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HISTORY

WELCOME TO LEDEČ NAD SÁZAVOU CASTLE

ARCHITECTURE

The early Gothic castle from mid of the 13th century is poised atop a rocky outcrop, enclosed by the banks of the river ´Sázava/Sasau´ and the ´Olešná/Woleschna´ stream. A wooden fort is assumed to have stood here in the early 13th century protecting the merchant route and connecting to the king´s route nearby the very old settlement ´Habry/Habem.´ As centuries went by new edifices were added to the original castle with a tower, eastern palace and baileys in Late Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque styles. The eastern side of the castle is protected by a deep man-made moat with a bridge, originally wooden but later rebuilt by a stone in 1838. The bridge offers a splendid view of the castle baileys; where now stands the right bailey used to stand a drawbridge. In the left bailey there is a sgraffito decorated Baroque gazebo and the shrub labyrinth.

The northern side and its steep slope was used to get goods up to the castle with the help of ox hauling. Access to the first courtyard was protected from the west by barbicans. The lower courtyard is lined with two-floor buildings and its northern end forms a semi-circular tower, formerly a jail. The passage through an outhouse connecting the tower with the southern annex leads to the upper courtyard, dominated by a 32-metre Early Gothic cylinder tower (bergfried). The whole courtyard is paved with cobblestones. The northern and eastern side is defined by the two wings of the palaces with a Renaissance recessed balcony in the corner above the arcades, flaunted with balustrades and a slate roof. Since 1938, the ground floor of the northern wing of the so called “Little or Northern Palace” has housed the Regional Museum. A former horse stable stands at the western side of the courtyard. The remaining part of the upper courtyard is closed from the south by a two-storey building. This disregarded cultural monument of the Czech Republic waking up from a hundred years of sleep comes back again to bask in the glory that it certainly deserves.
So why not come and judge
what a splendid noble residence used to be. We invite you to take a tour of the monumental medieval architecture, which evolved over time from early Gothic to Baroque. We can offer you guided tours of the castle premises, the museum and, last but not least, a climb up the castle tower, from which you can enjoy breathtaking views of the town and the landscape interwoven with the Sázava River.

LOCATION

Geographhic coordinate
49°41′48.12″ N,
15°16′50.16″ 
E
GPS

49.6951669N
15.2777225E

The Ledeč castle is located in one of the most beautiful parts of Posázaví (the region along the river ´Sázava/Sasau´), in the centre of Europe and in the centre of the Czech Republic nearby the nature reserve called ´Stvořidla´. The ´Melechov´ hill (715m above sea level ) with its deep forests and the romantic ruins of the fort ´Melechov´ and the granite rock called the ´Devil's Stone´ or the ruins of the fortress Chřenovice are not far from the Ledeč castle. Its deep moat belongs among the other unique features of castle surroundings: there is no bear to spot nor other animal in it, but the passing passenger train nicknamed ´Posázavský Pacific´.

TOWN AND CASTLE HISTORY

The history of the Ledeč region is very rich, but we can only touch upon the most important events.
There were only the dark forests of the early middle ages. The landscape was desolate and uninhabited, deeply overgrown with impassable forest, through which the winding
Sázava /Sasau River flowed. The water created meanders on its banks full of wetlands, impenetrable bushes with annoying mosquitoes. This region was slowly settled, first along this river; there was fertile soil and abundance of mineral wealth and these conditions allowed small settlements to be emerged on the banks of the river. Ledeč nad Sázavou/ Ledetsch an der Sasau became such a first settlement. At that time, of course, the place was called by another name, but from the 12th century onwards, the first reference of this settlement associated with the name Ledek appears as "the Ledek's Manor House".

