From the History of Castle Tower in Český Krumlov

Castle no.  59 - Castle Tower, firemen exercising, historical photo Recently, the Český Krumlov Castle Tower has become the center of great public interest. On the 22nd of August 1991 the Tower finial, which brought out the evidence of its age, was opened after almost two hundred years. The discovered tin case contained a greaseproof list with a text from 1690 and with an official letter dated 1794, 10 pieces of three-kreutzer silver coins from the Český Krumlov Mint Eggenberg mintage (4 pieces from 1677, 6 pieces dated 1685), three various seal fragments made from natural wax, some relics from different Český Krumlov monasteries and convents (Jesuit Order, Minorite Order, Saint Claire Order) and a red coral piece. Each of the discovered tokens has its documentary evidence historical value. The most meaningful is the voluminous text, dated 1690, written on greaseproof paper with proportions of 40.5 x 34 cm. The document\'s content - written in tedious ceremonial German from the end of the 17th century - can be briefly expressed as follows: On the 13th of September 1690 a new gilded finial was placed on the Český Krumlov Castle Tower. The Emperor Leopold I. governed in those days and the prince Johann Christian I von Eggenberg, his wife Marie Ernestine von Eggenberg, née zu Schwarzenberg, administrated the Český Krumlov estate. When the importance of the dynasties of both of the married couple was highlighted, their famous ancestors with significant and valuable acheivements were pointed out: Ruprecht von Eggenberg (Johann Christian´s great-uncle), Johann Ulrich von Eggenberg (Johann Christian´s grandfather), Johann Anton I. von Eggenberg (Johann Christian´s father), Adolf zu Schwarzenberg (Marie Ernestine´s great-grandfather), Johann Adolf II. zu Schwarzenberg (Marie Ernestine´s father). The ending written in Latin mentions that in 1690 the Český Krumlov Jesuits College (Horní No. 154) was managed by the priest rector Jan Eitner and the Minorite Monastery by the priest "kvadrián" Antonín Capitan and the Clarets Convent by the abbess Zuzana Mědníková. At the very ending there is a note about the French king Louis XIV\'s military invasion to Italy and the Turkish danger in Southern Europe.

When the indispensably necessary time for the Castle Tower reconstruction passes and the mosaic of scaffolding disappears, then by looking at the dominant point of Český Krumlov, we can rightly adduce the words of the Wilhelm von Rosenberg biography ending by Jan Březan: " In the Castle, there is a decorated Little Castle and the beautiful and charming cylindrical Tower, which is not to be found in any other part of Bohemia."

Wilhelm von Rosenberg died in 1592 when the Tower was a new construction. It most likely replaced the old Tower, the approximate appearance of which is shown in a known copy of the non-preserved original Renaissance painting "Division of the Roses". The Castle Tower and the contiguous Little Castle reconstruction created in the 1570\'s and 80\'s form an organic part of the large construction adaptation of the Rosenberg Český Krumlov residency under the lead of Wilhelm von Rosenberg. In the late 1560\'s, a completely new form was received by the Lower Castle central courtyard (nowadays the IInd Castle Courtyard) by a construction extension of the so-called Buchhalterie (Castle No. 59 - New Burgrave´s House) and by the economic-administrative center (nowadays the northern and eastern wings). The former Little Castle and its Tower did not likely correspond architectonically with those new objects, and for this reason their shape had to be entirely changed. There is no other document than the not entirely reliable iconograph (the painting "Division of the Roses") to confirm the existence of an old Tower at the Small Castle. On the other hand, there is a mention of the "Little Castle" given in the memorial inventory of Petr W. von Rosenberg dated 1545. At that time it was not an object for residential purposes but a stock room, where 731 buckets of rye (approximately 500 hl) were stored on its floor and the arms (226 "sudlice", 328 crooks, 16 rifles, and various "kuše", etc.) were placed inside the Tower space. The Český Krumlov Castle inventory list of the year 1581 informs us about changes in the stocked objects assortments there. We can read the long list of various tackles for craftsmen maintaining the entire Castle and its contiguous extensive economic buildings under the inscription " in the rooms and boxrooms of Matouš, an estate administrator, at the Little Castle".

