The unique and dramatic natural setting of headland on the confluence of the Vltava and Otava Rivers, which was only accessible along a narrow isthmus and whose rocky side walls were almost vertical until water was let in the dam lake of Orlik, made it ideal building site from the defence point of view. Reconstructions having not damaged too much the castle´s original appearance, the 13th century Zvikov is a unique example of a large royal fortified castle of that glorious period of Czech history.
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This advantage was used for the first time by the Celts who built there one of their fortified settlements of the urban type, called oppida. Parts of the mound-type fortification have been preserved, especially on the northern side of the castle.
The excellent defence advantages of the Zvikov headland were also exploited by the last Premyslides who founded there one of the most important and stately Bohemian royal castles.
we have no documents on its beginnings. The first written report on Zvikov comes from 1234 when it burgomaster is mentioned. The castle, later referred to as Klingenberg, which was a fashionable Garman name, was probably founded not long before, at theend of the reign of the great King Premysl Otakar I.
Because no archaelogical research has been conducted at the castle, in spite of recent extensive reconstruction, we do not know much about the beginnings of the castle, about its oldest appearance and about the original ground plan of complex. It is believed that the oldest preserved building is themassive terragonal housing tower in the angle of the inner castle, formerly called "Markomanka" or the "Bulb Tower", a name derived from the large protuberant ashlars resembling bulbs. This structure, whose construction must have been demanding and which has vaulted ceilings, was designed right at the beginning as an angular building of the present-day inner castle which was to be made up of at least two palace wings adjoining the tower. The oldest furnishings of the palace wings can still be seen in a cross-vauletd room beneath the chapel.
The shape of the building site of the inner castle predetermined its pentagonal, slightly irregular ground plan. All around there were palace buildings with many splendid rooms offering the royal family the maximum comfort of the time. Located on the ground floor were auxiliary facilities, while living and reception rooms were on the first floor as was then usual for defence reasons. In view of the big quantity of the rooms, they were interconnected by a monumental and beautiful vaulted arcade. Its present shape is the result of unsuitable reconstruction in the 2nd half of the 19th century when the traceries, originally placed in the arches on the ground floor, were relocated on the first floor.
Situated on the first floor of the inner castle were living rooms. The whole first floor was one large reception hall with six fields of cross vaults resting on two pillars in the middle. The castle Chapel of St. Wenceslas on the first floor is one of the most beautiful spaces of early Bohemian Gothic.
Reconstructions having not damaged too much the castle´s original appearance, the 13th century Zvikov is a unique example of a large royal fortified castle of that glorious period of Czech history. Its imposing architectural shape has for a long time ensured it a leading position among castles in the country at the same time it did not force its owners to undertake far-reaching reconstructions. Neither the sieges of 1285 and 1287 did the castle much harm.
At the beginning of the Thirty Years War, in 1622, the castle was besieged and plundered .
Though the castle was no longer a modern object from the point of view of defence, a garrison was kept here and its fortifications were gradually modrenised. The last reconstruction was carreid out only after a fire in 1751.. Not attracting the noblemen´s attention any longer, Zvikov quickly fell into ruin. Fortunately the Schwarzenbergs, who became the owners, were aware of the value as a historical monument and after the first half of the 19th century, Karl Schwarzenberg had the most urgent reconstruction of the ruins executed. Reconstructed was especially the inner castle, including the arcade. Marked, but not always suitable repairs were also made recently, after letting water in the dam lake entirely changed the originally wild landscape and when the whole settlement beneath the castle, including the fortifications and ruins of the Church of St. Nicholas, disappeared under the water.
Zvikov Castle, reflected on the calm water surface, which lends it an entirely new and quieter natural setting, is rightfully one of the most visited historical monuments in Bohemia. The visitor will see there one of a few splendid royal seats of the last Premyslides (Bohemian Kings of the 13th century), to which the merciless time has been quite kind.