Ledeč is one of the oldest settlements in Bohemia. According to prof. Antonín Profous, (the Bohemian expert in toponomastics) the name originated as a possessive suffix from the personal name Ledek and originally meant Ledek's castle or court. The first written mention of Ledeč dates back to 1186, when Elisabeth of Hungary, Duchess of Bohemia (called Eliška, *1144 - 1189), wife of Bedřich (Frederick), Duke of Bohemia (*1148 – 1189), donated the village of Ledeč to the Order of the Johanites (that is Hospitallers - the Order of the Knights of Malta) by deed. In 1199 the confirmation of the possession was given to the Johanites by the charter of Přemysl Ottokar I. (*1155 - 1230), the third king of Bohemia. From the beginning of the 13th century we meet with unknown noblemen with the predicate "from Ledeč", but we do not know their mutual relations. The first mention is preserved in connection with the death of Zikmund/ Sigismund of Ledeč on 12 October 1220, apparently a prominent personality buried in St. Vitus Basilica at the Prague Castle. The name of an unknown Vavřinec of Ledeč is mentioned in 1257. In 1262, Přemysl Ottokar II., the fifth king of Bohemia ((*1233 – 1278) granted permission to the knight Slávek of Ledeč to hold a market in the settlement of Hněvkovice/Hniekowitz. This knight Slávek probably rebuilt a small wooden fort into the stone castle. The town Ledeč had been a parish settlement belonging to the Archdeaconry of Kouřim / Kurzym since the 13th century, with the right of presentation vested in the local ruler.

The construction of stone castles was characteristic at that turbulent time, as the various noble families were splintered and the king Přemysl Ottokar II. was pursuing a policy of conquest in the Central Europe. A bridge over the Sázava River was there the only one far and wide, and it served as a part of the merchant trail that led to Kutná Hora/Kuttenberg. Kutná Hora was one of the most important and richest towns in Bohemia, thanks to the minting of the so-called "Prague Groschen coins" and especially because of the silver mining. This raw material was a part of the economic development of Ledeč since silver was also mined here, although to a small extent. Traders wandered through the settlement looking for accommodation exchanging goods and paying a bridge toll to the authority and they became the main source of the local development. If we are able to imagine a river that was only minimally regulated, we would come to the question how profitable the collection of the bridge toll could have been? With regular flooding the bridge was often swept away by the river downstream, and a new investment had to be made to repair it. And that was probably the main reason why the municipal authority left the toll rights to the townspeople and they were forced to look after it.

