This chateau was considered before the communism one of the most beautiful Baroque buildings in Europe.
Nowadays it is the tragic example of devastation. It was and is owned again by the the Lobkowitz family.
The father of Christoph Willibald Gluck
was hunting and forest master for the Lobkowitz family here.
Christoph Willibald Gluck
(1714 - 1787)
After Munich 1938, the Lobkowicz domains were broken up – those that found themselves in occupied territory were administratively assigned to the “firm hand” of a directorship in Bilina. Immediately following the first days of the occupation, the castle was occupied by the staff of “SS-Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler” headed by Obersturmbannführer Sepp Dittrich. A large part of the moveable chattels were taken prior to the Sudeten conquest to Roudnice nad Labem, although following the take-over the Lobkowicz property had to be returned to Jezeří; it was later transferred to Bílina.
Hitler’s personal banner departed Jezeří on 19 October 1938, when the castle was occupied by a garrison designated to keep watch over prisoners who were accommodated close to the forestry management offices at Jezeří. These prisoners were Poles, Russians and Frenchmen, as well as German soldiers on criminal charges. In March 1943, the castle was used for prison purposes. A special camp was established there for prominent persons “Sonderlager für prominente Persönlichkeiten” – mainly highly placed French officers. A labour commando of 96 men from the Flossenbürg concentration camp also came to the castle. The whole castle was painted a camouflage green. Guardhouses were constructed around the building connected by electric fences and patrolled by guard dogs. The wider surroundings were closed to the population. In the castle itself, an average of around 100 people were accommodated. From 1943, about 238 men went through this camp. Among the prominent personalities interned at Jezeří were Pierre de Gaulle – the brother of the future French president Charles de Gaulle, the son of the former French premier Michael Clémenceau, Dr. Menetrel – Marshal Pétain’s personal physician, Prince Michael Montenegra, and others.
After the end of the Second World War, the castle and its lands were over time returned to the ownership of the Lobkowicz family; it is said that guests at that time included the Czechoslovak Foreign Minister Jan Masaryk. The Czechoslovak ambassador to Great Britain, JUDr. Maxmilián Lobkowicz, remained faithful to democracy after the Communist putsch of February 1948 and decided to remain in exile.
Soon after the February “victory” – on 20 April 1948 – the Provincial National Committee introduced national administration at Jezeří. On 21 August 1949, the castle was taken over by the National Culture Commission. The state of the castle was declared to be bad, especially in relation to the roof, the plaster and castellated decoration of the bannisters on the rear terrace, while the floors were seen to be in good condition. The castle was first rented out to the Ministry of Technology, but on 22 September 1950 the government decided to make it available to the Ministry of National Defence; it was specifically allocated to the management of the Chomutov garrison.
The “takeover” of the castle took place on 28 August without notifying the National Culture Commission and the State Monument Administration in a way that completely contradicted the principles of these institutions. The 100-member garrison simply occupied the castle, threw the remaining inventory into the chapel, and whitewashed the whole castle in their own style both in reality and figuratively. The Czechoslovak People’s Army tried to adapt the castle grounds completely to its own needs. The interiors were destroyed, many rooms in the castle were intentionally modified and the remaining furniture stolen or destroyed.
In 1955, the castle was taken over by the Ministry of Interior. In line with a decision dated 9 January 1958, administration was delegated to the Ministry of Education and Culture, Monument Care Department. On 29 August 1958, the castle was transferred to the State Monument Administration, and then in 1959 it was transferred to the Regional National Committee in Ústí nad Labem. At that time there was no security provided at Jezeří and the castle was left exposed to vandals from 1960. From 1961 to 1972, the castle was administered by the District National Committee in Most when the first project for reconstructing the building was drawn up. Its author was the Institute for Landscape Creation and Protection of the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences, which had responsibility for supporting Jezeří in its research programme. A further anticipated use of the castle consisted in the intention to build an extensive recreational area of supra-regional importance, but everything remained an idea only, just like the declared intention to have exhibitions of famous musical traditions.
From 1964, artistic-historic and construction research was undertaken under the leadership of Václav Mencl. The subsequent reconstruction was methodologically contributed to by the Regional Centre of State Monument Care and Nature Protection in Ústí nad Labem, although its collaboration with the Usti-based District Construction Enterprise only led to the further devastation of the building. At the same time as the demolition of the unmaintained chaplain’s dwelling and kitchen annexes, the north-east wing of the castle and the underlined buttress were seriously damaged, known these days as the oriel. This desperate situation was allowed to continue for the whole of the following period without any security, and it is testimony to its solid and honest construction that no other parts of the building fell apart. In 1967, the then administrator permitted further gross interference by the District Construction Enterprise from Ústí nad Labem by ripping up around 150 m² of parquet flooring and its subsequent use at the chateau in Ploskovice. The District National Committee in Most reconstructed the gatehouse as a temporary dwelling for a guard, and in 1972 the castle was transferred to the administration of the Regional Centre of State Monument Care and Nature Protection in Ústí nad Labem. Further reconstruction was therefore postponed indefinitely. The castle administration at that time prohibited even normal maintenance being carried out and justified neglecting the state of the castle on the grounds of the ambiguous situation regarding the mining activities of the North Bohemian Lignite Mines.
