UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Sites in the Czech Republic
The UNESCO List of World Natural and Cultural Heritage in the Czech Republic form only a tiny fraction of the treasures of immense artistic inventiveness and craftsmanship as well as the highly specifc cultural environment which visitors to the Czech Republic are bound to encounter at every step.
The Czech Republic, however small, is a country with a rich and eventful history. People have been living here for centuries, cultivating their land, working and creating things, which still command our respect today. The people, who inhabited the Czech Lands, and who included Czechs, Germans, Jews, as well as Italian stonemasons and stuccoworkers, French tradesman and deserters of Napoleon´s army, have all left behind hundreds of chateaux, castles and monasteries, and even entire towns that are regarded as works of art.
Prague, Kutna Hora, Cesky Krumlov, Telc, the Church of St John of Nepomuk on Zelena Hora (Green Mountain) near Zdar nad Sazavou, the Lednice-Valtice complex, the chateaux of Kromeriz and Litomysl, the south Bohemian village of Holasovice. Trebic-Basilica of St. Procope and Jewish Town, Holy Trinity Column in Olomouc and the avantgarde architecture of the Tusendhat Villa in Brno, are on the UNESCO List of World Natural and Cultural Heritage.
They, however, form only a tiny fraction of the treasures of immense artistic inventiveness and craftsmanship as well as the highly specifc cultural environment which visitors to the Czech Republic are bound to encounter at every step.
Historic Centre of Prague
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, built mostly in the 14th century under the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles IV.
The capital'o s historical center, more than ten centuries old, enchants its residents and visitors alike through its unique symbiosis of all architectural styles - from Romanesque rotundas, Gothic towers, and Renaissance burghers' houses and palaces to the Jewish synagogues, Baroque churches, convents and monasteries. The city is full of crooked lanes, gilded towers and church cupolas. And one shouldn't omit the Art Nouveau and Modernist architecture. A poet once described Prague as a "symphony in stone", and thus perfectly expressed its character and unique beauty. This city of a hundred spires, built along the meanders of the Vltava and on the surrounding seven hills, has always enraptured poets, artists, and photographers. The architectural jewels in Prague's historical center are more than just stone-and-mortar witnesses to the past. Prague always has been, and continues to be, a living city with an unusual number of theaters, concert halls, galleries, museums and exhibition spaces; its cultural offerings are rich and varied. Prague is as multifaceted a city as one could wish for; to each visitor it reveals a different, yet always charming, face.
Kutná Hora: Historical Town Centre with the Church of St Barbara and the Cathedral of Our Lady at Sedlec
Kutná Hora developed as a result of the exploitation of the silver mines. In the 14th century it became a royal city endowed with monuments that symbolized its prosperity. The Church of St Barbara, a jewel 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.
During the middle ages, profits from the Kutná Hora silver mines brought fame to the lands of the Czech Crown, and Kutná Hora was one of the richest and most powerful towns in the Czech lands. At the turn of the 14th and 15th centuries, Kutná Hora became the seat of King Václav IV. The Gothic St. James' Church (1330) and the St. Barbara's Cathedral (1388), devoted to the patroness of miners, are among the most important architectural monuments. Among other jewels is the former mint - The Vlašský dvůr (Italian Court) from the 13th century, and several patrician houses. The building called Hrádek (Little Castle), which is part of the former municipal fortifications, houses a museum of mining; the tour includes a visit to a former mediaeval mine. Other worthwhile monuments are the former Latin school and the cloister church in a suburb called Sedlec, which houses a curious ossuary. Its interior is composed exclusively of human bones.
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 (mainly the work of Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach) and the classical and neo-Gothic style of the castles of Lednice and Valtice with countryside fashioned according to English romantic principles of landscape architecture. At 200 sq. km, it is one of the largest artificial landscapes in Europe.
An extensive Baroque complex built for the Liechtenstein family by renowned architects like C.Tencalla, D.Martinelli, J.B.Fischer von Erlach, and J.Ospel. The complex consists of chateau buildings, garden structures and decorative sculpture of various styles, set amidst ponds and woods. The Valtice Chateau is surrounded by a beautiful natural park dotted with many Romantic structures ("follies"), rare trees and greenhouses with tropical plants.
Justification for Inscription
The Committee decided to inscribe the nominated property on the basis of cultural criteria (i),(ii) and (iv) considering that the site is of outstanding universal value being a cultural landscape which is an exceptional example of the designed landscape that evolved in the Enlightenment and afterwards under the care of a single family. It succeeds in bringing together in harmony cultural monuments from successive periods and both indigenous and exotic natural elements to create an outstanding work of human creativity. The Committee decided to include criterion (i) to the proposed criteria since the ensemble is an outstanding example of human creativity.