CASTLE OWNERS
Since the end of the 14th century the castle was owned by the Lords, whose close relationship was bound up with the aristocratic family of Říčany/Ritschan. Prominent representatives of this lineage, who made their mark in history were Squires Mikuláš/Nicholas the Younger and Mikuláš/Nicholas the Elder, most probably cousins. In 1416, they were the first Lords who put their signatures on the so-called ´Letter of Complaint against the burning of Master John Huss´, and they also affixed their seals with the Three-Leaf Water Lily, which belonged to the noble family of Říčany. Nicholas the Younger worked his way up to the highest levels of society being appointed one of the highest provincial officers and the Elder was a Judge of the provincial court. In the following years the castle was jointly owned by the sons of Nicholas the Elder, Jan/John and Jindřich/Henry, who were responsible for the further expansion of the castle and fortifications.
After John's death, his son, Burian of Ledeč from Říčany, and his wife Žofie, born in the castle
Sovinec/Eulenburg (Moravian – Silesian region), took over the estate. In December 1509 a ball was held at the castle, but it occured a very sad event at the end. The ceiling of the Eastern Palace caved in and the castle's Lady Žofie of Sovinec and her two sons perished under the ruins. Lord Burian was horrified by this tragedy and ordered the demolition of the Eastern Palace and the construction of a new wing, called the Northern Palace. An old chronicler tells about the unfortunate end of his beloved wife Žofie as follows: "In the year 1509, on the 2nd of December, the Castle of Ledeč was partly demolished, in which Lady Žofie perished, being pregnant herself, and also two children (her sons), and two virgins (fiancées) passed away. Lord Burian hardly escaped.“ This tragedy triggered major structural changes to the castle, the Northern Palace was built and the construction of the church tower at the parish church began downtown. The only and the last descendant of the Říčany family at Ledeč castle was Mr. Burian's daughter Markétka, who survived the tragic ball event, married the Moravian nobleman, Zdeněk Meziříčský of Lomnice and lived with her husband at Vranov nad Dyjí/Frain an der Thaya castle in the 1620s. Later, when Lord Zdeněk sold the Moravian estate and the castle of Vranov /Frain an der Thaya, the young couple moved to Bohemia to the castle in Ledeč, which Lord Zdeněk got throught marriage. This decision required further rebuilding and, at the time, modern Renaissance renovations, too. Characteristic Renaissance features are the vaulting of all the ceilings with a cross vault and the sgraffiti on the outer walls of the palaces. In 1562 Zdeněk Meziříčský enforced on the Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand I. a majesty, by which Ledeč was elevated to a town and the use of the coat of arms of the family Ledečský from Říčany as the town coat of arms was permitted. This coat of arms is still in use today with minor modifications. It consists of a red shield with three silver water lily leaves, with stems joined in the centre of the shield, and the jewel (that is the ornament above the shield) consists of two red wings with water lilies between them. At the same time the use of the red seal was allowed, which was the privilege of royal cities only.
During the reign of
Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf/Rudolph II. the Czech lands were experiencing a cultural and scientific heyday, but the age of glory and castle's flowering was gone. The castle Ledeč became the cause of inheritance tussles and quarrels that reached the Supreme Court. These quarrels are connected with the Trčka´s family of Lípa, one of the richest Czech families. They owned vast territories in the central and eastern Bohemia. These estates largely were acquired by speculation at the turn of the 16th and 17th centuries. Ownership often changed the owners thanks Trčka´s profiteering, but only within the bounds of family kinship. The castle came into the possession of such important families as the Lobkowitz and Salm families. At the end of the 16th century the castle Ledeč was held by Jan Rudolf Trčka of Lípa and Opočno/Opotschno with his wife Maria Magdalena born Lobkowitz (also nicknamed Evil Manda). All of Jan Rudolf Trčka's property, including Ledeč castle, was finally confiscated in 1636 for betrayal against the Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand II.
Ledeč castle was donated by a resolution of
Emperor Ferdinand II. in the same year for his war achievements to the Dutch nobleman Adrian, Free Lord of Enkefurt, Field Marshal and General of the Imperial Army. In the following years, neither the castle nor its subjects prospered. In the course of and even after the 30-year war, the country was in misery, and people were exploited, as many times as they did not even have a living, let alone taxes. And this horrible situation had an impact on the further development of the castle. The Enkefurt family built a new brewery below the castle and the west gate was rebuilt. The facade of this gate was made of stone, including the carved family coats of arm with Latin inscription, the free translation of which is "Even after death bravery lives (Vivit post funera virtus)". This gate adorns the castle till now. His son John Ferdinad Baron of Enkefurt sold the debt-ridden and impoverished estate to Count Michael Oswald von Thun und Hohenstein.
Michael Osvald was one of the richest Bohemian noblemen and held the office of the Imperial Secret Councilor. He was a governor and a judge of the Bohemian Provincial Court. Since the purchase of the castle in 1677 a new chapter began for the castle, the Thun family took good care of the castle and expanded it structurally. Their most important building activity was the construction of a Summer Residence and a stone bridge to the east of the castle.
