Roudnice nad Labem is a town on the left bank of the Labe River. It has a population of approximately 13 500 and covers an area of 16,67 km². The town is situated near the site of Říp, notable for its connection with the legend of Praotec Čech.
This Early Baroque chateau came into being in Roudnice nad Labem during 1652-1684 on the site of the original Romanesque castle, which was extended and modified in later periods. Shortly after the middle of the 16th century, under Jan Tarnovský of Tarnov, the eastern wing was built by Italian masters. It was linked to the round tower at the eastern end of the castle. Further construction followed when the estate was taken over by Vilém of Rožmberk in 1575. After his death, his fourth wife Polyxena of Pernštejn married Zdeněk Vojtěch Popel of Lobkowicz in 1603. The couple continued to develop the castle, creating a new western wing. With this addition the castle complex took on its typical enclosed trapezoidal layout. An entirely new era of construction came with Václav Eusebius, 2nd Prince of Lobkowicz. In 1652, he decided to rebuild the original complex in a radical way. The first architect invited to take part in this project was Francesco Caratti. He proposed a regular layout of four wings surrounding an enclosed rectangular courtyard. However, he was present only during preparatory works and during the construction of the bottom floors of the eastern wing. After him, Carlo Orsolini continued the construction, but he soon died. Antonio Porta took over (in 1668) and brought the project, which was initiated 1652, to its completion in 1684. The chateau was furnished with a very valuable objects from the family’s collections. It housed the Lobkowicz library (to which the famous manuscript collection of humanist Bohuslav Hasištejnský of Lobkowicz was added in the 17th century), Lobkowicz family archive, and fine arts objects including an excellent collection of weapons, Italian and Delft faience and porcelain, silver, glass, miniatures and furniture. Further valuables include the renowned Roudnice collection of paintings, established by uniting Rožmberk, Pernštejn and Lobkowicz picture galleries. This collection has an excellent set of portraits by Spanish, Dutch and Central European painters. During World War II, the German army used the castle as barracks. Later, it was used by the Czech army as a military music academy. The castle was restituted to Martin Lobkowicz, heir to the original owner, in 1992. The military music academy resided in Roudnice Castle until 2009.
The watch tower (Hláska) is the only existing remainder of the fortifications of the old Roudnice. The old town was located in the present-day Jana z Dražic square and Poděbradova street. Originally, it was enclosed by wooden walls. It was Jan Očko of Vlašim who had solid stone walls with town gates built in 1378. As part of this fortification, a Gothic tower, today’s Hláska, was built on a heightened place to serve its observation and warning roles. Until the second half of the 17th century, it was not in any way damaged, with the exception of 1665 when it was almost destroyed during a great fire in the town. It was reconstructed in the 18th century and modified for its new purpose. A water reservoir for the fountain on the Horse market, which is now Hus square, was placed here.
The monastery was founded for the then new order of Augustinian canons by Jan IV of Dražice. The foundation stone was laid in 1333 and the construction work took over 20 years. The monastery complex comprises the Church of the Nativity of the Virgin Mary and the building of the convent itself. The convent originally had a square ambulatory with a paradise garden and a capitular hall in the east. The monasterial Church of the Nativity of the Virgin Mary is a typical building of the Czech Gothic of the first half of the 14th century. It has got a basilical tripartite nave with a lavishly conceived chancel. Roudnice monastic society was active during all of the 14th century. By the end of the century, 30 canons were registered here. The first blow hit the monastery in 1421 during Jan Žižka of Trocnov’s march from Litoměřice to Prauge when it was damaged and burnt out by the Hussites. In 1431, Roudnice ceased to belong to Prague archbishops and it fell under the management of a secular feudalist Jan Smiřický. The turning point for the local monastery came in 1603 when the Roudnice estate got into the hands of the Lobkowicz family. That’s because Polyxena (of Pernštejn by birth), the wife of Zdeněk Vojtěch Popel of Lobkowicz, secured the title of provostship for the local parish. The monastery fell victim to a fire several times, but it had to wait for a more profound reconstruction until 1725, when it was rebuilt by the most prominent North Bohemian architect of the time, Octaviano Broggio. His intervention affected mostly the church through changes in the style of Baroque Gothic. Because of this reconstruction, the northern part of the ambulatory had to be demolished. The altars in the side naves and both side altars in the presbytery come from the second half of the 18th century and their author is sculptor J. Hennevogel. The main altar is the work of his disciple J. I. König and it comes from the end of the 18th century. In 1777, the same author made the pulpit with rococo ornaments. The walls of the presbytery are decorated with 12 board paintings of the so called “Passion cycle” by painter Hans Hees and with a copy of a votive painting of Jan Očko of Vlašim. One of the local points of interest is the reddish mineral spring flowing out from the monastery. A tradition says that this is what Roudnice was first named after.
