Karlštejn Castle, keeper of the Czech Crown Jewels

Published: 28.8.2019

Karlštejn Castle, keeper of the Czech Crown Jewels

Karlštejn is a well-known symbol of the Czech Republic, standing as proof of the abundant and convoluted history of the country. The castle had for many years carefully and conscientiously, guarded some of the most precious insignias of Czech statehood – the crown jewels. These are now stored in the Crown Chamber in Prague’s St Vitus Cathedral and shown only on special occasions.

The castle building work began in 1348, when its construction was commissioned by the renowned Czech King and Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV. The monarch himself considered the castle to be his prime seat from the very beginning, and from 1355 onward stayed at Karlštejn to supervise the completion of the interiors and their decoration. The building was inaugurated in 1365 by the consecration of the chapel of the Holy Cross in the Great Tower.
 
Even a building as significant as Karlštejn did not escape rebuilding and renovations, and its exterior appearance shows influences of Late Gothic and Renaissance styles. It owes its current appearance to the purist reconstruction led by Josef Mocker near the end of the 19th century. From an architectural standpoint, Karlštejn captures our attention with its impressive tiered arrangement of the respective buildings. Lowest-situated are the functional parts of the castle, the Fountain Tower and the Burgrave Palace, above them the majestic Imperial Palace and above that the Marian Tower. At the highest point of the rock promontory stands the 60 meters high Great Tower and the fortifications.
 
And what treasures and secrets were hidden behind these mighty walls? In the early 1460s Charles IV decided to keep the imperial coronation treasures in the castle - the imperial regalia and the crown jewels (Currently on display at the castle is a replica of the Czech Royal Crown of St Wenceslas). No ordinary place will do for the safekeeping of such valuables, and so the chapel of the Holy Cross on the second floor of the main tower was chosen, and the necessary changes made. This chapel is a unique, decorative work of art. Its walls are covered with precious stones, adorned with gold and feature an exceptional set of 129 paintings from the art-studios of the court painter Master Theodoric. Another chapel, named after St. Catherine, also called the prayer room of Charles IV, is a gem in its own right and one of the best-preserved original premises in the castle. It is located on the second floor of the Marian Tower, and thanks to its decoration by way of semi-precious stone cladding and wall paintings it is deemed one of the most beautiful parts of Karlštejn.

Practical information:

  • Have a look at the virtual tour of the castle interiors, exteriors and the surrounding area here.
  • General information about the castle can be found here.
  • Information about the tours can be found here.
 
 
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