You are here

2. KONOPIŠTĚ CHATEAU

Built in the early 13th century, the original castle was built in the Early Gothic style by Prague Bishop Tobiaš on the model of a French castellum with a rectangular plan and round towers protruding from the corners, making the most effective defense possible.  Renaissance and Baroque reconstruction changed the castle into a grand stately home.  At the end of the 19th century it was refurbished in the Romantic style for Franz Ferdinand d´Este, successor to the Habsburg throne and famous for his death in 1914 which acted as a precursor for the beginning of WWI.  The chateau can be visited as a day trip from Prague.  The chateau offers a fine display of furniture, tapestries, sculptures, paintings and a a large collection of over 300,000 hunting trophies.  A baroque rose garden and a greenhouse also flank the house. 

Accounts show that the Benešévic family from nearby Benešov were the owners in 1318, and that in 1327 the castle passed into the hands of the Šternberks.  In 1468 it was conquered by the troops of George of Poděbrady after a siege that lasted almost two years.  In 1603, the estate was purchased by Dorota Hodějovská of Hodějov, who made Renaissance alterations to the old gothic fortification.  The Hodějovský family fortified their property because of their active participation in the anti-Habsburg rebellion in 1620. Albrecht von Waldstein acquired the castle and after him it was passed to Adam Michna of Vacínov.  Michna gained notoriety through his repression of the serfs, who revolted against him and conquered Konopiště in 1627.  The Swedes occupied and plundered Konopiště in 1648, and the Vrtba family then purchased the dilapidated structure.

After 1725 they had it transformed in a Baroque style château.  The drawbridge was replaced by a stone bridge, and near the east tower a new entrance was inserted in the wall.  The gate which embellished it was designed by František Maxmilián Kaňka and featured statues from the workshop of Matthias Bernard Braun.  In 1746, the upper levels of four of the towers were destroyed and one tower was completely demolished.  During repair of the interiors, mythological and allegorical frescoes were painted on the ceilings of the great hall and marble fireplaces with carved decorations by Lazar Wildmann were created.  Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria bought Konopiště in 1887, with his inheritance from the last reigning Duke of Modena and had it repaired between 1889 and 1894 by the architect Josef Mocker into a luxurious residence, suitable to the future Emperor; which he preferred to his official residence in Vienna.  The extensive English-style park, with terraces, a rose garden and statues, was established at the same time.

He invited William II, German Emperor to see his roses early in June 1914; insofar as they discussed politics, they discussed Romania, but conspiracy theories about their planning an attack on Serbia or a division of the Austro-Hungarian Empire arose at the time and since.  After the Archduke's assassination, later in the month, the memory of this visit may have moved the Emperor to give Austria more rein in dealing with Serbia than he had in the Bosnian crisis of 1909.  Since 1921, the castle has been property of the Czechoslovak and later Czech state, one of 90 such in state ownership.  The Ministry of Culture is said to spend more than US$ 800,000 per year to maintain the castle, and recovers about as much from entrance ticket sales and rental for occasional functions.