St Josef’s Chapel (the patron of dying and of good death) was built as the hospital chapel at the Prague gate during 1767 and 1777. It belonged to the hospital, which had existed in the town since the first half of the 17th century. Originally, it stood by the Elbe river, next to the church of St Václav (St Wenceslas church, which was founded in the thirties of the 14th century by Jan of Dražice). However, during the Thirty Years’ War, it was damaged and consequently moved to the southwest corner of the town (present-day Nerudova and Riegrova streets). It’s a baroque building and it consists of an antechapel with a simple portal entrance and the chapel itself, which is a four-sided room arched into a dome topped with a so called lantern with four windows. The inner arch of the dome is decorated with a painting from an unknown author, which represents the four evangelists, and with a figural composition depicting “The Engagement of the Virgin Mary” and “The Escape to Egypt.” The altar from artificial marble originates in the second half of the 18th century.
On the former execution grounds called “Na stínadlech“, the owner of Roudnice estate Filip Hyacint of Lobkowicz and his second wife Anna Maria Vilemína, the princess of Althan, had St Vilém’s chapel (Vilém is the patron saint of all convicts) built during 1726-1728. The construction task was assigned to Octavio Broggio, the most prominent High Baroque builder in the North Bohemia, who was at that time in charge of reconstruction work of the Church of the Nativity of the Virgin Mary in the Augustinian monastery. The building is characterized by a rectangular ground plan with a dynamically arched front wall, with side pilasters carrying an entablature with a markedly profiled cornice. An architecturally simple visual appearance of the interior is accentuated by frescoes by Václav Vavřinec Reiner. In the corners on pendetives, four principal virtues are depicted (Faith, Hope, Love, and Justice). Above them, a fresco extends respresenting the Holy Trinity - God the Father and the Son with a dove – enthroned in heavens, surrounded and carried by angels. A large cross represents the Lord’s crucifixion. The main altar is decorated with an altar painting depicting the patron of the chapel, St Vilém. All creative activities – paintings, sculptures and architecture – form a mutual harmony of style and aesthetics. Therefore, St Vilém’s Chapel is ranked among the gems of the Czech High Baroque.
The lookout tower was built by the initiative of „Roudnická záložna podřipská“ (a credit bank) for the 60th anniversary of its foundation. For this purpose, a heightened place over the town near Krabčice road was chosen. Thus, Roudnice could boast a nice lookout and a quality work of architecture. The lookout tower project was assigned to the technical university in Prague. Using the design of Otakar Štěpánek, the building was completed in 1934 by Hádl and Hájek, a Roudnice building company. The lookout tower is a purely functionalist building of a circular ground plan. Its lookout floor is supported by six slim columns. Another column goes through the middle of the structure and supports the circular roof at the top of the building. Solid newel stairs spiral up along the whole middle column. On top of the full banister on the lookout floor, copper plaques were attached with a schematically graven panaroma of the surrounding landscape. In the bottom part of the lookout tower, there is a relief with an image of Václav Kratochvíl, a prominent Czech revivalist and pioneer of modern economy of the second half of the 19th century. Besides other things, he was the founder of the above mentioned „Roudnická záložna podřipská“. Together with the lookout tower on Mostná mountain in Litoměřice, Kratochvílova lookout tower is the lowermost lookout tower in the Czech Republic (230 meters above sea level).
