History

CASTLE HISTORY

The castle and grounds at Blatna are without doubt one of the most important monuments of their type in this country today from an architectural and historical standpoint. The castle's long history, distinct architectural style in a rare surviving environment of parks and water, and current condition all make it a jewel among castle complexes. Along with Švihov and Červena Lhota, Blatna is one of the best preserved water castles in the Czech Republic. Its architectural and historical development made this chateau a striking example of the changing artistic styles over the centuries, and since it was mostly held by members of the high nobility over the years, Blatna was one of the places where Central Europe's history was made and shaped.

Archeological findings indicate that the knoll in the middle of the marshes (blata – from where Blatna's name derives) was settled in prehistoric times. Slavs began to appear in the Blatna area in the late 7th and early 8th centuries. Permanent Slavic settlement, however, only occurred in the late 10th century. The settlement at Blatna was well positioned because of an important old trade route connecting Sušice and Horažďovice, which crossed the river Lomnice at this spot. Blatna's first historical record was in 1235, when the fortress was first mentioned as the seat of Vyšemír, a member of the lesser nobility (coat of arms:  arrow), perhaps a poor relation of the Bavor of Strakonice family. Blatna was mentioned again in 1241 with a certain Předosta of Blatna, this time clearly indicating a small castle protected by water, made up of the castle itself and a private Romanesque chapel, quite complex from a  structural point of view, which must have been built somewhere between the late 12th century and 1225. Despite this, however, the oldest period of the castle's history is sometimes linked – as is the case for other castles in this region – with the Knights Templar, and the  obligatory accompanying legends. Written records indicate that Blatna was always held by secular feudal lords. Somewhat more likely is the possible involvement of the Order of St. John, who had their seat at the Strakonice castle belonging to the Bavor of Strakonice family, who  acquired Blatna in the late 13th century. The assumption is that it was the first Bavors living at Blatna who were not satisfied with using the mostly wooden fortified complex and started rebuilding it into a grander abode, surrounded by a stone wall protecting two palaces facing each  other. The surrounding marshes, the castle’s natural defenses, began to be transformed into a continuous water fortress, although it did not  reach its current form until later under other owners. In about 1299 Blatna can finally be called a real castle. The last owner from the Bavor family was Břetislav of Strakonice, nephew of Zdeněk of Rožmital, who held the castle until 1403. The Bavor family died out in the male line and  the Rožmital family, as their relatives, gradually inherited the Bavor property. Now the boar’s head on the banner of the lords of Rožmital waved over the Blatna castle walls. Their long tenure in Blatna became the castle’s golden age. The first lord, Jan of Rožmital, had the original Romanesque building drastically renovated and Blatna became a Gothic fortress with a fortified entry tower. The castle withstood the instability of the Hussite period in the possession of this member of the moderate faction of the Hussite nobility, later an uncompromising Catholic. It was only under Jan’s descendants that the castle reached the pinnacle of its architectural glory. Jan’s sons, Jaroslav Lev and Protiva, held Blatna after their father’s death in 1430. Especially Jaroslav Lev, who appears in written sources as owner of Blatna starting in 1446, held high government posts. He was related to King Jiří of Poděbrady and was an accomplished diplomat and a highly educated man, heading up the Bohemian peace delegation of forty Bohemian lords and knights traveling around the courts of Europe in 1465 to 1467. This journey provided him inspiration from the culture of the Western European nobility.

Jaroslav Lev then put this inspiration into practice by improving the appearance of his home at Blatna. He ordered extensive renovations to re-imagine the building in Late Gothic style, gave the chateau its distinctive look with the rectangular entrance tower and angled doorway, which replaced the previous, simpler entryway, as well as the Gothic chapel attached to the tower on the southeast side and the Rožmital Palace. He also had the Rožmital Palace and his study in the top of the tower decorated with beautiful frescoes. Jaroslav’s son, Zdeněk Lev, held the office of High Burgrave at the court of Vladislav Jagellonsky in 1508. He loved opulence and spent lavishly on his residences to make them more impressive-looking. His contribution to the chateau’s legacy was rebuilding the southwest palace into a magnificent three-story Gothic Renaissance building called the Rejt Palace. 

Zdeněk Lev invited renowned architect Benedikt Rejt to perform the renovation at Blatna. Rejt had previously worked in the king’s service – his work includes the Vladislav Hall at the Prague Castle and the St. Barbora Cathedral in Kutna Hora. Zdeněk’s love of luxury put a strain on the family’s coffers and his son Adam Lev inherited his debts along with his estate and was forced to sell the chateau and town of Blatna to the sisters Katerina and Anna Repicky from Sudoměř in 1555. The sisters sold Blatná in 1560 to Katerina’s husband, Zdeněk of Sternberg. Two years after Sternberg’s death, in 1577, Blatna was sold to Jan of Rozdražov from the old Polish family, the Counts of Rozdražov. He died soon after, however, and Blatna belonged for many years to his son, Vaclav of Rozdražov, after he reached his majority. Under his ownership, the Renaissance Rozdražovsky Palace, the last of the Blatna palace structures, took shape on the north side of the wall from the entrance tower almost all the way to the Old Palace. The Estates Uprising in 1618 to 1620 and the Thirty Years’ War interrupted improvements to the Blatna estate. The castle was severely looted during the uprising by the army of the rebellious Bohemian Estates led by Mansfeld. The town and its inhabitants suffered the same fate. Vaclav of Rozdražov fled to Silesia in 1622, where he died in 1625. His widow Anna Marie continued living with their young son František Ignac at Blatna, who took over management of the estate in 1645. History was no kinder to Blatná after the rebels’ defeat at the Battle of White Mountain in 1620. František Ignac died without heir in 1691, ending the male line of the Rozdražov family. His estates passed to his nephew Count Jan František Kolowrat-Krakowsky, the son of his sister Anna Katerina. He soon sold the estate to Countess Ernestina Serényi, and the Hungarian Serényi family held Blatna from 1695 to the late 18th century. The new lords of Blatna ushered in a new, Baroque period, marked by the many Baroque statues in the town, the magnificently renovated church in nearby Paštiky, and the Baroque transformation of the Rozdražov wing. Wenzel Karl (Václav Karel) Hildprandt von Ottenhausen, a Tyrolean noble, purchased Blatna from the Serényi brothers in 1798, as they had no heirs.  Wenzel Karl and his heirs held on to Blatna, except for the forced interruption during the Communist period, until the present day. Franz (František) Hildprandt oversaw an extensive adaptation of the chateau intended to create a representative seat that would also provide comfortable living quarters. Later, Robert Hildprandt oversaw Romantic-style Neo-Gothic renovations in 1850 through 1856, designed by architect Bernard Grüber of Munich, giving the building more or less its current look. 

In the late 1940s the chateau was taken over by the National Heritage Commission and it was later confiscated from the Hildprandts after the Communist take over. Friedrich (Bedřich) Hildprandt, his wife Cornelia and their daughters were allowed to legally emigrate to Ethiopia after 1958 thanks to the family’s ties to Emperor Haile Selassie I. The relics of the family’s time in Ethiopia are a compelling addition to the chateau exhibition. After 1989, the estate came back into the hands of the Hildprandts after its restitution to Cornelia, the wife of Friedrich Hildprandt (who died in 1981 in Germany), and their daughters Josefina and Jana. The current owners are working intensively on restoring the chateau and opening it to visitors.