Thursday, February 16, 2012

Czech Republic : Litomysl Castle (1999)

Litomyšl Castle was originally a Renaissance arcade-castle of the type first developed in Italy and then adopted and greatly developed in central Europe in the 16th century. Its design and decoration are particularly fine, including the later High-Baroque features added in the 18th century. It preserves intact the range of ancillary buildings associated with an aristocratic residence of this type.

There has been a settlement since at least the 10th century at Litomyšl, which is located at an important communications junction on the main road between Bohemia and Moravia, with its fortified core on the hill where the castle now stands.
There is known to have been a small church dedicated to St Clement on this site, and a Premonstratensian 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 remodelling. 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.

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