The Podřipské museum was first founded already in 1900. It was closed down at the turn of the 1960s and it was reopened in 2004. Its permanent exposition in its present form represents an overall picture of the history and settlement of the town of Roudnice nad Labem and the Roudnice region, beginning with the primeval period, which is represented both by numerous archeological findings and by other items including a house model from the Early Stone Age. This part of the exposition is complemented by a collection of minerals from the whole Bohemia and Moravia and by a small picture gallery, documenting the geological development of Říp mount from its beginning to the present time. The exhibit that stands out in the medieval section of the exposition is the stone sign of bishop Jan IV of Dražice, which originally formed a part of the gothic bridge over the Elbe, i.e. of the the third oldest building of its kind on the territory of our state. There are also unique wooden construction elements of the bridge as well as stone blocks from different parts of the bridge. In the next part of the exposition, visitors become acquainted with the history of the prominent Lobkowicz family, which was active in Roudnice from the beginnings of the 17th century. Numerous exhibits from the period can be seen, including a twelve-part wooden board nativity scene or a pictorial cycle The Stations of the Cross by painter M. Künzl, which was originally located in the church of St Barbara in Ječovice. The modern history is represented by period photographs and archive items documenting the life in the town and its surroundings in the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century. Another section of this part of the permanent exhibition is devoted to „Veselý“ company from Roudnice. This company was an important national representative of toy industry in the 1920s. It gained its fame thanks to children’s polytechnic kits called Archimedes and Edison. In this part of the exposition, visitors can also find a very attractive model of Říp mount, which was modelled after a well-known historical postcard with a futuristic theme called „Říp of the Future“. What’s especially interesting about the model called “Mechanical Říp“ is the fact that it’s built in its entirety from the renowned meccano set Merkur. A numismatic collection is a freestanding part of the exposition. It consists of coins illustrating the development of the Czech coin minting from the 11th century until the end of Czechoslovakia.
The Gallery of Modern Art is located in the former riding hall of the Lobkowicz Chateau in Roudnice nad Labem, which was built by Italian architect Antonio Porta in the last quarter of the 17th century. The entrance is fitted with the portal from Porta’s house, which used to stand in the main square. Its main feature is the architect’s emblem – a pierced heart and three blossoms. The arched interior of the baroque building, reconstructed for the gallery’s purpose in the 1960s, makes an impressive setting for the gallery’s permanent collection. Its “family silver” can be considered to be a set of sixty paintings by Antonín Slavíček, which was part of benefactor August Švagrovský’s generous gift at the beginning of the 20th century. The fine art collection consists of more than 3,000 works ranging from the end of the 19th century to the present. The permanent exhibition presents an overview of the development of fine art in the 20th and 21st centuries. Apart from that, the gallery’s venue for temporary exhibitions presents a varied programme including many different trends in art as well as specialised or monographic exhibitions of all fields of art. The gallery also organises lectures and interpretive tours, concerts, theatre performances, literary events and other cultural programmes.
The landmark of the local landscape literally prompts trips to it. According to a legend, forefather Czech with his suite ascended Říp. Today, the place belongs to the basic symbols of the Czech statehood. However, Říp mount attracted the nearby inhabitants in far more distant times as is testified by archeological findings from the early or late Stone Age or early Bronze Age. On its very top, at 456 meters above sea leavel, there is a Romanesque rotunda of St George and St Adalbert. This structure was renewed in 1126 by Czech prince Soběslav I at the occasion of his victory over the German king Lothar III in the famous battle of Chlumec. Its present appearance is the result of several reconstructions in the 19th to 21st centuries. Inside the rotunda, a sandstone tablet by Bernard Otto Seeling from 1870 is situated, depicting St George’s fight with the dragon. There is also a statue of St George, which was created by sculptor Eduard Veselý in 1881 (academic sculptor Stanislav Hanzík made a significant contribution to the decoration of the interior). St George’s fair takes places here annually.
