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Architectural and historical development... (2/2)

KARLSTEJN CASTLE


During the period of the next burggrave, Vilem Slavata of Kosumberk, several building works were completed, the paintings on the staircase of the Great Tower were repaired and new Renaissance cabinets were provided for the archives.

Very little has been preserved to the present of Avostalis's reconstruction. During the Thirty Years' War the castle lost its original purpose - it ceased to serve as the place of safe-keeping of the coronation jewels and the Czech archives. In 1648 it was conquered by the Swedes and gradually began to fall into a state of disrepair. Only the burggrave's residence continued to fulfil its mission as the administrative centre, the other buildings being used for farming purposes.

In the late 18th century, when romantic artists turned their attention to Karlstejn, voices were raised in favour of saving this historic monument. The first basic repairs were carried out after the visit of the Emperor Franz I in 1812 and in 1886 the complete restoration of the castle was started. The building works were supervised by Josef Mocker, first under Professor Fridrich Schmidt of Vienna and after his death in 1891 wholly by Josef Mocker himself until he died in 1899. This was in conformity with a decision taken by the restoration committee whose members included, among others, J. Hlavka and V.V. Tomek. According to the given aim the castle was to be restored to its original medieval form.

However, the result of the restoration gave rise to a number of problems. Some parts of the castle regained their original appearance, bur others were demolished and replaced with new ones. The reconstruction of the castle was realized in the spirit of purism with an endeavour to renew the original Gothic castle and rid it of later, even if valuable reconstruction results and modifications. In the given period the outline of the castle was changed thanks to the building of new roofs, this being particularly marked in the case of the Great Tower. The Imperial Palace, of which only the central part remained, was rid of its Renaissance elements. Most of the windows and doors were renewed in copies and the floor tiles were changed. It was the burggrave's residence that was most strongly affected. Only the southern part of the large building remained as the result of the demolition of the northern and western tracts round the first courtyard. The two gates of access were rebuilt. The fact that the castle had a romantic appearance before its puristic reconstruction is documented by a whole number of preserved vistas, views of the castle from the 18th and 19th centuries which portray the Renaissance phase of the building with its numerous details.

In 1901 Karlstejn Castle was visited by the Emperor Franz Josef I, who inspected the renovated interiors very thoroughly in the company of a number of important personalities, including the Supreme Provincial Marshal Prince Jiri of Lobkovicz. The emperor was particularly interested in the decoration of the interiors and rooms once occupied by the Emperor Charles IV. Franz Josef promised that several paintings by Master Theodoric from the Chapel of the Holy Rood, taken away in 1780 to Vienna for detailed examination, would be returned to the castle - and he kept his promise.

Already at the beginning of the present century the first voices criticizing the puristic reconstruction of the castle made themselves heard. Numerous discussions are still waged on this theme. However, with the passing of time the negative attitudes towards the results of the restoration of Karlstejn Castle changed. They were a manifestation of their time and must be judged accordingly. In spite of a number of negative aspects the restoration of the outstanding historic monument preserved its interesting interiors and inimitable atmosphere which still present visitors with a view of the original wall paintings of the time of Charles IV. Through its majestic appearance it documents explicitly the importance which its founder, the Czech king and emperor Charles IV, attached to it.


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