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Libochovice Chateau: A dazzling sight in north Bohemia

Dazzling. Stunning. Captivating. Charming. All these adjectives describe north Bohemia’s Libochovice Chateau, which features remarkable ceiling frescoes, Baroque stoves and tapestries. The interior boasts furnishings, paintings and artifacts that are sure to amaze.

The town Libochovice dates from the 13th century, when its name first appeared in writing. A wooden and then stone fortress was constructed in Libochovice, but nearby Házmburk Castle, now a ruin, was the dominant player in the town’s development. The Hussite Wars of the 15th century brought much destruction, and Libochovice Castle burned down.

When the prestigious Lobkowicz family purchased Libochovice in 1558, they built a Renaissance chateau on the site. At the end of the 16th century, the chateau was confiscated from the Lobkowiczs, and the Sternberg clan became responsible for the chateau. Yet things did not go well, as it burned down in 1661. Fifteen years later Gundarkar from Dietrichstein bought the property, and this family would own the chateau until 1858. An early Baroque chateau emerged in the late 17th century, thanks to Gundarkar’s efforts.

More reconstructions followed. In the 19th century Johann Friedrich Herberstein would take control of the chateau. An avid traveler, he put on display many artifacts from his expeditions to Africa, India and Egypt, among other places.

The history of the chateau was grim during World War II, when the Nazis took over. When more than 60 inhabitants of the town and neighboring areas rebelled against the Nazis, they were beheaded. After 1945 the chateau became the property of the state. In 2002 Libochovice Chateau joined the list of Czech national monuments.

Notice the statue in front of the chateau. That is Jan Evangelista Purkyně, who was a worldwide acclaimed scientist during the 18th century. Born in Libochovice, he focused on anatomy and physiology and made many important scientific discoveries.

Visitors will not be disappointed by the tour of the interior. The cave-like sala terrena includes reliefs of a sea monster and a vaulted ceiling. The big Saturn Hall features stucco sculptural adornment dominated by Saturn above an exquisite fireplace. The Big Gallery is another room sure to astound. A tapestry relates a scene from the Trojan War. A Baroque fireplace dates to the beginning of the 17th century. An impressive 17th century jewel chest also decorates the space.

The Study is adorned with two more tapestries, portraying a garden party and a motif of plants. The chapel is home to a Neo-Gothic altar and a 16th century carved altar portraying the Three Kings. Take a close look at the superb woodwork.

The large table in the Big Dining Room is set for a banquet. The tableware is pewter, Renaissance style. The two tapestries show Alexander of Macedonia. The ceiling fresco focuses on Aphrodite and Athena. Four female figures in oval medallions symbolize the four continents. (Australia was then unknown to Europe.)

The chateau is not without a fascinating display of porcelain, either. The Oriental Salon boasts Chinese and Imari Japanese vases. In the Rococo Salon tourists can see impressive pieces of Meissen porcelain, for instance. The Small Dining Room features Viennese porcelain and colored porcelain from Dresden.

Most of the 2,500 volumes on display in the 19th century library are books about travel and natural science. The entire collection is made up of 6,000 books. The library is not only intriguing for its books but also for the artifacts that Johann Herberstein had collected during his travels. An African crocodile and a Japanese sword are two of many items there. Yet another Baroque stove makes an appearance, too.

The interior delights with beautiful furnishings, superb artwork, Baroque stoves, ceiling frescoes and especially magnificent Renaissance tapestries. The chateau is so richly decorated with unique items that one cannot help but be in awe. While it is possible to go from Prague to Libochovice by train with one change, the timetable is not very convenient for castlegoers. It is advisable to rent a car. It is too bad that no travel agencies in Prague offer day trips to the chateau. It is certainly worth visiting and deserves much praise.



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A resident of Prague since 1991, Tracy A. Burns has published articles and stories in English, Czech and Slovak. Her work in English has appeared in The Washington Post, for instance. Her travel blog is at taburns25.wordpress.com. She also writes book reviews and essays for the Czech and Slovak academic journal Kosmas. Her writings in Czech have been published in Reflex and Listy, among others. Her articles in Slovak have been printed in SME, for example. She has edited an art catalogue for Prague's National Gallery and is a contributing author to the book The Arena Adventure, about Arena Stage theatre. Her passions are writing, reading and traveling.



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