The new Castle Tower construction, under the lead of Baldassare Maggi d´Arogno, had to commence in the end of the 1570\'s due to the fact that in 1580 the timberwork for the roof had already started. The direct witness of that status is a list of Jetřich Slatinský ze Slatinky addressed to Wilhelm von Rosenberg on the 16th of April 1580, in which apart from other things he says: "... In presence of the roof timber Master Balcar I discussed with Master Mertl, a carpenter, who was called up to work on the Krumlov Castle Tower ... that the mentioned carpenter agrees with his work performance, and to provide it in the best way. It is a beginning of his work, just some wood is faced... Master Balcar wants to supervise and thus guarantee that the carpenter\'s work would be done perfectly." Václav Březan probably took Slatinský´s list as basic information when he marked to Wilhelm´s biography in the year 1580 the following: "This year the roof timbering on the new cylindrical Krumlov Tower at Little Castle as per the Jetřich Slatinský´s discussion of Master Merkle, a carpenter, was very nicely made and constructed." If we know that in the year 1580 the new Castle Tower\'s raw construction was finished, then the following statement of Březan about the year 1589 catches us unawares: "The old Krumlov Tower at Little Castle knocked down. They started to pull down the Tower at the Krumlov Little Castle." It can be only explained than the remains of the original old Tower were removed. Its former existence is confirmed that way, due to the fact that the limited space where the new Tower is located would not offer enough place for two towers side by side. There is a logical conclusion, and this is that the lower part of the new Tower had to rest on fixed and reinforced foundations of the original Tower. Its unsatisfactory and troublesome ruins disappeared in the mentioned year 1589.

The final Tower adaptation started in 1590: "This year in the month of August, a new cylindrical Tower at the Krumlov Little Castle was painted by Bartoloměj Jelínek, a painter, starting step by step on the top below the finial, which that year on the 28th of July was constructed, and on the walls." (Bartoloměj Beránek - Jelínek).

The working results of Bardassare Maggi d´Arogno, a builder, Merkl (or Mertl), a carpenter, and Bartoloměj Jelínek, a painter, could be observed on a part of a painting by Jan z Pernštejna dated 1591.

Český Krumlov, oldest known iconography of Castle Tower and Little Castle, detail from portrait of Jan of Pernstein, author Bartoloměj Beránek - Jelínek, 1590

The complete haughty Tower design corresponds with the one which we can admire now with our own eyes. Some external decoration elements disappeared over time (figural paintings) or were replaced by others (the roof cover).

Inside a lantern of the Castle Tower there are clock\'s cymbals resting for four hundred years already as two immediate witnesses of the final works of a Tower. The bigger cymbal, striking the hours, was cast by Prague bellmaker Brikcí z Cimperka in 1590. Its diameter is 110 cm. On the upper part, there is a relief line composed by repeating motives of a man carrying a bass and of various animals, and the following four inscriptions on the casing :



In the middle of the inscription is placed the Rosenberg coat-of-arms.

(three rows, small letters) slowutny Brykcy zwonarz z czynpergku / Miesstienin na nowem miestie Praz / skem tento cymbal udielal leta 1590.

(two rows, small letters) Bdiete a modlete se neb ne / wite den ani hodiny.

The smaller cymbalon, striking the quarter-hours, was cast in 1591 by Jakub Wolfart, a Prachatice can- and potmaker and bellmaker. Its diameter is 90 cm. On the upper part, there is a relief line with Bible motives, and on the lower edge, there is a relief line with vegetable motives. On the casing, there is a line relief of Evangelist John and Evangelist Mathias and the two following inscriptions :


(three rows, small letters) Ge lit odemne Gakuba Wolfarta Konwarze ./ W mnestie prachaticych leta panie / .

Some preserved inventories of the Český Krumlov Castle inventory lists of furniture from the 17th century can better illustrate the internal organization of the Tower and the Little Castle. The inventory lists dated on 1607, 1614 and 1649 remain the same. One main entrance door led to the Little Castle. There were 8 windows in the lower part, 16 windows in the middle part, and 12 dormer-windows in the attic room (a granary). From the middle of the Little Castle area, there was one connecting-door leading to the next building ( the "Buchhalterie", the Castle Library of nowadays) and the other door to the Castle Tower. In the Tower area, there also were five bells, one clock mechanism, two clock cymbals and one little room with three windows. A small bell, to call the Castle occupants to food, was placed in that little room. It is explicitly named that in the year 1649, there was a new clock mechanism.

