Some building types get much more exposure when it comes to saving a nation’s heritage whilst others receive scant attention. Rural agricultural buildings especially belong to this group. They are often very rare because they are undervalued and many were destroyed in the days of rural collectivisation. The Skanzen, an open-air museum, seeks to remedy this by collecting and re-siting these humble buildings in much the same way as the Weald and Downland Museum in Sussex. It can be argued that moving a historic building destroys its credibility but in this case the move has to be balanced against the likelihood of total loss. We have therefore offered a grant for repairing one of the barns.
St. James's Church, Bedřichův Světec
In the rural unsung areas of the Czech Republic small groups are trying to reclaim their local heritage. Like the Zámek at Čečovice and St Nicholas's Church at Petrovice, which we reported on in our last Newsletter, the local action group is restoring the church for community use. Although much of the work has been done by volunteers, the rebuilding of a critical section of the churchyard wall has to be carried out professionally. We have made an offer of a grant to enable this work to be completed.
Probošt House, Vyšehrad, Prague
Close to the Church of Saints Peter and Paul and the National Cemetery, the Probošt House, now occupied by a kindergarten, has within it some fine early-18th-century frescoes. These are ‘listed’ and have been conserved. The windows, replaced in the 1980s, were sub-standard and are now in very poor condition. The frescoes are in danger of degrading. Our offer of a grant toward the cost of replacement has resulted in further funding from elsewhere. Two of the trustees are making individual donations to these two projects in Prague.
Jan Hus Church, Smíchov, Prague
The church dates from 1935 and is in the pre-WW2 Modern tradition widely adopted in the Czech lands at that time. Although not ‘listed’ it is a fine example of its type with a spectacular worship space with contemporary furniture and stained glass, and stands in a commanding position overlooking the neighbourhood. Sadly, the congregation has declined and the worship space is no longer used. In order to make it sustainable a scheme has been developed to turn a part of the worship space into an exhibition to celebrate the association of the Czechs and Italians who were together caught up in the First World War, an association still very much alive today. We offered a grant towards the conservation of the worship space, which has allowed the church community to obtain further funding from other sources. The Friends gave a grant for the work to the organ. This was completed in June 2018 and the first recital soon took place.
The Château of Čečovice
In the latter part of 2014 we received a plea for help from Mrs Miroslava Šusová who has been valiantly trying to save the château for the local community. She writes, "Yes, we do occasionally get help from family and friends but it is I who function as the manager, cleaner, curator and PR expert – all in one person. I try to obtain grants, sweep after the winter snows, knock down the dividing walls put up by the last owner - the local co-operative farm, and with the family cut the grass around the château. Some people think we are mad but when our summer festival opens to the public and the courtyard is all lit up, a joyous atmosphere prevails and the château lives again."
The task that she faces is Herculean. It is our policy to provide grants that enable the recipients to seek funding from other sources. We have therefore agreed to offer a grant to help secure the future of the château.
We wish the hard-working volunteers a bright future in returning the château back to the community.
The Banqueting Hall, Château of Uherčice
After a hiatus, which delayed the project considerably, the funding agreement between The Friends and the NPÚ (the Czech National Heritage Institute) was signed in April 2014. This allowed the NPÚ to take out a bridging loan to cover the emergency works that were required to secure the remainder of the plasterwork of the ceiling. Without this the ceiling might well have collapsed with disastrous consequences for the future of the building.
Work was carried out during the summer months and was completed in the autumn. The programme of further conservation will then continue as and when funds become available. This will include the parquet flooring and the wall decorations.
We are deeply grateful to our sponsors, The Hargreaves and Ball Trust, for their very generous financial support of Grant £30,000 for the project.
Since our grant the Czech National Heritage Insitute has successfully applied for major grant funds from the EU which will help to ensure the survival of this 'sleeping beauty'.
The ‘Mauricovna’ or Gardener’s Cottage, Château of Červený Dvůr
The work of replacing the roof to the Mauricovna began in late summer 2013. This was completed within budget in October 2013.
