Hory. in addition to the Venus discovered, there were also 134 (!) Neolithic houses and a special cult area in a circular shape. Before the discovery of the silver deposits, nobles built their courts here, the Romanesque churches of which have still been preserved today (Zbraslavice, Vysoká, Uhlířské Janovice with murals, Malín, where the oldest mint in Bohemia stood, Záboří nad Labem and St. James). The Church of St. James (Jacob) in the village of Jakub (part of the town of Církvice near Kutná Hora) is an extraordinary monument of European importance. It was consecrated in 1165 by its noble builders – the brothers Slavibor and Pavel with their mother Marie. The consecration was even allegedly attended by King Vladislav II with his court. The sculpted decorations of the church depict not only its financial patron, but also a medieval manifestation of Czech statehood and Czech nationality, showing St. Procopius even before his canonization.

Cathedral of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary and St. John the Baptist in Sedlec

In the 13th century, the main spiritual centre here was the monastery of Cistercians in Sedlec (now part of Kutná Hora), founded in 1142. The convent church, the cathedral of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary and St. John the Baptist, built from 1290 to 1320, became one of the most magnificent churches in Bohemia. It is the first cathedral-type building in the country as well as being our largest religious structure. It combines north French Gothic cathedral architecture with German elements. The architect is not known, but is referred to simply as the “Master of the Sedlec Church”. In 1421 the church and monastery were plundered by the Hussites, and it remained in ruins for nearly 300 years until the Baroque period brought it back to glory. One of the most original architects of the 18th century, Jan Santini Aichel (1677–1723) – sensitively renewed the entire complex in 1700-1707 in the style of his "own" Baroque Gothic. During the reconstruction, he didn’t unnecessarily destroy anything that could be saved, and creatively supplemented the missing parts. At the same time, he made no effort to hide the fact that the Gothic period had passed two hundred years earlier (which is where the expression “Baroque Gothic” comes from, characterizing Santini’s style). Today’s furnishings in the church are mostly Baroque. This church (as well as the historic city centre and the Church of St. Barbara) has been a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site since 1995.

Kutná Hora

A fundamental milestone in Kutná Hora’s history was the discovery of rich silver deposits around 1300. The previously “sleepy” settlement suddenly transformed into the second most populous city in the Bohemian Kingdom – Kutná Hora. By the end of the 13th century, King Václav II had founded his Italian Court (Vlašský Dvůr) here, formerly the central mint, which Václav IV transformed into his country residence by the end of the following century. The name was taken from the Florentine professionals who were providing assistance in the minting of the Prague Groschen coins. As the wealth of the city grew, the court expanded as well. Further details were added by the Renaissance and Baroque periods. Unfortunately, only fragments of its Gothic decorations have been preserved from its former glory. The Italian Court is where Václav IV issued an important document in 1409 – the Decree of Kutná Hora, which changed the vote in the Prague University in favour of the Czechs.

The nearby Hrádek, or small castle, from the 14th century, was significantly altered in the 15th and 16th centuries, mostly due to the Smíšek family from Vrchoviště who were the local financial and mining entrepreneurs and philanthropists. The Hrádek has been transformed into a museum (www. cms-kh.cz). There are a number of Late Gothic and Renaissance burgher house that attest to the former wealth of Kutná Hora. One of them in particular is the Stone House of the butcher family of Kroupová with its rich stone decoration from Master Brikcí from 1485-1495. The stone work, which is comparable to church sculpting in its execution and quality, makes the Stone House one of the gems of the Bohemian Gothic. Another similar unique item is the Late Gothic polygonal Stone Fountain from 1493-1495 which has no comparison in Bohemia. The author is thought to be Matyáš Rejsek, who also created the Powder Tower in Prague.

Church of St. Barbara

The greatest jewel of the architectural treasure of Kutná Hora is the Church of St. Barbara. It was built from 1388, the first builder being someone from the workshop of Peter Parler. The church was finally completed at the end of the 15th century, when architect Matthias Rejsek built the outer buttress system, the gallery around the chancel, and vaulted the choir. The present appearance of the church is the result of completion work done by the most important architect of the Jagiellonian period, Benedikt Rejt. Since the yields of the silver mines were already beginning to wane, the ambitious intentions of building the largest church in Bohemia had to be abandoned. Instead of the originally intended five naves, the architect built a three-naved star vault with curved ribs. Even so, the result is one of the most beautiful churches in Central Europe. The fairy-tale spirit of the roofs has been restored based on the original construction work of late Gothic Czech specialties – tent roofs. The level of the church’s architecture is matched by its rich and artistically valuable interior decorations.

The impoverishment of the city following the exhaustion of the rich silver deposits, paradoxically, also has its positive side. Building activity in the city ceased almost completely, and Kutná Hora has been thus "preserved" in its Late Gothic form. The Baroque period also left its traces here, although this was mostly simply in subtleties and details; again, the authors were the best artists of their time: K. I. Dientzenhofer (Voršilek Monastery from 1733-1743), F. M. Kaňka (Church of St. John of Nepomuk from 1734-1750), and Škréta’s and Brandl’s decoration of the Church of St. James.

Even though Kutná Hora lost its privileged economic status, it lost none of its appeal. The beautiful landscape and fertile land was attractive much later as well. The chateau Kačina, for example, surrounded by a park embellished with sculptures and built in 1800-1822, is doubtlessly the most beautiful example of empire style in Bohemia.

On the other hand, the chateau in Žleby and its English park are one of the most typical monuments of Romantic Neo- Gothic. The complex building development of the chateau which took place from the end of the 13th century left clear traces. The chateau’s fame is enhanced by the local collection of weapons, ceramic, furniture, and Gothic and Renaissance paintings and sculptures. At the edge of the chateau park is a game field where one can learn about the history of falconry, birds of prey, and owls. You may even see a herd of rare white deer feeding.

If you’d like to admire Kutná Hora from a birds-eye perspective, there is a newly opened lookout tower, as well as a restaurant named “Havířská bouda” on top of Kaňk Hill. The tower is built of stone cyclopean masonry and forms a massive base for the lookout terraces and cafés. A modern elevator makes the lookout tower terrace accessible to everyone who does not wish to conquer the 160 steps up the thirty-meter high deck.