Blatná Castle – The Madly Sad Princess
On the site of today’s chateau stood the Blatná Castle, whose name was derived from its location on a rock protruding above the marshes. This water castle was built by Všemír, documented as a witness on a charter of King Václav I from 1235. Only part of the ground floor of the chapel, discovered in 1926 during the exploration of the romantic ruins from the early 19th century, has been preserved from the Romanesque castle.
At the end of the 13th century, the Bavores from Strakonice settled in Blatná. After the last member of this family, Břeňek, documented as early as 1403, Blatná was acquired by a distant relative, Jan of Rožmitál, otherwise from Blatná, first documented in 1408 and then again in 1424. He had the small Romanesque residence of the Bavarians from Strakonice demolished and a Gothic castle built in its place. Before that, the moor was converted into a pond, the last remnants of the original building disappeared in the high embankment and the enlarged area was enclosed by a wall, preceded by the necessary moat and rampart. Traces of this fortification are still partly preserved. Access to the castle was, as before, from the east via a drawbridge, at the end of which stands a high prismatic tower. In it, above the portal, there are stone inscriptions of Jan of Rožmitál and his wife Eliška of Kravař. The tower is adjoined on the left by a Gothic palace with a chapel on the first floor. At the same time, a second palace was built on the site of the former Romanesque castle.
The construction activity at Blatná Castle was continued by Lev of Rožmitál (1446 – 1485), the highest provincial judge and the highest hofmister, known as the leader of the representative mission of King George of Poděbrady (his wife was Lev’s sister) to the states of Western Europe in 1465 – 1467. At that time, 40 Bohemian lords and knights travelled through Germany, the Netherlands, France, England to Portugal and Spain; they returned home via Italy and Austria. The diary of Václav Šašek of Bířkov from this long journey became a welcome subject for Alois Jirásek’s book From Bohemia to the End of the World. The recently uncovered and restored late Gothic frescoes in the so-called Knights‘ Hall of the Bavor Palace (figures of kings, a tournament scene, court scenes, depictions of Rožmital and Blatná, etc.) undoubtedly date from the time of Lev of Rožmital. ) and in the so-called Green Room in the castle tower (figural scenes in rich ornamental decoration, emblems of the leading noble families in Bohemia – the Švamberk, Rýzmberk, Rožmberk, Gutnštejn, Hare of Házjburk, Berk of Dubá, etc.).
The development of Gothic Blatná did not end with the building activities of Lev of Rožmital. His son, Zdeněk Lev of Rožmital (c. 1470 – 1535), was one of the leading officials of the provincial government in Bohemia (supreme purgrave in 1507 – 1523, again in 1525 – 1528), politicians and advisors to Kings Vladislav II and Ludvík.
His first building project was the extension of the castle chapel in Bavor Palace with a triangular finial. After painting the walls with biblical scenes, the Chapel of St. Mary was consecrated in 1515. Far more important was Zdeněk’s decision to build a new wing at the Bavor part of the castle according to the design of the royal architect Benedikt Ried (Rejt), which combined Gothic and Renaissance elements. Construction began after 1528. The two floors are permeated by a pair of triangular bay windows on both facades. The castle courtyard on the west side was probably enclosed by a ground-floor loggia.
The costs of the construction work, the dignified representation corresponding to his official and social status, expenses on business and diplomatic trips and loans to King Vladislav II led Zdeněk Lev into debt. The proceeds from the two main estates, Rozmital and Blatná, and the lavish payments of the royal treasury were not enough to cover all the expenses. Thus, after Zdeněk’s death in 1535, his son Adam of Rožmital had to sell off his entire inheritance and move to Moravia. Blatná was acquired in 1541 by one of Zdeněk’s creditors, Dama of Šternberk, and in 1555 he sold it to the sisters Katerina and Anna Řepický of Sudoměř. In 1560 Katerina ceded Blatná to her husband Zdeněk of Šternberk.
After Šternberk’s death (1575), Blatná was acquired in 1579 by the Polish nobleman Count Jan of Rozdražov (+ 1585). His son Václav built a two-storey Renaissance palace next to the castle tower on a still undeveloped site near the northern wall. The gap between this new tract and the old Gothic building further west was filled with a low building with a kitchen and apartments for servants.
Blatná remained in the possession of the Lords of Rozdražov until 1691, when the family died out under John’s grandson František Ignác. Count Jan František Krakovský of Kolovrat inherited the Blatná estate, his mother was from the Rozdražov family, but in 1695 he sold Blatná to Countess Arnoštka Serényiová. After a fire in 1763, which damaged the Rozdražovský tract the most, the building was rebuilt in Baroque style over the next four years. Under the Serényi family, an Empire-style pavilion with a double staircase was built in the adjacent game preserve.
In 1798 Václav Karel Hildprandt of Ottenhausen bought the Blatná estate from Amand Serényi. During the lifetime of his son František (J. E. Purkyně was his home teacher of philosophy and natural sciences), some changes were made to the castle grounds. The entrance area behind the tower, the old Bavarian palace, was redesigned, the interconnection of rooms in the neighbouring Ried building was changed, the Romanesque chapel on the opposite side was demolished and the open loggia was removed, giving a clear view of the English park. In 1809 the wooden drawbridge was removed and replaced by a stone bridge. Between 1850 and 1856 the castle was rebuilt in the English Gothic style according to a design by the architect Bernhard Grueber.
In 1947 the National Heritage Commission took over the castle and in 1948 it was confiscated and transferred to the state. After 1958, Bedřich Hildprandt, his wife Cornelia and daughters were allowed to emigrate legally to Ethiopia (thanks to the family’s contacts with Emperor Haille Selassie I).
After the revolution in 1989, the confiscated property was returned to the Hildprandt family, specifically to Bedrich Hildprandt’s wife (died 1981) Kornelia and daughters Josefina and Jana. The family arranged the necessary repairs to the castle, which has a number of interesting exhibitions and also hosts various concerts