Written by Marie Palickova
Central Bohemian Region
The Karlstejn Castle is one of the most famous and the most charming castles in the Czech Republic. It is based in a small market-town of the same name, which is located in the Beroun District of the Central Bohemian Region, about 40 kilometres southwest of Prague. It lies in the middle of a protected landscape area called Bohemian Karst.
The castle was founded in 1348 by the first king of Bohemia and the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles IV, and since then has held a very important role regarding the history of Bohemia. At first, the building was meant to serve as a private representative residence of the king, but it was after Charles’ Imperial coronation in 1355, that the emperor decided it should perform a more fundamental purpose, which was safekeeping of the Bohemian Crown Jewels, the holy relics, the Imperial Regalia, and other royal treasures. Since then, Charles IV had already lived in the castle and supervised the completion of the construction, mainly the interior decorations and the chapels. In 1365, with the consecration of the “heart” of the treasury – The Chapel of the Holy Cross in the Great Tower – the constructions were finally fully complete.
With the uprising of the Hussite wars at the beginning of the 15th century, the Bohemian Crown Jewels were transferred to the Karlstejn Castle for safety reasons and they remained there for almost 200 years to come, with some short breaks. After 1480, the castle was rebuilt in the Late Gothic (or International Gothic) style, and in the late 16th century, the castle was altered in Renaissance style. The Crown Jewels were transferred to Prague during the Thirty Years’ Wars in 1619 and after the Swedes conquered the castle in 1648, it fell into disrepair. The castle acquired its current appearance during the very last renovative modifications from the late 19th century, which were carried out by Czech architect Josef Mocker. The tiered layout of individual castle buildings is very well preserved.
The Karlstejn Castle is also linked to a very well-known Czech comedy A Night at Karlstein (Czech: Noc na Karlštejně) by the writer and playwright Jaroslav Vrchlicky. This Bohemian history themed play tells a story about the secret intrusion of two women into the Karlstejn Castle, where, by the orders of the monarch, only men were allowed. It is a cheerful tale about love, jealousy, but mainly about women’s courage.