History of Střekov Castle

Magnificently perched on a steep cliff above the Elbe River, overlooking the city of Ustí nad Labem, Střekov Castle is one of the most visited cultural monuments in North Bohemia. Now a Romantic ruin, its dramatic silhouette can be seen from kilometers away, as well as from the trains running between Prague and Dresden that pass directly along the opposite bank.

Historical Origins

The fortress-like ruin of Střekov Castle was built in 1316 for John of Luxembourg (1296–1346), king of Bohemia and father of Charles IV, by his royal architect and engineer, Pešík of Veitmile. It originally guarded an important trade route to Germany.

After 1479, the family Glacs´of Starý Dvůr acquired the castle, repaired the fortifications and built two houses next to the smaller tower and eastern wall. The castle continued to change hands until 1563, when it was purchased by Václav Lobkowicz. It was inherited in 1599 by Adam Havel Lobkowicz, from whom it passed in 1615 to the Roudnice branch of the Lobkowicz family.

The castle suffered severe damage during the Thirty Years' War (1618–1648) under successive Imperial, Saxon, and Swedish occupations because of its strategic importance. During the Seven Years' War (1756–1763) the castle was again besieged and captured by Austrian and Prussian armies, resulting in further destruction. Stabilization repairs were also carried out.

Significant Architectural Features

The castle area is divided into two parts, which are connected by an arched bridge that spans a natural moat. Still remaining from the earliest period of construction are an irregular oblong section of the palace, its connecting monumental round tower, and a smaller tower that guarded the castle entrance. Semi-round bastions fortify the structure.

A single castle with two connected sections was an unusual architectural style for the period in which Střekov Castle was built. The structure’s bastions are also a rare feature. Inspired by French examples, Střekov Castle’s bastions are perhaps the first illustration of this type of defensive architecture in Bohemia.

Recent History

In the 19th century, a renewed interest in old ruins set in Romantic, natural settings motivated poets, painters, and musicians to visit Střekov Castle. Goethe declared the views from the property to be the most beautiful in Central Europe. Richard Wagner’s sojourn in the castle is also said to have inspired him to write his opera Tannhäuser.

Like other Lobkowicz properties, Střekov Castle was confiscated by the Nazi regime and later by the Communist government. The property was restituted to the family in the early 1990s.

Today, Střekov Castle contains an historical exhibition that includes reproductions of guns and knights' armor, drawings and pictures of the property, as well as a scale wooden model of the castle complex. Periodic temporary exhibits, festivals, and children’s programs are also organized throughout the year.