Castle Tower in Český Krumlov Castle no. 59 - Castle Tower

The inventory from 1664 is more detailed and very valuable for us with its Tower description as "a green cylindrical Castle Tower." The entrance door from the Little Castle to the Tower was equipped with a locker and a hook. Just adjacent on the right side was another door (with a hook, chain and locker). The third door (with a hook and chain) led to the so-called lower prison and behind it was the fourth door (with a hook and chain). A delinquent could be possibly dropped on a strong rope down from the lower prison to the lowest dark prison called "the dump." The so-called upper prison with one door (with a hook and chain) was located on the upper Tower floor. The access to the bells (one door) was on the Tower floor further up. On the top was the access to the clock mechanism (one door) connected with two cymbals.

The concrete information of a green Castle Tower painted in 1664 is very interesting and calls forth the idea that the original basic matching color of the new Castle Tower at the end of the 16th century was green. The workers kept that color shade over the course of general Tower reconstruction in the year 1690.

The bookkeeping documents give us the additional information that Jan Delart, a clockmaker from Mirovice, made a new clock mechanism for the Castle Tower in 1659, striking the quarters and hours. The princely Eggenberg painter Zachariáš Voják (Milles) painted four new clock faces for the new clock.

At 5 p.m. on the 10th of May 1662, during a storm, lightning hit the Castle Tower. It evidently caused great damage to its upper level, due to the fact that the same Zachariáš Voják had to paint new clock faces again for the reconstructed Tower part.

The Castle Tower was completely and carefully restored in the year 1690. The Tower area from the gallery to the top received the most attention because it suffered the most from the effects of weather. At first carpenters set up scaffolding around the Tower top, removed the cover of the roofs and little roofs (later replaced by copper tins) and secured the replacement of all the wooden parts of the Tower\'s construction as well as the harmed columns, chocks, girders, joists, etc. The carpenters also put up a special scaffolding for the painter who painted the entire Tower and for a tinsmith working on the highest part of the Tower. Vít Roch, a Castle carpenter, coordinated the entire carpenter\'s work performance. He worked with six advanced apprentices and two apprentices.

Craftsmen working with copper took out the old copper tins and covered the whole upper part of the Tower, roofs, little roofs and steeples with new copper tins imported from Jindřichův Hradec. They made a new central finial, a new pennon with the Eggenberg and Schwarzenberg coat-of-arms chiseled out. Nearly one ton of copper tins was used for the entire job. The main Master of copper works was Jan Steckel, a Český Krumlov burgher. Tree workers helped him. Melichar Hoffengut, a Český Krumlov suburb ( Plešivec ) painter, was called up for mastering the painting. He gilded a new finial at first, then later inserted the earlier mentioned greaseproof paper document that was found inside. Then he gilded the main pennon and applied the respective colors on the wrought coat-of-arms (of the Eggenbergs and the Schwarzenbergs). Next he gilded four small pennons and four small finials on the side steeples at the lantern and repaired and gilded the Tower clock\'s faces. It took him ten weeks to paint the outside Tower surface in green. The paint was applied twice by five other people and himself.

There are additional brief notes regarding the history of the Tower. It says that in the year 1754 Josef Putz, a painter, renewed the Tower clock´s faces. In the same year, the stairs in the area leading from the bells to the gallery, were falling to pieces and replaced by new stone ones.

In 1760 the guard apartment in the Tower was equipped. It is still preserved.

Castle no. 59 Castle Tower, staircase to the clock chimes, foto: Stanislava Slavková Castle no. 59 Castle Tower, interior, foto: Stanislava Slavková

The subsequent damage to the Tower was declared in 1763, when on the 20th of July a windstorm took out part of the copper tin. Before replacing them, the uncovered roof timbers were repaired.

In 1786 the Castle Tower became a subject of debate among Schwarzenbeg clerks. Jan Huebner, a tax collector from the Schwarzenberg estate Vlčice in Western Bohemia, on his business trip to the court of Kroseky accused the Český Krumlov estate of having incompletely repaired the roof of the damaged Castle Tower. He stated in his accusation that five large copper tins had been poorly replaced after being blown off. According to his statement, only three damaged areas were sufficiently covered and two inadequately by wooden boards and tiny tins. The Český Krumlov estate administration disproved that accusation and determined that the little roof above the gallery under the clock, damaged in the year 1785, had been properly repaired. Two Castle Tower drawings are attached to the documents.

