Karlštejn castle marks 670 years since its foundation

The Czech Republic’s famous Karlštejn castle, built by the Bohemian King and Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV, as a treasury for the crown jewels and other precious royal artefacts, is marking an important anniversary this week. It is exactly 670 years ago, in 1348, when the foundation stone of the Gothic castle was ceremoniously laid.

Karlštejn castle, photo: Ondřej TomšůKarlštejn castle, photo: Ondřej Tomšů The year 1348 saw the foundation of Prague’s New Town, Saint Vitus Cathedral, Charles University as well as the Castle of Karlštejn. The foundation stone of the Gothic castle was laid by the Archbishop Arnošt of Pardubice on the bank of the Berounka River. The castle was finished nine year later, in 1357, and today belongs among the most visited sites outside the capital.

Jaromír Kubů, who has been in charge of the castle for more than 30 years, outlines more details about its foundation:

“The castle was established by the Bohemian King and Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV as a medieval fortress, but later the concept was changed, since Charles IV needed a safe place for the biggest treasure of the Christian world, the Imperial Regalia of the Holy Roman Emperor.

“These Regalia were stored at the castle for about 50 years. At the beginning of the Hussite wars they were taken to Nurnberg and much later, during the Napoleonic wars, to Vienna. So for instance the original crown of the Holy Roman Emperor is now on display in the Hofburg in Vienna.”

Karlštejn castle, photo: Ondřej TomšůKarlštejn castle, photo: Ondřej Tomšů The imperial coronation jewels were originally stored in the Chapel of the Holy Rood located in the main tower of Karlštejn castle. Although the royal treasures never returned to the chapel, visitors can still admire its unique 14th-century wall decoration created by the famous Gothic painter, Master Theodoric.

The series of 129 wood panel paintings depicting saints, prophets, rulers and church dignitaries is the most numerous collection of medieval paintings preserved in Europe. Within the next few years, the Castle of Karlštejn, which attracts around 250,000 tourists every year, is set to undergo a massive renovation. The costs are estimated at 95 million crowns, with most of the sum being covered by EU funds.

Jaromír Kubů again:

“The renovation will include the creation of a new visitors’ centre. We will also renovate the cellars of the Burgrave’s house, which will in the future accommodate an exhibition dedicated to wine making at Karlštejn. And we will also create a small cinema. The works are expected to end in 2023 and we will do our utmost to keep the castle open to visitors during the time.”