Our aim to secure the building from further deterioration has therefore been achieved. This is an important goal both for us and the Červený Dvůr Hospital. In achieving this aim we must again thank the Hargreaves and Ball Trust for their generous financial support and also the continued unstinting support of the hospital’s director, Jiří Dvořáček, and his staff together with Mr. Luhan, the NPÚ’s architect.
We are now considering the next phases of the project, having had work parties for summer 2014 - 2018, all of which help progress on the Mauricovna. Once again, we are indebted to the National Trust for including details on their website, www.nationaltrust.org.uk
Grants to date £15,000
The Obelisk at Uherčice
The Friends continue their association with the Château of Uherčice in Southern Moravia, where work is continuing on the restoration of the surrounding gardens and park. This remarkable building and park languished for the many decades of the Cold War, being used by border guards stationed there to man the Iron Curtain.
We offered a grant towards the restoration of the obelisk, a prominent feature in the park. The obelisk was revealed in July 2017.
Image copyright Ian Kennaway
Conservation of the Baroque choir stalls at the Abbey Church of Žďár nad Sázavou, a UNESCO-listed site , completed with the help of The Friends of Czech Heritage
The Friends have supported a number of conservation projects at this important abbey church, which was the work of Jan Blažej Santini Aichel. These have included the confessionals and the altar. The latest project has been the conservation of the Baroque choir stalls, which began in in 2014. The first phase, for which The Friends gave a grant, was completed in the autumn of 2015. The second phase will be complete in the spring of 2016. We received a bequest from the estate of Alastair Gibson, a former member, and we used part of the monies towards the work.
Father Vojtěch Záleský writes from Žďár: "We appreciate the Friends' continuous support and help. It is not unusual to find a helping hand but it is very unusual to find it from such a distance that lies between Žďár and London. It is our common cultural and architectural heritage and our common faith and shared interests that connect us. I would like to thank you personally for your decision to help and for building a friendship across borders. Please extend our thanks and prayers to all the members of The Friends of Czech Heritage."
The Château of Uherčice
The Friends have again given funds for repair of the sunstantial steps in the Rose Garden of the Château of Uherčice, which has suffered as a result of its isolated position in South Moravia, near the border with Austria. The property is run by the NPÚ, the Czech National Heritage Institute. Original parts of this imposing double-winged staircase structure were reused, and preference was given to traditional techniques in the work. This project was formally completed in September and the plan is to have the garden replanted for the summer of 2016.
Ing. Jan Slezák, Director of the NPÚ's office in Kroměříž, formally thanked The Friends for their contribution, and wrote that the Institute hopes to continue with the restoration of this substantial château complex, including the landscape park and its follies.
The brick steps, which form a link from the main courtyard to the Rose Garden, were in a state of collapse. They now allows public access to the garden.
Photos copyright P. Jamieson
Château of Jaroměřice - Conservation of the Chinese Cabinet
The 18th century Chinese Cabinet at Jaroměřice nad Rokytnou is a fine example of chinoiserie. But the paper decorations had become detached and conservation was urgently required.
The Baroque château is one of the largest structures dating from the first half of the 18th century in Europe. This originally medieval fortress standing on a cliff was protected from the south by the swamps of the River Rokytná. The château received its Renaissance appearance at the end of the 15th century, which is also when the foundations were laid for the gardens. Jan Adam, the last of the House of Questenberk, gave the château its current Baroque appearance. He was devoted to music: the first Czech opera 'How the City of Jaroměřice was Founded' by Antonín Míča was first performed here in 1730.
Photo courtesy of the NPÚ (the Czech National Heritage Institute) copyright sprOBJ
The Castle of Karlštejn
The Friends discussed with Petr Pavelec and Kateřina Cichrová of the NPÚ (Czech National Heritage Institute) South Bohemia office the conservation of the 14th-century gate at the castle. The castle, see photo, right, is a very significant emblem of Czech history being built by Charles IV, Czech King and Holy Roman Emperor, who would have passed through it on numerous occasions.
The gate was conserved and formed a prominent part of the popular exhibition 'Castles and Châteaux Rediscovered and Celebrated' at Prague Castle from December 2014 to 15th March 2015.
