History of the castle

The oldest history

Jindřichův Hradec castle grew gradually several centuries. It covers the area 3,5 ha at present. The archaeological research proved existence of Slavic wooden castle on this place already in the 10th century. It was one of the border castles and part of the so called "castle system" or "castle organization" - particular strategically situated castles owned by king and governed by his burgraves - base of the king's power. The other reason for existence of a fortress on this place was the trade route which led from south of Europe to the center of Czech kingdom. It entered the Czech kingdom from south through so called "Lands Gate" which was protected by the castle Lanštejn. The local wooden castle built on a rock above the confluence of river Nežárka and smaller watercourse, stream Hamr, created an important point on the trade route - well protected center providing the base for trade and necessary crafts.     

 

Age of the family Vítkovci

The construction of the old castle, called in the oldest preserved historical message from 1220 "Novum castrum" (New castle), is connected with the lord Jindřicha Vítkovci (Henry the Vítkovec). He was the founder of the independent Vítkovci family line lords of Hradec and used the coat of arms with five-petal golden rose on the blue field. The first castle buildings were the black tower and adjoining old palace. The walls of the castle were strengthened. The castle was one of the important land fortresses but it also was the main residence of the prime noble men of the kingdom - the representative aspects weren't less important. The lords of Hradec were often the supreme royal officials already during 12th and 13th century. They didn't represent just themselves bud also the kingdom. The old castle was enlarged gradually in more constructional periods and it got its present measurements at the end of 15th century. The second gothic palace was built on the western part of the castle - on the place of the present Spanish wing (yellow building in the third courtyard). The lords of Hradec, as the most important officials of the Czech Kingdom in each generation, influenced strongly the complete economic, political and cultural development of the whole region (eastern part of the Southern Bohemia and western part of Southern Moravia). The importance of lords of Hradec family and the need of their representation led to the gradual further enlargements of their main residence and, finally, to the creation of the monumental, extraordinary well designed and perfectly fortified gothic fortress. The time of renaissance brought another extensive reconstruction of the whole castle complex. The lords of Hradec invited the capable Italian architects, construction masters, stonemasons, plasterers and other artists, like Antonio Ericer, Baldassare Maggi di Arogna, Giovanni Maria Faconi or Antonio Melani. The general look of the castle was changed and the third courtyard got new buildings - large five-storeyed Adam's building, Spanish wing and two arcades. The last work of the Italian architects was the music pavilion Rondell - one of a kind. The construction adjustments which have been done during the ownership of the two following noble families didn't change the appearance of the castle. The family of lords of Hradec died out in the male-line in 1604. The last male member was Joachim Ulrich of Hradec.

 

Lords Slavata of Chlum and Košumberk

Vilém Slavata married the heiress of Lords of Hradec domain, Lucie Otýlie of Hradec, in 1602. He became the ruler of the domain after the death of the last male member of the family Lords of Hradec, Jáchym Oldřich, in 1604. Vilém Slavata was a reputable royal courtier and successful politician. He became known particularly due to his involuntary participation on the Second Defenestration of Prague as one of the governors who were thrown out of the window of Prague castle at the beginning of the Thirty Years' War the 23rd May, 1618. Vilém Slavata and his descendants owned the castle and the whole domain for 90 years. The Lords of Hradec reconstructed the castle completely in style of Renaissance at the end of 16th century and therefore the family Slavata didn't feel the need to change the castle's appearance during their relatively short reign. Only small outer adjustments and several inner structural changes were done. The more interesting and bigger constructional works were organized in the Spanish wing in the third courtyard. The building was used for entertainment and representative events. The theater hall was created in one of its halls in the middle of 17th century. The historical message confirming the existence of the theater hall from 1653 has big importance. It means that the local theater hall could be the first in Czech Kingdom. Unfortunately, the theater hall was completely destroyed by the most destructive fire in 1773. The family Slavata ruled over this part of the Czech kingdom only for four generations and then they also died out in the male-line like their predecessors the Lords of Hradec. The Jindřichův Hradec estate was inherited by Marie Josefa Slavata in 1693, when she was already married with Herman Jakub Černín.

 

Černín's of Chudenice

Herman Jakub Černín gained the Jindřichův Hradec domain through the marriage with Marie Josefa Slavata in 1687 who inherited it as her part of heirship in 1693. The high state positions of the men of family Černín and their relationships to the dynasty of the family Habsburg led regularly many important members of the imperial court and other European politicians to Jindřichův Hradec castle during the reign of the first Černíns. The last inner constructional adjustments were organized in the 18th century. The castle chapel was interestingly reconstructed between the years 1709-1735. The plans for the reconstruction were created by famous Prague architect František Maxmilián Kaňka who took part in the reconstructions and constructions of the most precious Baroque buildings in Prague. The art-loving Černíns also organized the further adjustments of the theater hall in Spanish wing. It was reconstructed by the Italian architect Giovanni Paolo Gaspari and with participation of Prague and the local sculptors and painters between 1746 and 1748. The hall is mentioned as "Komoedisaal" at that time. The smaller stage had eight exchangeable scenes and there were the usual seats and the better ones in the auditorium. In 1773, the horrible fire which seriously damaged the whole castle, the Spanish wing including, destroyed irrecoverably also the theater hall. 
The damaged castle buildings were just provisionally sheltered and the members of the family Černín preferred their other mansions since that time. The castle was still the administrative center of the whole estate. Some of the castle buildings were used for less representative purposes. The ground floor of the bigger arcade was used for stables, the music pavilion Rondell was the woodhouse, pantry and also goat pen for the shorter time.
Smaller reconstruction works were done during the second half of 19th century. The more important reconstruction was led by capable Viennese architect Humbert Walcher of Moltheim at the beginning of the 20th century, but the bigger part of the castle remained damaged. The family Černín owned the castle and the whole domain till the year 1945, when it was confiscated according to decree of president Beneš, No. 12/1945. The bad condition of the whole castle complex grew worse and certain buildings were very near to falling apart. The general reconstruction started in 1976 and lasted with shorter breaks nearly twenty years. The castle complex was completely rescued and reopened for the public in 1993.