In the year 1794 the main pennon´s lifting pole above the large finial was broken and had to be replaced. On that occasion the finial was opened and the relics from the year 1690 observed and a brief note added about the pennon´s damage and its repair. All of it was returned to the tin-plated case and stored.

At 10 p.m. on the 29th of May 1796 another flash of lightning hit the Tower. The lead in the window panes was partly melted and on some places there were spots of sulphur in the guard\'s room of the Tower. The Tower was untouched, but two chimney-sweeps guarded the whole next day and night to protect the Tower against the eventual implicit fire hazard.

In the year 1864 tinsmiths repaired the tin casing of the upper Tower part in the lantern and on the little roofs.

The calendar of 1880 marked on the Tower facade indicates the year when the plaster was probably renewed. The written notes related to that repair are missing.

The last large renovation of the Tower took place in 1947. The Tower inspection record dated the 29th of November 1947 states that the following works were completed :

  1. The copper Tower roof coverage repair.
  2. The entire outside plaster and all eaves and other architectonic elements renovation.
  3. The restoration of decorative heads under the gallery and in the upper Tower part with the delivery and placement of six new heads made out of baked clay, shaped as per the original heads.
  4. The restoration of walls and plaster of four brick or stone roof dormers in the upper Tower area.
  5. The renovation of vaults and plasters in the gallery.
  6. The cleaning and repair of covering stone slabs of windowsills in the gallery.
  7. The brick pavements repair in the gallery. 8. The repair and varnishing of shutters in the belfry.
  8. The repair and varnishing of other windows in the Tower.
  9. The electric wire transfer from outside to inside.
  10. The repair of four Tower clock faces with a dial on the plaster, the gilding of clock´s pointers.
  11. The renovation and supply of hollow tiled roof and brick roofs.
  12. The two window holes dislocation on the Southern side of the contiguous Tower construction about 60 cm and supply of the disconnected main windowsill.
  13. The renovation of the outside plasters on the building under the Tower.
  14. The chimney reconstruction on that building.
  15. The renovation of hollow tiled windowsill cover.
  16. The repair and varnishing of all building´s windows under the Tower.
  17. The rocks fixed under the Tower, the bushes cleared , the cracks repaired.

Photo of Český Krumlov Castle from 1929 The slater´s work was provided by S. Šrámek from Velešín, the tinsmith\'s work by S. Prais from Český Krumlov and Antonín Bednář from Zlatá Koruna, and the painting art by Václav Fošum from Český Krumlov. The clock´s pointers were gilded by František Hoch from Český Krumlov. Josef Štěpánek from České Budějovice made eight new ceramics heads based upon the old originals.

The restoration counted with renovation of the painting fragments. That is why in August of 1947 the Schwarzenberg general constructions administration in České Budějovice called up Rudolf Adámek, an academic painter from Prague, to take over the work connected with the painting fragment\'s renovation on the Castle Tower in Český Krumlov. The painter Adámek answered that he was very busy with a large order in Prachatice and would not be able to accept it earlier than 1948. In the same year there were other troubles coming up to be taken care of.

The iconography decoration of the Castle Tower is a bit unclear for us nowadays. The oldest painting (1591) showing the Tower status just after its entire completeness clearly demonstrates that figures were painted on a large space between the high windows of the belfry. The figural decoration was at the Little Castle as well. The sources of the 17th century do not mention the decorative painting on the Tower or Little Castle at all. We only know that in the year 1664 the Castle Tower was indicated as a "green cylindrical Tower" and it was solidly painted in green in 1690. From the old bookkeeping materials is not evident if, over the course of Tower painting, the space decorated by paintings was left in their original condition, or if the Tower was just entirely painted over. The second possibility is more likely. To the "green Tower" problem in the second half of the 17th century we can add that the original green shadow basic paint of the whole Tower, partly covered by figure paintings and other decorations (which is evident on the painting from the year 1590) could give that indication to the Tower. We can suppose that, at the beginning of the 1660\'s, the Tower was still covered by the plaster from 1590, due to the fact that the imperial period of Český Krumlov Castle (1602 - 1622) and the time of the two first Eggenbergs were not distinguished by any particular construction adaptations.

Two Castle Tower drawings are preserved from the 18th century - attachments to the previously mentioned Huebner affair dated from 1786. The Tower casing has a gray shadow with no paintings indicated on the larger watercolor painting showing the entire Tower with all details. A smaller, partially colored, drawing depicts only the upper Tower part.