The gate measures 3.8 x 2.7 metres. The inset door is 1.55 metres tall.The NPÚ asked us to help finance the project and we agreed to provide a grant for the conservation work. The project was generously supported by our sponsor, The Hargreaves and Ball Trust.
Photo top right copyright Lukáš Kalista; lower left courtesy of Karlštejn Castle
Church of the Assumption, Monastery of Kladruby
We have supported the completion of the restoration of the high altar by the renowned 18th century architect Santini-Aichel. Extensive work was carried out in the 1970s but the crown was not replaced for ideological reasons.
The NPÚ are the custodians of the monastery and were responsible for the conservation work. They obtained a grant for part of the work from the Czech Ministry of Culture and The Friends agreed to pay the balance with the help of London-based Velehrad. The conservation work has been completed and the crown restored to its original position in time for the monastery to celebrate this, its 900th anniversary year.
St. Nicholas's Church, Petrovice, North-West Bohemia
The conservation work to the three memorial stained-glass windows completed with a grant from Th Friends. Installed in 1908, the windows commemorate the 60th anniversary of the accession of the Emperor Franz Joseph. After World War II the church was abandoned and became a ruin but the windows survived. The local community has taken on the task of re-establishing the church and we are very glad to have been able to make a small contribution towards this.
In the spring of 2015, following the grant from The Friends, the church was the recipient of major funding that made possible the reconstruction of the entire roof. This is a huge step that has brought the church back to fulfilling its original significance and role in the local community.
The Czech National Trust
With the help of The Friends the Czech National Trust (CNT) was established and legally registered in the Czech Republic as a charitable organisation.
The Czech National Trust was officially inaugurated in the UK in June 2014 at a formal dinner in the Reform Club in London, attended by HE The Czech Ambassador Mr Michael Zantovský, representatives of Parliament and the Czech Government, and many distinguished members of the international heritage community, including Sir Simon Jenkins, CEO of the National Trust.
The Czech National Trust is modelled on the principles established by the National Trust here in the United Kingdom and its aim is to preserve and restore buildings, gardens and landscapes of historical importance in the Czech Republic through sponsorship and volunteer work, creating sustainable sources of income from their use and encouraging community involvement.
Baroque Statue of Apollo, Château of Valtice
The work of conserving the statue has been completed and Apollo, who is part of a group, now joins his compatriots in a fit state to compete with them in that other world that they inhabit. This has been an important project for The Friends, firstly because Apollo is within the UNESCO World Heritage site, and also because it has involved techniques that have attempted to overcome some of the unfortunate results of the very insensitive restoration carried out in communist times.
Château of Mnichovo Hradistě
A new permanent exhibition, The Meeting of the Monarchs of the Holy Alliance, at the Château of Mnichovo Hradistě, was opened on 30 April 2013.The Friends contributed £3,000 towards the restoration of a Baroque tiled stove, which was made in Southern Bohemia.
Nové Město nad Metují in Moravia: Restoration of the Château Gardens
We gave a small grant to help with the extensive works being carried out on these gardens, originally designed by Dušan Jurkovic between the years 1911 and 1912 for the owner Josef Barton-Dobenin. The garden area is formally dividend into two areas. The upper area, which is closest to the castle building, is separated into the terraces with rose flower beds and white wooden fences. The middle part of the formal garden is edged with box on the outside of the grassy area, and in the middle with hornbean hedges and pathways. A Baroque-style fountain fulfills the decorative function together with a parade of stone sculptures called 'The Dwarf Cabinet'. When the castle and gardens were returned to the previous owner's grandson, Josef Barton-Dobenin, they were in an extremely neglected condition but a programme of restoration is well underway.
