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9. Litomyšl Chateau

The eastern Bohemian town of Litomyšl emerged in the 13th century on the site of an older fortified settlement on the Trstenice path, an important trading route linking Bohemia and Moravia.  There has been a settlement since at least the 10th century at Litomyšl with its fortified core on the hill where the castle now stands.

Litomyšl Castle is an outstanding and immaculately preserved example of the arcade castle, a type of building first developed in Italy and modified in the Czech lands to create an evolved form of special architectural quality.  It illustrates, in an exceptional way, the aristocratic residences of central Europe in the Renaissance and their subsequent development under the influence of new artistic movements.

There is known to have been a small church dedicated to St Clement on this site, and a  monastery was founded in the town in the first half of the 12th century.  The monastery was closed when the bishopric was created in 1344, its buildings being shared out between the bishop and the chapter.  The document of 1398 relating to this partition contains the first reference to an "old palace" and castle at Litomyšl.  Archaeological and historical investigations have revealed remnants of the medieval structure beneath and within the Renaissance castle.

In 1425, the town was conquered after a siege by the Hussites, who razed all the ecclesiastical buildings to the ground.  Restoration was undertaken at the end of the Hussite Wars by the new owners of Litomyšl, the Kostka family of Postupice, and details of this building have also been shown by recent investigations.  It was damaged by fire in 1460 and again in 1546; after the second fire, the castle was confiscated by the king, but it was almost completely gutted after a third fire, in 1560.

The ruined structure was granted in 1567 to the Vratislav family of Pernštejn, who received a royal grant to reconstruct it.  Work began in 1568 under the supervision of Jan Baptista Avostalis (Giovanni Battista Avostalli), who was joined by his brother Oldřich (Ulrico).  Most of the work had been completed by 1580.

A fire in 1635 caused only slight damage to the upper storey of the castle and this was quickly repaired.  The architect František Maximilián Kaňka was responsible for considerable modifications from 1719 onwards in the High Baroque style.  Fire struck yet again in 1775, and the repairs involved some renovations.  Major alterations took place in the interior in 1792-96, to the designs of Jan Kryštof Habich, but he was careful to preserve the fine Renaissance gables.  Since that time there have been no changes of any consequence in the structure, design, or decoration of the castle.

The first courtyard formed part of the original fortified settlement.  The buildings associated with it were all built or rebuilt during the course of the modifications that the castle underwent over time, and this is reflected in their architectural styles

Of the features in the interior of the castle one of the most striking is the fine neoclassical theatre from 1796-97 in the western wing. Constructed entirely of wood, it can seat 150 spectators in nine loggias and its lower floor.  The original painted decoration of the auditorium, stage decorations, and stage machinery have survived intact.  The Renaissance main staircase of the castle is located in this wing, which houses some finely proportioned Renaissance rooms decorated for the most part in neoclassical style in the 18th century.  The other two wings have comparable interiors, basically Renaissance in form and with lavish late Baroque or neoclassical ornamentation in the form of elaborate plasterwork and wall and ceiling paintings.  The paintings simulate three-dimensional compositions with ornamental mouldings from Roman antiquity.

Among the ancillary buildings, the most interesting is the Brewery, which lies to the south of the first courtyard.  Originally constructed as a counterpart to the castle, it was substantially reconstructed after the 1728 fire and received what is its present appearance, which blends elements of high Baroque and neoclassicism, after the 1775 fire.