Czech the heritage and history …
The Czech Republic is not a large country but has a rich and eventful history. From time immemorial Czechs, Germans, Jews and Slovaks, as well as Italian stonemasons and stucco workers, French tradesmen and deserters from Napoleon’s army have all lived and worked here, all influencing one another.
It is thanks to their inventiveness and skill that this small country is graced with hundreds of ancient castles, monasteries and stately mansions, and even entire towns that give the impression of being comprehensive artefacts.
On 1 January 1993, the country underwent a “velvet divorce” into its two national components, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Now a member of NATO (since 1999) and EU (since 2004), the Czech Republic has moved toward integration in world markets, a development that provides many opportunities – one of which is tourism.
You will find history in the Czech Republic literally on every corner. Prague is without doubt the most famous city in the Czech Republic and is also the capital. Known locally in Czech as Praha, the city is centred around the River Vltava, in the historical region of Bohemia. Following the end of the Cold War in the early 1990s, Prague has enjoyed a period of immense popularity, becoming one of the premier tourism destinations in Europe and putting the Czech Republic firmly on the tourism map.
Brno is the Czech Republic’s second-largest city and situated at the meeting point of both the Svratka and Svitava Rivers. Steeped in history, Brno was officially founded in the mid-13th century. However, it is known that settlements lived here almost 10,000 prior to this date.
UNESCO World Heritage Sites
Heritage is our legacy from the past, what we live with today, and what we pass on to future generations. Histories’ cultural and natural heritages are irreplaceable sources of inspiration.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site is a site that has been nominated for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s International World Heritage program. The program aims to catalogue and preserve sites of outstanding importance, either cultural or natural, to the common heritage of humankind.
Currently, you can find 12 sites, two intangible cultural heritage traditions and one geopark listed by UNESCO. The sites are varied – from historical sections of towns to single buildings. As such, when visiting the Czech Republic, you should plan to first research and then visit as many Heritage Sites as interests you.
Historic Centre of Prague
Prague is a city of unusual beauty. It is a natural amphitheatre through which the Vltava River flows, filled with a thousand years’ of manmade structures built with aspirations greater than simply satisfying basic human needs. Its prime, yet sensitive, location in the heart of Europe is at the confluence of trade routes, political interests, and cultural influences.
Prague’s history is one written by fire and sword, as well as by pen, paintbrush, chisel and stonemason’s trowel.
Built between the 11th and 18th centuries, the Old Town, the Lesser Town and the New Town speak of the great architectural and cultural influence enjoyed by this city since the Middle Ages. The many magnificent monuments, such as Hradcani Castle, St Vitus Cathedral, Charles Bridge and numerous churches and palaces, were built mostly in the 14th century under the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles IV. The Historic Centre of Prague played a prominent role in medieval Central Europe, resulting in an architectural ensemble of outstanding quality.
Historic Centre of Český Krumlov
Situated on the banks of the Vltava River, Český Krumlov was built around a 13th-century castle with Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque elements. It is an outstanding example of a small central European medieval town whose architectural heritage has remained intact thanks to its peaceful evolution over more than five centuries. The historic centre of Ceský Krumlov is best known for the fine architecture and art of the old town and Krumlov Castle. Construction of the town and castle began in the late 13th century at a ford in the Vltava River, which was important in trade routes in Bohemia.
Historic Centre of Telč
The Historic Centre of Telc is a medieval planned town that has preserved its original layout and the castle-settlements. The quality of its architecture is high, particularly the Renaissance market place and chateau.
The triangular market place features great beauty and harmony as well as great cultural importance, surrounded as it is by intact and well preserved Renaissance buildings with a dazzling variety of facades. The houses in Telc, which stands on a hilltop, were originally built of wood. After a fire in the late 14th century, the town was rebuilt in stone, surrounded by walls and further strengthened by a network of artificial ponds. The town’s castle was reconstructed in High Gothic style in the late 15th century.
Jewish Quarter and St Procopius’ Basilica in Třebíč
The Jewish Quarter and St. Procopius Basilica of Trebic bear witness to the coexistence of and interchange of values between the Jewish and Christian cultures from the Middle Ages until the Second World War.
Trebic’s Jewish Quarter is the most representative in its kind in Central Europe; It is considered the most complete, including synagogues and Jewish schools. Above the Jewish Quarter is the Jewish Cemetery, consisting of about 4,000 tombstones. All Jewish inhabitants were deported in WWII, nobody returned.
The ensemble of the Jewish Quarter, the old Jewish cemetery and the Basilica of St Procopius in Trebíc are reminders of the co-existence of Jewish and Christian cultures from the Middle Ages to the 20th century.
