Český Krumlov, a medieval town in the south of Bohemia, has retained its fairytale charm to this day and is deservedly listed as a UNESCO heritage site.
The Southern Bohemian district town of Český Krumlov is beautifully situated on both banks of the upper Vltava, which here follows a winding course under the south side of Blanský Les, an outlier of the Bohemian Forest. Like Kutná Hora, Český Krumlov has preserved an unusually complete medieval townscape, with winding lanes and many old buildings. The silver-mining industry which flourished in the 14th century is now extinct and the modern town´s economy depends on the light industry.
From its foundation in the mid 13th century until 1302 Český Krumlov, with its castle commandingly situated above the town, was held by the noble family of Vítkovci; thereafter it passed to the Rožmberks, under whom the old fortified castle became a magnificent Renaissance palace; from 1622 it belonged to a German noble family, the Eggenbergs; and after their line became extinct it passed to the Princes Schwarzenberg.
In the centre of the Old Town, which is enclosed within a loop on the Vltava, is the main square , surrounded by handsome Renaissance houses, with a tall Plague Column (by Mathias Jäckel, 1716).
On the north side of the square stands the Town Hall (Radnice), with Gothic arcades, a rich Renaissance frieze and large coats of arms of Bohemia, the town and the noble families of Eggenberg and Schwarzenberg.
From the square Horní Ulice (Upper Lane) runs east, passing on the right the oriel-windowed Chaplaincy (1514-20). Beyond this is the Prelature, which has an arcaded Rococo staircase in the courtyard. Farther along is the former Jesuit College (by Baltasar Maio da Vomio, 1586-88), which in 1773 became a barracks and in 1878 a hotel.
Beyond the Jesuite College is the Theatre, built in 1613 as a Jesuit theatre. On the opposite side of the street the former Jesuit Seminary (1650-62) now contains the District Archives and an interesting local museum (fine collection of Gothic art).
To the south of the Chaplaincy, rising above the Vltava, stands the Late Gothic church of St Vitus, founded in 1309 and completely rebuilt between 1407 and 1439. It has a 16th century high altar, frescoes of 1420 (in north aisle) and a Late Gothic crypt. On the south side of the church is the old Latin School (1554), now a school of traditional crafts.
To the west of the main square, running roughly parallel to the Vltava, is Široká Ulice (Broad Street), with a number of particularly fine Renaissance houses, some of them with fresco decoration.
From the square Radniční Ulice (Town Hall Street) leads north to a bridge over the Vltava.
On the far side of the river, in what was originally the lower ward of the castle, lies the Latrán district, the oldest part of the town. Immediately to the right is St Jost´s Church, which was renovated in the 16th century and closed at the end of the 18th. Beyond it, on the right, a street called Nové Město (New Town) leads to the Brewhouse (originally 16th c.), formerly the arsenal of the Rožmberk family. A little to the north of St Jost´s Church can be seen the old Latrán Town Hall, with sgraffito decoration.
To the east of the Latrán Town Hall are the former Minorite Friary, founded in 1350 , and the Convent of Poor Clares, with a Late Gothic cloister (1491). Here too can be found the Corpus Christi Church (1357; remodelled in Baroque style in 17th century), which belonged to both houses; it has a 14th century Pietà.
Beyond the east end of the church is a bastion with a round tower.
To the north of the Latrán Town Hall is the Budějovice Gate (Budějovická Brána; 1598).
From St Jost´s Church the Castle Steps (Zámecké Schody) lead up the Castle (Zámek; the largest in Bohemia after Prague Castle), high above the Vltava. It originally dated from the 13th and 14th centuries but was mostly rebuilt in Renaissance style by William of Rožmberk in the 16th century. At the lower gate, the Latrán Gate, is a moat in which live bears are kept. In the lower courtyard (cannon) are the entrances to the massice Keep (by B. Maio da Vomio, 1580; wide view from top), the rich Library and the State Archives.
The Castle, with some 300 rooms laid out round four courtyards, is lavishly furnished with furniture, tapestries, pictures and porcelain. Particularly notable are the Picture Gallery; the Hall of Masks (1748), with lively trompel´oeil paintings; the Chinese Cabinet; the Great Chapel (15th c.); and the Little Chapel (18th c.). The high Plášťový Most, a bridge with three tiers of arches, leads to the Rococo Theatre (1765-66), with rich painted decoration, which still preserves the original stage machinery (in course of restoration).
The uppermost corridor of the bridge leads to the Castle Gardens. Immediately on the right can be seen the Winter Riding School (1745). In the centre of the gardens is the little Bellaria Palace (1706-08). Here too is an open-air theatre (1958), with a rotating auditorium seating 500. At the south-west end of the gardens is a fish-pond formed in 1686.
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