On a rocky ridge over the Elbe River, a massive stone castle was built in the second half of the 12th century. By no means was the site chosen by accident, since this was a strategicaly advantageous position which enabled control over the waterways, the crossing of the Elbe River and a nearby long-distance trade route, known as the Lužice route. The Romanesque castle was probably not built from the scratch. It is possible that there was a fortified settlement on this site as early as the 10th century. Preserved from the original of the Romanesque castle, below the nort-west terrace of the present-day chateau, is a section of the original peripheral wall, fortified by several small towers as well as a large ground-floor (partial-cellar) hall located approximately at the level of the present-day courtyard. The two-aisle hall was divided by ten bays of cross vaults arched towards the central columns. A section of the palace also included a small chapel, which was located in one of the towers. Thanks to the 16th century blueprints, it is clear that the palace extended further to the east and it was closed with a massive round tower. However, it is difficult to say if the tower was built at the same time as the palace or if it was added later. Similarly, nothing is known about other possible additions or the style of the castle fortifications. Nevertheless, the remains we do have are sufficient to suggest this was a remarkable building, worthy of its builders – Prague bishops who owned Roudnice at the time. It has not yet been determined which of the bishops was the founder and builder of the castle. Two possibilities are usually mentioned, both belonging among the most important Prague bishops: Daniel (1148-1167) and Jindřich Břetislav (1182-1197). The castle was a popular residence of the majority of Prague bishops and later archbishops. It is said that this is where Jan Hus was ordained a priest. The castle held out against the military attacks during the Hussite wars. The Taborites and Orphans did not succeed in the siege of 1425, nor did the Prague Alliance in 1428. Nevertheless, the economic consequences of the wars forced archbishop Konrád of Vechta to sell his Roudnice estate. Jan Smiřický was the first in the line of secular lords who would reconstruct, adapt and modify the castle.
The pseudo-renaissance town hall was built at the site of two medieval houses in 1869 according to the project of builder Kuželovský. The original renaissance town hall could be found in the place of the present-day municipal library. The building added to the town hall, no. 22, comes from 1899-1900. The facade of the building was projected by Alois Samohrd and the frescoes were created by Láďa Novák. Along the sides of a three-part window, you can see allegorical female figures representing „Homeland’s self-government” on the left and „Justice“ on the right.
After completing the chateau, Antonio Porta’s building works continued to build the adjacent administrative and supply structures. The grange, i.e. the granary, was built in the Baroque style in the last quarter of the 17th century. In front of the grange, a column with the statue of St Jan Nepomucký (the patron of confessional secrets and of safe returns) is situated. It dates back to 1721.
