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Thursday, April 22, 2010

Karlstejn Castle in Czech Republic

Karlstejn Castle is a large Gothic castle founded 1348 AD by Charles IV, Holy Roman Emperor elect and King of Bohemia. The details of Karlstejn Castle is explained in world tour guides below. The castle served as a place for safekeeping the Imperial Regalia as well as the Bohemian coronation jewels, holy relics and other royal treasures. Located about 30 km southwest of Prague above the village named Karlstejn, it is one of the most famous tourist attraction, travel destination and most frequently visited castles in the Czech Republic.

Karlstejn CastleThe construction works were directed by the later Karlstejn burgrave Vitus of Bitov, but there are no records of the builder himself. Some historian speculate that Matthias of Arras may be credited with being the architect, but he had already died by 1352. Instead, Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV personally supervised the construction works and interior decoration. Construction was finished nearly twenty years later in 1365 when the heart of the treasury the Chapel of the Holy Cross situated in the Great tower was consecrated.

The outbreak of the Hussite Wars, the Imperial Regalia were evacuated in 1421 and brought via Hungary to Nuremberg. In 1422, during the siege of the castle, Hussite attackers used Biological warfare when Prince Sigismund Korybut used catapults to throw dead bodies and 2000 carriage loads of dung over the walls, apparently managing to spread infection among the defenders. Later, the Bohemian coronation jewels were moved to the castle and were kept there for almost two centuries, with some short-time breaks.

The castle underwent several reconstructions in late Gothic style after 1480, in Renaissance style in the last quarter of the 16th century. In 1487 the Big tower was damaged by fire and during the 16th century there were several adaptations. During the Thirty Years War in 1619, the coronation jewels and the archive were brought to Prague, and in 1620 the castle was turned over to Ferdinand II Holy Roman Emperor. After having been conquered in 1648 by Swedes, it fell in disrepair. Finally a neo Gothic reconstruction was carried out by Josef Mocker between 1887 and 1899 giving the castle its present look. The nearby village was founded during the construction of the castle and bore its name until it was renamed to Buda in the wake of the Hussite Wars. Renamed to Budnany in the 18th century, it was merged with Poucnik and called Karlstejn.

The castle was built upon a promontory from the south side of Knezi hora, divided from it by a narrow sag. The first gate, a square, two-storey tower with a tall hip roof, stood above a moat at the western slope of the promontory. It was connected with the rampart traverse by means of a small portal. The traverse was protected by battlement and divided by a covered bastion in the middle. The second gate led to the burgraviate courtyard. Drawbridges closed both entrances. The burgraviate formed the Karlstejn settlement, it was fortified with a two meters wide rampart, the well tower stood slightly lower. In the burgraviiates rampart a third gate was staved - the main entrance into the inner castle.

Karlstejn CastleKarlstejn CastleThe core of castle consisted of three parts placed on three levels differentiated terraces. On lowest terrace there stood the castle palace above it there was church tower and Bid tower stood the highest. The palace a single tract building about 12.5 m wide and 46 m long closed in the east by a simi cylinder tower had aside of the cellar dug in the rock the ground floor and two walled floors the third floor aunder the roof was built from half timbered work. The ground space was open to courtyard and rest was occupied by a granary. Three rooms formed the first floor, largest was the central room called White hall. The emperor inhabited the second floor of the palace the floor was divided into four rooms by self supporting partitions. A spiral staircase connected it with the third floor. The layout and equipement of the second and third floor was approximately same bedrooms on the eastern side, then the stateroom, a hall and the rooms in west.

The central area of the Big tower the chapel of the Holy Cross has no analogy in concept elsewhere in the world. In the safety of the chapeel behind four doors with nineteen locks to each key was guarded independently, the valuable documents of the state archive were kept along with the symbols of state power the crown jewels. Individual buildings of the castle are situated at different height levels expressing their importance. Dominating on the hilltop is the 60m high and separately fortified Great tower built upon massive walls 4-6 m of thickness that houses the Chapel of the Holy Cross. From there one can step down to the Marian tower, the five-storied Imperial palace and come to the Well tower and Burgrave's palace located at the lowest level.

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