St Procopius Basilica, constructed in the 13th century and built as part of the Benedictine monastery, is a remarkable example of the influence of Western European architectural heritage in this region. The existence of the Abbey at this site stimulated the development of a marketplace.
Pilgrimage Church of St John of Nepomuk at Zelená Hora
The Pilgrimage Church at Zelena Hora was designed by the Czech-Italian architect Jan Blazej Santini Aichl, who delivered a masterpiece out of a combination of gothic and baroque styles.
The church was the first major shrine to St. John (Jan) of Nepomuk, a local martyr who had died in 1393.
Already from its beginnings (1721) the church was meant as a place of pilgrimage. The cloister, which encircles the chapel and is based on a ten-point-star ground plan, was completed later (in 1769).
Gardens and Castle at Kroměříž
Kroměříž, beautiful city with many wonderful historic monuments, stands on the site of a ford across the River Morava, at the foot of the Chriby mountain range which dominates the central part of Moravia.
The gardens and castle of Kroměříž are an exceptionally complete and well-preserved example of a European Baroque princely residence and its gardens. The ensemble at Kroměříž, and in particular the Pleasure Garden, played a significant role in the development of Baroque garden and palace design in central Europe. The Gardens and Castle at Kroměříž are an exceptionally complete and well preserved example of a princely residence and its associated landscape of the 17th and 18th centuries. The castle used to be the principal residence of the bishops and (since 1777) archbishops of Olomouc. You will find a splendid art collection, with works by Dutch, Flemish, and Italian masters. The Kroměříž musical archive is outstanding, as is the Library.
Litomysl Castle is a monumental Renaissance castle dating from the years 1568–1581. It is an outstanding and immaculately preserved example of the arcade castle, a type of structure first developed in Italy and modified in the Czech Republic to create an evolved form of special architectural quality.
The noble family of Pernstejn’s rebuilt the original mediaeval castle into a Renaissance castle in the second half of the 16th century.
Kutná Hora: Town Centre / Church of St Barbara / Cathedral of Our Lady at Sedlec
This historical town centre, with the Church of Saint Barbara and the Cathedral of our Lady at Sedlec, symbolize the wealth this city derived from silver mining. The earliest traces of silver have been found dating back to the 10th century. In the 14th century it became a royal city endowed with monuments that symbolized its prosperity. The Church of St Barbara, of the late Gothic period, and the Cathedral of Our Lady at Sedlec, which was restored in line with the Baroque taste of the early 18th century, were to influence the architecture of central Europe. These masterpieces today form part of a well-preserved medieval urban fabric with some particularly fine private dwellings.
Holašovice Historical Village Reservation
Holašovice, located in the south of the Czech Republic, is an historic rural village which has preserved its typical vernacular architecture. The village is an exceptionally complete and well-preserved example of a traditional central European village. It has a large number of outstanding 18th- and 19th-century buildings in a style known as ‘South Bohemian folk Baroque’, and preserves a ground plan dating from the Middle Ages.
Holy Trinity Column in Olomouc
This memorial column – construction began in 1717 – is the most outstanding example of a type of monument specific to central Europe. In the characteristic regional style known as Olomouc Baroque and rising to a height of 35 m, it is decorated with many fine religious sculptures, the work of the distinguished Moravian artist Ondrej Zahner, who paid for the monument himself.
Lednice-Valtice Cultural Landscape
Between the 17th and 20th centuries, the ruling dukes of Liechtenstein transformed their domains in southern Moravia into a striking landscape. It married Baroque architecture and the classical and neo-Gothic style of the castles of Lednice and Valtice, with countryside fashioned according to English principles of landscape architecture.
The landscape park has two centres: Valtice Castle and the town, and Lednice Castle and village. These two localities are connected by Bezruè Avenue.
Tugendhat Villa in Brno
The Tugendhat Villa is a masterpiece of the Modern Movement in architecture. It was created by German architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. The building in Brno was built in 1930 for Fritz Tugendhat, owner of a Brno textile factory.
The original furniture was also designed by Mies van der Rohe, such as the so-called Tugendhat chair.
The house had central heating and an air-conditioning system with a regulated fine-spray humidifying chamber.
By attributing the UNESCO World Heritage Site symbol to these many significant and historical properties and areas, the world community is announcing: “Yes, this is something that is exceptional and unique in the world; it’s something that we undertake to protect for each other and in the interest of us all – the nations of the world.”
So when you are planning your trip to this marvellous and more than intriguing country, plan to visit as many Heritage sites as time permits. The pronouncement of the world is well deserved!
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