The beginning of the 19th century has left us four Castle Tower drawings with complete details, in which we can see silhouettes of the painted figures. Ferdinand Runk, a princely Schwarzenberg painter, known for his accurate copies, painted a Tower in three different periods: in 1816, 1819 and 1824. The unprofessional, but still very beautiful painting by Theresia Lobkovitz comes from that period as well.

Ferdinand Runk, Český Krumlov Castle with Lazebnický bridge and Castle tower, gouache, beginn of the 19th century Castle no. 59 - Little Castle, Karel Zenker, 1843, view onto Little Castle and Castle Tower

Possibly in the beginning of the 19th century, the fragments of original figural paintings on the Castle Tower, which perhaps the Castle owner of the time would have liked to have restored in the 1930\'s were still visible. Two watercolor paintings by the Schwarzenberg geometry-master and painter Karel Zenker dated 1843 and 1844 support that idea. They are considered to be proposals of the Tower\'s shape after its thoughtful renovation, which would have returned its original look. At the turn of the 18th and the 19th century the shape of the painted figures could have been visible perhaps due to the fact that over the course of time the Castle Tower paint of the 17th century was not renewed and the rains and often storms washed it off so that the original paintings were uncovered.

Castle tower with 5-pointed star, historical photo from after 1950 Castle no. 59 - Castle Tower, present condition

The history of the Castle Tower bells is interesting as well. All Castle inventories from the 17th century (1607, 1614, 1649, 1664) indicate that there were five bells - two big, one middle and two small. Nowadays, there are four bells hanging there. Three of them are reminiscent of the old Castle Tower and the Český Krumlov Castle shape of the 15th century. The biggest bell is dated 1406. Its lower diameter is 147 cm and upon its estimated weight is approximately 1,800 kg. On its casing is the inscription in capital letters in three rows as follows :


On the bell´s neck are four Gothic nameplates with a 5-petalled rose. Jindřich III. von Rosenberg (+1412) had the bell cast in 1406. It was supposedly hanging in an old Castle Tower and transferred from there to the new Tower.

The bell, which was indicated as a middle upon the old inventories, comes from the same year. Its lower diameter is 87 cm and the estimated weight 410 kg. On its casing is the inscription in capital letters in two rows as follows:


This bell´s history is probably the same as of the biggest one coming from the same year.

One of the bells, indicated in the inventory as a small, is most likely the one dated 1460 with a lower diameter of 56,5 cm and the estimated weight of 100 kg. That bell has on its casing the following single raw inscription in small letters:

anno . omini . m . cccc . 1x . o rex . glorie . veni . cum . pace .

On the bell´s neck is a relief of St. Wenceslas and of the crucified Christ with two figures under the cross.

The second of the two original big bells, as per one inventory the so-called "wetter glocke", cracked sometime in the middle of the 17th century. In the year 1671 it was recast in the workshop of Mikuláš Loew, a Prague bellmaker and cannon-casting master, upon the order of Johann Christian von Eggenberg. He issued a disposition of how the new bell should look. The original bell weighted 2,486 pounds (1,278 kg) and the recast bell 2,925 pounds (1,638 kg). The bell has a lower diameter of 136 cm, the casing and the upper neck part decorates a large relief ornament with botanical motives with the single raw inscription in capital letters in between as follows :


On the bell´s neck there is a relief of John the Evangelist and above him the inscription in capital letters as follows :


There is also the Eggenberg coat-of-arms and above it the following inscription in capital letters :

I . C . H . Z . C . V . F . Z . E . (Johann Christian Herzog zu Crumau und Fürst zu Eggenberg).

On the wreath is a single row inscription in capital letters as follows :


The second of the two original small bells cracked. In 1744 was recast by Jiří Václav Kohler, a České Budějovice bellmaker. The original bell weighted 121.5 pounds (65.2 kg) and the recast bell 133.5 pounds (75 kg). Its lower diameter was 44 cm. On the bell´s casing was a single raw inscription in capital letters as follows :

G . W . K . GOS . MICH . I . B . 1744 .

and a relief decoration (a bunch of grapes). On its neck was a relief of the crucified Christ and a relief of St. Francis. In 1917 the bell was removed and destroyed in the course of the requisition of bells for the purposes of war.

Other possibilities :
Castle No. 59 - Castle Tower