He built this palace for his brother Arnošt/Ernst, who was one of the highest church dignitaries of that time (the Archbishop of Salzburg and Passau). Michael Osvald von Thun was a member of the highest social class and that was the reason for the marriages of his two daughters Eleonora Barbara and Maria Magdalena with the best noblemen in the then Europe. Eleonora Barbara was married to Anton Florian von Lichtestein, one of the most important politicians in the Empire, who served as Hofmeister of the Imperial Court and became the first Prince and ruler of the newly established Principality of Liechtenstein. His second daughter, Maria Magdalena, married Count Franz Joseph Serényi, who owned large estates in Moravia. After almost 50 years of rule by the Thuns, the Ledeč castle was sold to the Imperial Chamberlain, Count Leopold Ignatius of Věžník and his wife Maria Elisabeth née Wallenstein. Their ownership of Ledeč Castle did not last even 25 years and it was sold again and became an increasingly indebted estate. In this state, the castle was bought by the Court Councilor and the Cabinet Secretary, Free Lord Ignac of Koch, who speculatively sold it after three years to the very Empress Maria Theresa.
The Empress Maria Theresa bought the castle and the estate and in 1753 and she donated it to
the Institution of Noble Ladies (officially the Imperial and Royal Theresian Stift for Noble Ladies in the Castle of Prague) , which she founded herself at Prague Castle Area. With this transfer, Ledeč Dominion and Castle received another blow of fate, as the position of this important castle in the Czech lands became a mere administrative centre of the Theresian Institute of Noblewomen. All the funds that flowed from the estate were diverted to Prague and only the most necessary repairs were carried out on the castle. To make matters worse, Maria Theresa's son and heir to the throne, Joseph II. placed two companies of General Laudon's regiment in the castle after 1765 and rebuilt the entire castle for the needs of the army. That was the worst intervention in the architecture of the castle. The palaces were rebuilt into barracks. The palaces got more floors and rooms. The original renaissance rooms were stripped of their decoration, the bay windows on the outer facades were demolished, and wooden pavilions with a large number of entrances and access openings were built. The stables were enlarged to meet the needs of the cavalry. The ground-floor rooms served as the horse stables, too. The castle never recovered from this intervention during the entire period of administration by the Theresian Institute. The only significant building activity was recorded in 1838, when the bridge was arched over and covered with stone, as it was no longer safe to walk, let alone drive, on the old wooden bridge. Another subsequent disaster occurred at the end of the 19 century. Massive Fire broke out in the castle, which was recorded in court files:"In 1879, on 8 March, at half past 5 p.m., fire broke out at František Novák's house, number 234, in Brewery Street. It was started out of revenge by the maid Barbora Žáčková from Světlá/Swietla ob der Sasau, because her mistress reproached her for a badly swept hall." This fire devastating for all castle buildings was not extinguished until three days later and the ruins were still smoking for the next five days. Almost all roofs and ceilings were destroyed. Some buildings even had to be demolished and were never rebuilt. The Chapel of the Assumption and the wing of the Eastern Palace of Lords were torn down. In 1903 the construction of the railway touched the castle moat resulting in demolition of the eastern gate and breaking of the rock through the northern bailey. A torso of this gate can still be seen by the eastern road.
The Teresian Institute of Noble Ladies
owned the castle and the Ledeč estate almost 200 years, until the end of the First World War. On the basis of the land reform, the estate and the castle were transferred to the administration of the newly established Czechoslovak state. Since the 1950s, the administration was taken over by the Czechoslovak State Forests, which carried out the most important renovation of the roofs and structural stability. The building was fully used as offices, warehouses, garages and apartments for the forest administration staff. Since 1938 the Municipal Museum was also established in the castle, where a regional collection from the early 20th century is on display. After the Velvet Revolution and during the post-revolutionary period there was born a new hope for the castle in its use and in its return to the society of castles and chateaus in order to this historical monument would be open to the public within the tourism industry. But the so-called "wild nineties" saw many oddities and questionable decisions. Although the town authorities of Ledeč asked the state to transfer the monument to the town administration, it was not heard. The castle was finally returned in 1994 in restitution to the new owners, who, however, never had anything to do with it. These restitutionists, in turn, sold the castle to the FINZA Company, which is owned by four regional private companies. FINZA managed the castle until 1999, when three of the owners sold their shares to the town and the new company, Hrad Ledeč nad Sázavou Ltd., was established, that is owned by the town of Ledeč nad Sázavou with a majority ownership (75% shares) and the company AQUACOMP HARD Ltd. (Kovofiniš Ltd.). Since 2000 the company has been carrying out rescue works on the historical monument and has been successfully making individual parts of the castle accessible to the public as part of museum exhibitions.
And what other fate is inscribed in the walls of this castle? Perhaps only "our" Žofie who is a good spirit of our castle knows it. She has been watching over these castle walls for over half a millennium. She is the castle patroness who protects and helps it in good and bad times.

Created 5.5.2015 13:35:45 | read 9425x | ludek.sima2
 
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