Roudnice stone bridge was the third oldest stone bridge in Bohemia (after Judith bridge in Prague and Písek bridge) and it was built at the expense of Prague bishop Jan IV of Dražice, who probably got the idea of connecting the two Elbe banks during his stay at the Papal court in Avignon in the south of France, if not sooner. The building of the bridge was successfully completed in1340. Master Vilém is considered to be the bridge builder as he was in charge of finishing two pillars and and an arch in 1333. After that, master Vilém returned to his country and local builders continued the work. The bridge endured its first real test soon after its completion. During the spring floods of 1342, a torrent of ice blocks came, which damaged Judith bridge, for example. However, the bridge in Roudnice happily withstood the flood. For the next 200 years, the reports of Roudnice bridge are unclear. It is known that the armies of Jan Žižka of Trocnov or of Jiří of Poděbrady marched across it. The first more specific piece of news relates to 1540 when the bridge was, in all likelihood, considerably dilapidated. For this reason, some repairs were carried out by Karel Dubanský of Dubany. Further reports of repairs on the bridge come from 1621-1623 when the owner of Roudnice estate, Zdeněk Vojtěch of Lobkowicz, residing at that time in Wien, in his correspondence emphatically urges the administrator of Roudnice to properly restore this important road. Sources make note of a large spring flood of 1625. However, the bridge withstood it without any damage. Despite this, we can see that the bridge was repaired at least three times in the course of less than a century owing to floods, which were in those times more frequent than today as the flow of the Elbe river was not regulated. It is likely that some parts of the bridge were wooden at that time. In the following years, the bridge played an essential role since it was numbered among the most strategic points in Bohemia during the Thirty Years’ War. That’s why it eventually fell victim to its military significance. During Saxon invasion of 1631, wooden parts of the bridge were burnt down and the work of destruction was completed in 1634 by Swedish marshal Bannér who left the bridge a ruin. The new bridge of Roudnice was built during 1906-1910. At the same time, water management modification of the river was carried out. Changes to the head of the bridge on the left bank also took place, which significantly changed the appearance of the town. A drive-up ramp was constructed below the chateau. The tax collector’s house stands on the ramp. Furthermore, two memorial plaques were installed. Opposite the house, the statue of Čechia with the Czech lion was erected to symbolize Roudnice’s position on the borderline of Czech and German nations of the time.
The new bell tower, built in 1715 using the means of both the Lobkowicz family and the town of Roudnice, was built in a way that ensured a substantial stability of the whole object. The bells are suspended on a timber framework that stands on separate masonry pillars inside the envelope of the tower. Therefore, the chimes are not transferred to the walls of the building and do not disturb it by strokes. The bells from 1541, 1586 and 1619 come from the original bell tower which burnt down in 1676. The bells were made in the workshop of Roudnice bell-makers, the Frič family. Dr Max Dvořák, an important art historian, played a major role in the preservation of the bells during World War I.
The work of sculptor Stanislav Hanzík was unveiled in the lower part of Charles Square. St Adalbert’s statue is positioned in a way that suggests the saint is pointing towards a former ford over the river Elbe on his way to Pommern. St Adalbert was a Czech bishop and he was martyred on his missionary journey of 997. Today, he is often called the first Czech European.
In 1925, „The society for erecting historical monuments“ was founded in Roudnice through the initiative of teacher Antonín Herynk. His primary goal in the town was to build several monuments of memorable figures, such as J. A. Komenský or Jan Hus. However, during the few years of its activity, only one statue was unveiled, that of Jan Hus in 1928. Its artistic rendering was assigned to academic sculptor Rudolf Březina, a student of Stanislav Sucharda. The sculpture itself is bronze cast and it is placed on a prismatically structured granite pedestal whose eastern side is set with a bronze relief depicting a Hussite priest.
The first Jewish cemetery could have been located in the garden of the former Capuchin monastery, southeast of the chateau. It is not known when it was started, but we know it was removed after 1613. Several tombstones were moved to the second cemetery. The second cemetery is located in Třebízského street in the north-west part of the town. It was started in 1613 and used until the end of the 19th century. On the area of 4,473 square meters, almost 1,700 tombstones survived, the oldest from 1611 (moved here) and the newest from 1896. This cemetery is an immensely valuable locality with numerous tombstones of Renaissance as well as Baroque character. The former sexton’s house used to serve as a dwelling place, but is forlorn today and the local depot uses it as a garage. In the upper part of the cemetery, a new entrance was built in 1999. Weed vegetation in the whole area was stripped at the beginning of 2002. The third cemetery is situated 600 meters from the second one, at the end of the path leading to the municipal cemetery. It was probably founded in 1890. After World War II, it was devastated. The protective wall was almost completely dismantled. Most of the tombstones (1985) disappeared. A Maori style ceremonial hall, with a dome and Czech and Hebrew writings on the interior wall, burnt down. Less than ten tombstones from the period of 1899-1943 survived in the area of 4,679 square meters.