The Château of Děčín, North Bohemia
Grant towards the restoration of a portrait of Princess Royal, Maria of Habsburg, future consort of Ferdinand III, thought to be by a follower of Velasquez. The Friends gave £1500 toward a total of cost around £4000. The château of Děčín stands high on a rock above the river Labe. In the 17th century the château came into the possession of the Thun-Hohenstein family. In 1932 Count Thun was compelled to sell the château for financial reasons to the Czechoslovak state, which converted it into barracks. After the departure of the Russian army in the early 1990s, the town of Děčín acquired the building. Many rooms are now open to the public but they lack most of the original contents. The family owned an important collection of paintings that remains largely in store.The aim is to see them hang once again on the château walls where they belong. The curators chose the portrait of the Princess Royal, Maria of Habsburg, future wife of Emperor Ferdinand III, for restoration. The first member of the Thun-Hohenstein family who settled at Děčín, Christoph Simon, (died in 1635), was a courtier to Prince, later Emperor Ferdinand III.
Château of Lysice, South Moravia - Restoration of the 18th century statue of Apollo
The Apollo is one of four 18th century statues that grace the entrance to the Baroque castle, all in need of conservation. The Friends gave £2000 and restoration has been successfully completed.
High Altar painting and associated statuary in the Abbey Church of Žd’ár nad Sázavou, Moravia
In November 2008 we appealed to the Headley Trust for funds to support the restoration of the magnificent High Altar painting of the Assumption of the Virgin and the smaller painting above of the Trinity, both by the important Baroque artist, Michael Leopold Willman (1630-1706), together with the splendid associated statuary by Řehoř Theny (1695-1759). In March 2009 we learnt that our appeal was successful and the Headley Trust generously donated £20,000 towards the restoration. The Altar painting and associated sculptures were subjected to extensive scientific analysis by the conservator prior to restoration.
Portrait, thought to be of Thomas Vinciguerra Collalto et San Salvatore (1710-69)
The Friends gave £2000 towards the cost of restoration. Work completed in early 2011. The Collaltos were one of the oldest aristocratic families of Northern Italy, who had come over to the Czech lands as mercenaries in the Thirty Years War. They came to own large estates in Moravia, with their main Moravian seat at Brtnice (currently in decay). Uherčice was their country seat. Thomas Vinciguerra Collalto was a lover of art and music and in October 1762 hosted in his palace in Vienna the six-year-old Mozart’s first public performance. For years the collection of family portraits from Uherčice has been in store and their gradual restoration and return to the house is important in reuniting both house and the family who owned it until confiscation in 1945.
The Pheasantry at Červený Dvůr
In 2009 The Friends gave help by obtaining a grant from the Headley Trust towards the restoration of the murals in the Breakfast Room of this historic house and towards the restoration of most of the Pheasantry, which lies in the magnificent park. Dr Jiří Dvořáček, the director of Červený Dvůr, the Czech National Heritage Institute and the Friends' Committee are extremely grateful to the Headley Trust for their generosity in supporting these two projects. We have continued the connection with Červený Dvůr with our first working holiday there in 2011, and two working holidays in 2012, see Fundraising Events.
Restoration of the eighteenth-century Rococo Garden Arbour from the gardens of Český Krumlov
Completed Spring 2010. The Friends’ offer of a grant of £1000/ €1100 towards the restoration of the Rococo garden arbour at Český Krumlov acted as a catalyst which enabled the South Bohemian Institute of Historic Monuments to obtain funding of the further £3000/ €3300 needed to complete the restoration. The great castle of Český Krumlov was once part of the huge Schwarzenberg estates in South Bohemia. The château gardens were originally laid out in the late seventeenth century as a series of Baroque terraces, which were modified in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Many eighteenth-century features survive, such as the charming Garden Arbour, which once stood in the centre of a maze, and is thought to have been a Music Pavilion. It was painted in 1752 with allegories of the Four Seasons by the local court artist, Jacub František Prokyš (1713-91).
Uherčice: Restoration of the allegorical 18th-century sculpture of Winter - £2000
Uherčice is a great gabled Renaissance château situated in the countryside of South Moravia, close to the Austrian border. In the Baroque period many rooms were enriched with splendid plasterwork, attributed to the important Italian stuccoist, Baldassare Fontana. A richly decorated Baroque chamber theatre is an outstanding feature of this period. Work on the statue was carried out in 2008.
Žd’ár nad Sázavou, Moravia
The conservation of a Baroque confessional from the great monastery church, completed by April 2009.