History of Nelahozeves Castle

The monumental Nelahozeves, one of Bohemia’s finest Renaissance castles, is situated above the Vltava River in the charming village of Nelahozeves—steeped in rich history. The Castle also overlooks the birth house of Czech composer, Antonín Dvořák. 

Historical Origins

Nelahozeves Castle was built for Florian Griesbeck of Griesbach (1504–1588), a highly educated Tyrolean aristocrat who served as the private secretary and close adviser to Emperor Ferdinand I. Florian commissioned royal master builder Bonifaz Wolmut to create the castle in the Italianate Northern Mannerist style. Florian’s ambitious new residence, which began construction in 1553 and took over 60 years to build, was planned as a two-story building with four wings and four corner pavilions resembling spur-shaped bastions. When Florian died in 1588, his son, Blažej, inherited the castle, and construction continued until the early 17th century. In 1623, the family's financial difficulties forced Florian's granddaughter to sell the encumbered estate to Polyxena of Pernstein (1566–1642), wife of the 1st Prince Lobkowicz. 

During the Thirty Years' War (1618–1648), the Castle was ransacked several times. Following the war, Polyxena's son, Wenzel Eusebius, 2nd Prince Lobkowicz (1609–1677) and 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, the 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 authentic appearance given the limited number of structural changes made throughout the centuries.

Also preserved, and partially restored, are the elaborate sgraffito decorations (a technique where a top layer of color is scratched to reveal a colored plaster beneath) 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 and Knight’s Halls. The latter of these is a well-preserved Renaissance room dating to 1564, with wall frescoes depicting larger-than-life military figures and ceiling decorations illustrating Titus Livius' interpretations of five Roman virtues. Dominated by a stone fireplace, the room features a lunette vault with a center panel of nine sections, each boasting original stucco reliefs of delicate elongated figures and separated by elaborate, stucco fruit festoons.

Recent History

In the late 19th and early 20th century, the Castle was home to The Order of the Sisters of God’s Love, a religious institution for unmarried and widowed noblewomen. It was sponsored and maintained by Princess Wilhelmina Lobkowicz (1863–1945), daughter of Moritz, 9th Prince Lobkowicz (1831–1903). Wilhelmina was buried in the village cemetery and was the last Lobkowicz to live in the Castle.

The Castle was confiscated by the Communist regime 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 painting.

In 1993, the Castle was returned to the Lobkowicz family during restitution and a temporary exhibition was immediately opened. In 1997, the first permanent exhibition, Six Centuries of European Art Patronage, was installed and featured some of the most significant works from the Lobkowicz Collections. The castle’s current permanent exhibition was reinstalled in 2007 and is called Private Spaces: A Noble Family at Home.