Historic Centre of Telč
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 Gothic castle was reconstructed in High Gothic style in the late 15th century.
Originally a royal water keep founded in the 13th century on the crossroads of several busy trade routes. It obtained its current appearance in the 16th century, when the chateau as well as the town center were rebuilt. This development was in part the work of the Jesuit order, which then had a significant presence in the town. Beside the chateau and its park, among the most important monuments is the square - a unique complex of Renaissance and Baroque houses. The houses' arcades and gables were built according to an integrated plan. Music and visual arts play an important role in Telč's contemporary life. Cultural events: International folklore festival; French-Czech music academy.
Holašovice Historical Village Reservation
Holašovice 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 vernacular buildings in a style known as 'South Bohemian folk Baroque', and preserves a ground plan dating from the Middle Ages.
This South-Bohemian village is considered a true pearl of the rustic Baroque style. Its 22 farmhouses with painted Baroque gables in the front and gardens in the rear are situated around a central pond. The pond was used for breeding freshwater fish; the entire area is still known for its fish industry. The village is a living monument to the rustic traditions, such as those we know from the Bartered Bride, perhaps the most famous Czech opera. The village even served as a set for the its film version.
Justification for Inscription
Criterion ii: Holasovice is of special significance in that it represents the fusion of two vernacular building traditions to create an exceptional and enduring style, known as South Bohemian Folk Baroque. Criterion iv: The exceptional completeness and excellent preservation of Holasovice and its buildings make it an outstanding example of traditional rural settlement in central Europe.
Jewish Quarter and St Procopius' Basilica in Třebíč
Třebíč is the town of uncommon religious sights, the most famous of which is the Romanesque-Gothic Basilica of St. Procope. The abbot cathedral was originally dedicated to the Virgin Mary, but after being damaged during the wars, it had been used for secular purposes for more than two centuries. After its renovation the Church has been using it again. Among the most precious parts of the basilica there is the crypt with a more than seven hundred years old timbering of the ceiling, the presbytery vaulted by the cross stone vault, the rose window in the eastern part of the apse and the northern portal, which is a unique piece of stone work. Architect Kamil Hilbert created the recent look of the basilica interior in the years 1924-1935.
Třebíč used to belong to the important centres of Jewish culture in Moravia. The uniquely preserved Jewish Town remains a witness of the coexistence of the Jews and the Christians. The unique Jewish quarter with dense housing, narrow isles, dark corners, vaulted passages and romantic little squares, includes more than 120 residential houses. Besides them there have been preserved the buildings of the former Jewish institutions - e.g. the Town Hall, the school, the rabbinate and the poorhouse. The Back Synagogue was completely reconstructed. Its interior, decorated with unique wall paintings from the early 18th century, houses the exposition of the history of the former ghetto. Various cultural events, such as exhibitions, concerts, meetings and seminaries, take place here. The Front Synagogue serves today as a chapelry of the Czechoslovak Hussite Church.
Justification for Inscription
Criterion ii: The Jewish Quarter and St Procopius Basilica of Trebic bear witness to the coexistence of and interchange of values between two different cultures, Jewish and Christian, over many centuries. Criterion iii: the Jewish Quarter of Trebic is an exceptional testimony to the cultural traditions related to the Jewish diaspora in central Europe.
Holy Trinity Column in Olomouc
This memorial column, erected in the early years of the 18th century, 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.
Justification for Inscription
Criterion i The Olomouc Holy Trinity Column is one of the most exceptional examples of the apogee of central European Baroque artistic expression. Criterion iv The Holy Trinity Column constituted a unique material demonstration of religious faith in central Europe during the Baroque period, and the Olomouc example represents its most outstanding expression.
In the small town of Litomyšl, the aristocratic family of Pernštejn had a mediaeval castle remodeled into a Renaissance chateau the second half of the 16th century. The chateau is an exceptional example of an original Italian arcaded structure which was adapted for the Czech environment. It is a fine illustration of an aristocratic residence built during mediaeval Renaissance, with later developments under the influence of new styles. The town of Litomyšl is also the birthplace of the great Czech composer Bedřich Smetana; an annual music festival (Smetana's Litomyšl) bears his name.
Justification for Inscription
Criterion (ii): 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. Criterion (iv): Litomyšl Castle 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.