In the years 1973-76, engineering-geological mapping was undertaken in the forelands of the Czechoslovak Army opencast mine, from whose conclusions stemmed the desperate need for more detailed research of the coal basin limits in 1980s. This mainly confirmed the fears that the extent of the crystalline massif of the Ore Mountains could significantly influence coal mining activities and vice-versa. It was found that it was necessary to urgently verify the state of the crystalline massif, its disrupted tectonic plates, efflorescent processes and landslide activity in the very places where the coal basin limits abutted the Jezeří castle grounds. The responsibility for the research was given to Construction Geology Prague under the research management of RNDr. Jan Marek. Re-evaluation of the national energy concept, however, led to a change in plans in this locality, and the Czechoslovak Army opencast mine’s sphere of interest was expanded to include not only Dřínovsky Lake and the castle park under Jezeří (the arboretum), but also the surrounding towns and the slopes of the Ore Mountains within the immediate vicinity of the castle. For reasons to do with the prioritisation of coal mining, this significant cultural monument was designated for demolition in the mid-1980s. Preparations for demolition were fortunately not carried out as radically and straightforwardly as they were in the former royal city of Most. The castle was initially sentenced to slow decay. The public was made to doubt its high value, and it was expunged from the maps published in that period. These efforts, however, had the opposite effect. The issue far exceeded the question over the life and death of the castle.
In view of the very problematic geological conditions of the promontory on which the castle stands, there could well be a massive landslide of the Ore Mountain slopes which would lead to the absolute annihilation of the lignite opencast mine. Of course, the castle is also threatened by severe disruption to stress factors which could later lead to its total destruction. The fight to save Jezeří therefore evolved at the impetus of geologists and culminated in the 1980s when a precisely calibrated journalistic campaign got the wider public on their side. In 1986, an independent group of fiery ecological enthusiasts with extensive professional backgrounds was spontaneously created and which after November 1989 became the official “Society for the Restoration of Jezeří”. After great efforts, a protective abutment was laid out reaching to the lower edge of the castle park, the bulk of which would be returned in the following stage to heritage protection. The ecological mining limits, set in 1990, also protect the threatened towns of Horní Jiřetín and Černice from mining.
At the end of 1987 there was an overall re-evaluation and the architect Karel Císař started drafting a project on whose basis rescue of the building would proceed in the following year. Over the years 1988-91 extensive reconstruction was begun during which the ceilings of the central tract were repaired, shingles were placed on the northern part of the roof (because of the low quality of the ceramic tiles), expensive repairs of the desperate state of two buttressing walls in the castle grounds were carried out, and new substation was built and reconstruction was started on the “Administration Building”.
The next fate of the castle was influenced by events that legislatively followed the Velvet Revolution of November 1989. In 1991, the restitution claims of the Lobkowicz family were lodged and in subsequent years recognised, resulting in the return of the castle to their ownership. However, restoration of the severely damaged cultural monument proved to be beyond their power and financial means. Repairs paid for out of state coffers were unfortunately stopped at this stage, and only minor building work was carried out in connection with necessary maintenance. The permanent solution to the situation will certainly be appreciated in hindsight: in 1996 Martin Lobkowicz donated the castle to the state and by mutual agreement the building was again transferred to the management of the Heritage Institute (now the National Heritage Institute) in Ústí nad Labem.
Despite its very poor condition, the then leadership of the heritage institute decided on making the monument accessible. It was a significant moment in the history of the castle. Tours and viewings of the castle provided the hope of considerable financial income that would help not only in arresting the continuing decay, but also the hope of completing overall reconstruction.
Jezeří Castle was thus opened to the public in June 1996. Given the state of the monument, a whole range of provisional arrangements were made to enable basic viewing. There weren’t many options for exhibiting the castle, and so in making it accessible it was necessary to overcome many various technical obstacles. It was necessary to delineate the best preserved part of the entire premises that wouldn’t represent a safety risk to visitors. The most suitable solution proved to be making several rooms partially accessible in the northern part directly connected to the castle gardens whose main gate was used for providing temporary access to the grounds. In 1996, two rooms were made accessible – the small salon and a bedroom with direct access to the castle gardens, where a small wooden outbuilding was also used for selling tickets and souvenirs. The tour itself included only a commentary on the castle’s history and the showing of a short documentary film about the castle’s history and surroundings because the castle was completely empty of any fixtures. The second part of the tour was of the cellars and castle silversmith workshop. After several years, the tour circuit expanded to a further three rooms and in the northern tower where a labelled exhibition of the 19th century interior was installed with a look at how the building was used for hunting purposes in the past. An inventory from the National Heritage Institute depository in Ústí nad Labem was used for this exposition, while supernatural creatures and fairy-tale characters were installed in the cellars.
Tours of the building take place at the same time reconstruction work is being carried out so that the castle management is forced to adapt to situations as they arise. An important change in the tour circuit resulted from the erosion of the painted timbered ceiling on the second floor of the northern tower when it was necessary move the inventory and look for another suitable type of tour circuit. This happened in January 2004. Given that partial reconstruction of the ground floor of the lord’s manor had been completed, which permitted the use of this space for a cash desk and facilities for visitors, the entrance to the castle was able to be moved from the inner forecourt. The inventory was moved to the southern part of the castle, which had already been stabilised by the reconstruction work undertaken on the roof and ceilings.
on Sep 21, 2014
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Last updated on Sep 21, 2014