Nelahozeves Castle was built for Florian Griesbeck von Griesbach (1504–1588), a highly educated Tyrolean aristocrat and private secretary and close adviser to Emperor Ferdinand I. Florian commissioned royal master builder Bonifaz Wolmut to create the residence in the Italianate Northern Mannerist style. Florian's ambitious new residence, which took over 60 years to build, was planned as a two-story building with four wings and four corner pavilions, intended to look like spur-shaped bastions. When Florian died in 1588, his son Blažej inherited the castle, and construction continued until the beginning of the 17th century. In 1623, the family's financial difficulties forced Florian's granddaughter to sell the encumbered estate to Polyxena, 1st Princess Lobkowicz (1566–1642).
During the Thirty Years' War (1618–1648), the Castle was ransacked several times. Following the war, Polyxena's son, Václav Eusebius, 2nd Prince Lobkowicz (1609–1677), High Chancellor of the Czech Kingdom, reconstructed the building and used it for the administration and management of his numerous estates. Despite its great beauty and noble character, Nelahozeves Castle never served as the family's principal residence, unlike the Lobkowicz Palace in Vienna, and later, Roudnice Castle.
Significant Architectural Features
Nelahozeves is an example of the castello fortezza, a chateau-like home with faux architectural defenses such as decorative bastions and a moat-less entry bridge. This style, deemed very modern in the mid-16th century, is preserved today in the Castle's original and authentic appearance thanks to the limited number of structural changes made throughout the centuries.
Also preserved, and recently restored, are the elaborate sgraffito decorations covering the north wing of the building. These works, which depict scenes from ancient mythology and the Old Testament, are some of the building's most impressive features.
Of the castle interiors, the most noteworthy are the south-facing Arcade Hall and the Knight's Hall. The latter of these is a well-preserved Renaissance room dating back to 1564, with wall frescoes depicting larger-than-life military figures and ceiling decorations illustrating Titus Livius' interpretations of five Roman virtues. The room features a lunette vault with a center panel of nine sections, each boasting original stucco reliefs of delicate elongated figures. The nine sections are separated by elaborate stucco fruit festoons. The room is also dominated by a huge Renaissance stone fireplace.
In the late 19th and early 20th century, Princess Wilhelmina Lobkowicz (1863–1945), daughter of Mořic, 9th Prince Lobkowicz (1831–1903), sponsored and maintained a religious institution at the Castle, The Order of the Sister’s of God’s Love, for unmarried and widowed noblewomen. Wilhemina, who lies buried in the village cemetery, was the last Lobkowicz to live at the Castle.
The Castle was confiscated by the Communist government in 1948. During the late 1970s and 1980s, the Castle was used by the Czech Regional Gallery to exhibit modern socialist art, as well as some of the Lobkowicz family's paintings.
In 1993, the Castle was returned to the Lobkowicz family and a temporary exhibition was immediately opened. From 1997–2007, a permanent exhibition entitled Six Centuries of European Art Patronage featured some of the most significant works from The Lobkowicz Collections.
In 2007, when certain works on display at Nelahozeves Castle were transferred to Prague to become part of the family's new museum at Lobkowicz Palace, Nelahozeves Castle was reinstalled with an exhibition of historical period rooms, Private Spaces: A Noble Family at Home. This exhibition illustrates in wonderful detail the lifestyle of this influential noble family in the mid-19th century.