Pilgrimage Church of St John of Nepomuk at Zelená Hora (town of Žďár nad Sázavou)
This pilgrimage church, built in honour of St John of Nepomuk, stands at Zelena Hora, not far from Zdar nad Sazavou in Moravia. Constructed at the beginning of the 18th century on a star-shaped plan, it is the most unusual work by the great architect Jan Blazej Santini, whose highly original style falls between neo-Gothic and Baroque.
Foto: Jiří Berger
The abbot of the Žďár monastery had this pilgrimage church built in the 18th century to celebrate the memory of the Czech martyr and saint, John of Nepomuk. It is a unique testament to the genius of the Prague architect Giovanni Blasius Santini, who decided to use the five-pointed star as the principal symbol in his remarkable structure. According to legend, a crown with five stars appeared above the body of the drowned martyr. The building in the so-called Baroque Gothic style is characteristic by its composition based on the five-pointed star shape: a star-shaped ground plan with five exits, five stars and five angels on the main altar.
This work of Giovanni Santini speaks to us through the originality of its concept and its brilliant technique, which contains elements of both the Baroque and the Gothic, united here in the splendid Bohemian Gothic Baroque.
Gardens and Castle at Kroměříž
Kromeríz stands on the site of an earlier 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 Kromeríz are an exceptionally complete and well-preserved example of a European Baroque princely residence and its gardens.
Justification for Inscription
Criterion ii: The ensemble at Kromeríz, and in particular the Pleasure Garden, played a significant role in the development of Baroque garden and palace design in central Europe.
Criterion iv: The Gardens and Castle at Kromeríz are an exceptionally complete and well preserved example of a princely residence and its associated landscape of the 17th and 18th centuries
Historic Centre of Český Krumlov
Situated on the banks of the Vltava river, the town 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.
This picturesque town lies in a deep, meandering valley of the Vltava river in the very South of Bohemia. Its golden age came about during the rule of the Lords of Rožmberk (1302-1602), who made their residence there. At that time, Krumlov was a point of contact between the Czech interior, the Austrian/German Danube region, and Northern Italy. The Italian Renaissance greatly influenced the appearance of the town and its castle.
At the end of the 17th century, during the rule of the Eggenberg dynasty, a Baroque theater was built and the chateau garden remodeled. During the rule of the Schwarzenbergs, Krumlov received a decorative Baroque makeover. However, Český Krumlov equals more than an exceptional complex of 300 historical buildings. The town presents itself to visitors also as a hub of culture, conventions and tourism. The International Music Festival takes place annually, as does a festival of Renaissance music; theatrical productions are held in the castle garden, the Festival of the Five-Petalled Rose is a major summer attraction, and the Egon Schiele Center is open to visitors the year round.
Tugendhat Villa in Brno
The Villa Tugendhat in Brno - Černá Pole is the very first monument of modern architecture in the Czech Republic and only the fourth worldwide which has received the prestigious UNESCO designation. The building is named after Fritz Tugendhat, owner of a Brno textile factory, who had this jewel of interwar functionalist architecture built for his family. The glass-fronted villa set on a grassy slope was designed by famous German architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe in 1928. Mies was able to utilize exquisite materials and modern technologies of the ealy 20th century. The villa's steel frame, with floor-to-ceiling windows and slim chrome-plated pillars carrying the weight of the individual floors, made it possible to visually integrate the hall with the garden into a single whole. The building was equipped with furniture designed by the architect himself, and was heated and cooled by an air-conditioning system. The villa was built between 1929 and 1930. It is currently owned by the City of Brno, which made it accessible to the public. The Villa Tugendhat is described by architecture scholars as a breakthrough work of modern architecture in the international context.
The Tugendhat Villa in Brno, designed by the architect Mies van der Rohe, is an outstanding example of the international style in the modern movement in architecture as it developed in Europe in the 1920s. Its particular value lies in the application of innovative spatial and aesthetic concepts that aim to satisfy new lifestyle needs by taking advantage of the opportunities afforded by modern industrial production.
Justification for Inscription
Criterion i The Tugendhat Villa is a masterpiece of the Modern Movement in architecture. Criterion ii The German architect Mies van der Rohe applied the radical new concepts of the Modern Movement triumphantly to the Tugendhat Villa to the design of residential buildings. Criterion iv Architecture was revolutionized by the Modern Movement in the 1920s and the work of Mies van der Rohe, epitomized by the Tugendhat Villa, played a major role in its worldwide diffusion and acceptance.