In a open space behind the Jewish quarters on the way to Hrobce, Židovice and Doksany, a chapel was built in 1718 to commemorate the plague in Roudnice in 1713. At that time, 994 citizens survived from the orginal 1,672 (excluding the Jewish inhabitants). As far as the citizens of the Jewish origin are concerned, it may be estimated that there were around 250 of them (judging by 51 houses they owned). Roudnice townspeople assigned the chapel project to Antonín Ritz, the prince’s architect. The construction itself was carried out in a far simpler fashion than the architect had originally planned. The chapel was consecrated much later, in 1926.
The construction of the system of field fortifications was begun in pre-war Czechoslovakia. A light fortification, pattern no. 37, popularly called „řopík“, was also part of the fortification system. In Roudnice, its construction began in 1937, and it was carried out by R. V. Svoboda company. Eighty-one objects of C 10 section Roudnice n. L. were assigned and built in concrete. This section was meant to prevent the crossing of the enemy over the Ohře river and his further progress to Roudnice and Prague. In 1998, the Club of friends of Czechoslovak fortifications Roudnice n. L. was founded. Members of the club started cleaning, repairing and furnishing the bunker at the crossroads near St Wenceslas’s Chapel. Its type is A-160 no. ŘOP 16 and it was built on 18 June 1937. The reconstruction has been finished and the bunker has been restored to its 1938 appearance. The bunker is open to the general public at certain occasions or on state holidays.
The original idea to build a cinema was associated with the intention of the gymnastics union Sokol to gain a steady source of income which would enable it to build a new gym hall. This idea began to be gradually implemented in 1926 when the Sokol applied for a concession to run a cinema. The intended construction work was authorized at the general assembly of 1927. One of the pioneers of the Czech modern architecture, academic architect Kamil Roškot, a student of Professor Jan Kotěra, was put in charge of the project documentation. Thanks to the liberality of Sokol leaders of the day, present-day Roudnice can boast this unique, purely funcionalist building. However, the momunental nearly 117 meters long gym addition was never built. It remained an unfinished project, again from architect Kamil Roškot.
The evangelical congregation in Roudnice n. L. began to consider building their own church in 1900 encouraged by financial promises and gifts, mainly from Germany. Pastor Zimmerman from Rhineland became deeply involved in the cause and helped to contact givers from Rhineland, who decided to donate 10,000 marks towards building the church. Their only requirement was that the church be built according to German plans. That eventually led to the decision that the author of the building would be a distinguished German architect Otto Kuhlmann. Kohlík-Plechatý company from Roudnice was chosen to build the church and Josef Záleský was given the task of building supervision. Due to financial strains, the addition of the tower and rectory was abondoned. The budget was set at 45,000 crowns. The construction of the church began on 8 August 1908. Under the supervision of engineer Záleský, the building was finished by the winter of that very same year! In July 1909, a proposal was accepted to call the church „Bethlehem church“ in memory of Jan Hus. A ceremonial assembly and dedication of the church took place on 10 October 1909. In June 1938, it was decided to add a tower with three bells to the church. The tower was built according to the plan of architect Kozák and the construction work was assigned to Hádl-Hájek company from Roudnice. The bells were cast by Matoušek company from Brno. The tower and bells were to be ready fo the 20th anniversary of the Republic, i.e. on 28 October 1938. However, after the occupation, there were delays, so the bells weren’t delivered and hoisted until 21 December 1938, just in time to ring them for the first time at Christmas. Unfortunately, the tower lost two of its bells during the war. The congregation had to hand them in to support the military effort of the Nazi Germany. After the end of World War II, the smaller bell (with an inscribed dedication to the 20th anniversary of the republic) was retrieved and is still in use today.
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