History of the Lobkowicz Palace

Built in the mid-16th century, the Lobkowicz Palace is one of the most significant cultural sites in the Czech Republic and the only privately owned palace in the Prague Castle complex, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Through the centuries, the Palace witnessed some of Bohemia’s most important historical events. 

Historical Origins

The Lobkowicz Palace was built in the mid-16th century by Bohemian nobleman Jaroslav of Pernstein (1528–1560). It was here that Maria Manrique de Lara y Mendoza (1538–1608), wife of his brother Vratislav, Chancellor of the Bohemian Kingdom (1530–1582), brought the celebrated Infant Jesus of Prague statue from her homeland of Spain. The statue, renowned for its miraculous healing powers, was gifted to their daughter, Polyxena of Pernstein (1566–1642), who donated it to the Church of Our Lady Victorious in Prague. 

The Palace came into the Lobkowicz family through the marriage of Polyxena to Zdenko Adalbert Popel, 1st Prince Lobkowicz (1568–1628), in 1603. In 1618, the famous Defenestration of Prague took place when Protestant rebels threw Catholic Imperial Ministers from the windows of the Royal Palace in Prague Castle. Surviving the fall, they took refuge in the adjoining Lobkowicz Palace, where they were protected by Polyxena. 

For 300 years, the Palace was passed down to each ruling prince. It took on a more formal, Imperial role and functioned as the Prague residence when the family needed to be present at the seat of Bohemian power for political and ceremonial purposes.

Significant Architectural Features

After the Thirty Years War (1618–1648), the Palace underwent significant architectural changes. Of particular note are the mid-17th century Baroque alternations under Wenzel Eusebius, 2nd Prince Lobkowicz (1609–1677), who redesigned the Palace in the Italian manner style. Among those parts of the building that were altered include the Palace’s Chapel; Imperial Hall, whose frescoed walls depict l’oeil statutes of emperors surrounded by geometric designs and floral motifs; and the magnificent Concert and Balcony Halls, whose ceilings are adorned with elaborate stuccowork and frescoes by Fabián Václav Harovník.

In the 18th century, Franz Joseph Maximilian, 7th Prince Lobkowicz (1772–1816), best known as one of Beethoven’s principal patrons, was responsible for the Palace’s present-day exterior, a reconstruction he commissioned for Emperor Leopold II’s 1791 coronation as King of Bohemia. The alterations included the addition of the panoramic balconies that visitors to the Palace still enjoy today. Remnants of original 16th-century murals and sgraffito work can still be seen in both interior courtyards.

Recent History

After World War I and following the abolishment of the use of hereditary titles in 1918, Maximilian Lobkowicz (1888–1967), son of Ferdinand Zdenko, 10th Prince Lobkowicz (1858–1938), demonstrated his support for the fledgling First Czechoslovak Republic by making several rooms at the Palace available to the government, headed by the new nation’s first President, Tomas G. Masaryk. 

In 1939, the invading Nazi forces confiscated the Palace along with all other Lobkowicz family properties. The Palace was returned in 1945, only to be seized again after the Communist takeover in 1948. For the next forty years, the Palace was used for a variety of purposes, including state offices and as a museum of Czech history.

After the Velvet Revolution of 1989 and the subsequent fall of the Communist regime, President Václav Havel enacted a series of laws that allowed for the restitution of confiscated properties. Following a twelve-year restitution process, the Lobkowicz family once again became the rightful owner of their Palace in 2002.

In April 2007, after more than three years of careful planning and restoration, the family opened the Palace and its collections to the public. This new reincarnation of the Palace not only revitalizes an important cultural site in the heart of Europe, but also expands the family’s efforts to make the Collections accessible to Czech and international audiences.