Vila Tugendhat protected by UNESCO , Spilberk castle with casemates, Slavkov - Napoleon´s Battlefield of Three Emperors
Order Tour Code: C SEE3
Come with us to see the capital of Moravia, Brno.
Our guide will show you the historic part of the
town with the castle Spilberk and its casemates
and also the UNESCO-protected Tugendhat villa
designed by celebrated architect Ludwig Mies
van der Rohe. This tour can also include a visit of
the Austerlitz (Slavkov) battlefield, where in 1805
Napoleon Bonaparte defeated the combined
armies of Austria and Russia.
In around 1000 a settlement was established on a ford across the River Svratka, now known as Stare Brno (Old Brno), and it was this that gave the city its name.
Legal support for the development of the city came with the large and small privileges that were conferred upon the city in 1243 by Václav I, King of Bohemia.
In the 14th century the city became the seat of the Moravian Margraves, and underwent a period of great expansion.
In the mid-16th century Brno began to lean towards Protestantism, whose representatives had a majority on the city council. In an attempt to re-Catholicise the city, new Catholic orders came to Brno, of whom the Jesuits and the Capuchins were to gain a great influence.
In 1643 and 1645 Brno was the only city to successfully defend the Swedish besiegements, thereby allowing the Austrian Empire to reform their armies and to repel the Swedish pressure.
In the 18th century development of industry and trade began to take place, which continued into the next century. Together with the development of industry came the growth of the suburbs, and the city lost its fortress characteristics, as did the Spilberk castle, which became a notorious prison to where not only criminals were sent, but also political opponents of the Austrian Empire.
During the First Republic Brno was the second city after Prague - both in terms of its population (1921: 210 000, 1937: 300 000), and also in importance, as it was the capital city of the Moravia/Silesia Province. The city was not only a centre of industry and commerce, but also of education and culture. Famous personages who have worked in the city include Leoą Janáček, Viktor Kaplan, Jiří Mahen and Bohuslav Fuchs.
The Second World War caused serious damage to Brno. During the Nazi occupation many Czech citizens were executed in the city at the Kounicové Koleje (a student residence); the result of these atrocities was the evacuation of the German inhabitants in 1945. The subsequent period of Communist rule brought the city economic and political stagnation, the consequences of which we are still finding difficult to overcome.
Vila Tugendhat - UNESCO
„There exist some building elements from which it is possible to develop new and richer architecture. They lend us a measure of freedom that we no longer wish to abandon. Now we are able to divide a space, open it up and join it with the landscape, so that we may fulfil the spatial needs of modern man. The simplicity of construction, clarity of the tectonic environment and purity of materials will become the new standard-bearers of beauty.“
Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, 1933
Architecture in the 1920s was characterised by the opening of new roads of creative thought, which reflected the avant-garde trends that were searching for an image of life after the First World War. The designs for the glass skyscrapers by the German architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe in 1919-1922 broke the traditional forms of enclosed spaces with their transparent walls and open-plan floor spaces, which have made possible new and progressive technology for the manufacture of glass, steel and ferro-concrete.
The Brno work of Mies van der Rohe began to take shape rapidly in June 1929. By the end of October of the same year the frame of the building was completed, in summer 1930 the internal work was complete, and the house was inhabited by the end of the year.
The Tugendhat Villa stands on land which was given to Greta Tugendhat as a wedding gift by her father. The Tugendhats came from a family of well-known textile entrepreneurs, and they lived in the house until 1938, when the family was forced to flee to Switzerland, and subsequently Venezuela, in order to escape the Nazis. The villa was requisitioned by the Gestapo, and was damaged during the course of the war. After 1945 it was used for a short while as a school of rhythmics, following which it became the rehabilitation centre for the university children’s hospital. In 1969 the villa became the property of the city. From 1982 until 1985 it underwent partial restoration, during which all the unwanted changed that had been added later were removed, and the building was preserved for future use as a protected monument. The villa went on to be used for special civic occasions, and in 1992 talks were held in the building on the division of the Czechoslovak state.
Ludwig Mies van der Rohe died in 1969 in Chicago. During his life he created a characterful and uninterchangeable style, which has significantly influenced modern architecture throughout the world.
The Tugendhat Villa in Černá Pole, Brno, was met with great acclaim and interest even when it was newly-built and its fame has grown with time. The Tugendhat Villa in Brno, the most prominent completed European work of its creator, has become one of the milestones in the history of world 20th century architecture. Its importance was recognised in 2001 by its inclusion amongst the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Sites.
Spilberk castle and castle´s casemates
Brno's Spilberk castle has undergone many transformations over the centuries since its founding in the second half of the 13th century. In the mid-17th century the Gothic castle of the Czech kings and seat of Moravia's margraves was transformed into a bulky baroque fortress. By the middle of the next century, together with the no less fortified city of Brno, it formed the most significant fortress system in Moravia. The CASEMATES, completed in 1742, were a component of the fortification system of the Špilberk citadel, largely the achievement of the outstanding constructor of fortifications, colonel Pierre de Rochepin.
The casemates were to serve as shelter for a garrison comprising some 1,200 men, as well as armaments and other
materials should the fortress come under artillery bombardment. In the main however, they were used to store military equipment.
Within the framework of Austrian penal reform, the emperor Joseph II decided, in 1783, that a prison ought to be created for felons and the most dangerous criminals. In addition to the older prison buildings by the back moat, he ordered the reconstruction as a prison of the upper floor of the northern casemates (the so-called Josephian wing). The first prisoners were placed there after the conversion in June 1784. Six months later - in December 1784 - another imperial order was given to house felons sentenced to life imprisonment in
the lower level - "the deepest and worst casemates". Twenty-nine cells were successively constructed with thick planks and beams to which prisoners were shackled in perpetuity. During 1785 even the upper storey of the southern casemates was transformed into a prison, but it was not used as such until the reign of Joseph's successor, Leopold II (and thus is referred to as the Leopoldian Tract). In May 1790, Leopold halted the the imprisonment of prisoners with life sentences in the lower casemates, including the punishment of being permanently chained, and also introduced other improvements for convicted criminals. However the upper storeys of the casemates remained in service as prisons up to the beginning of the 1830s.
In the mass cells in the casemates (for between 12 and 50 inmates depending on the dimensions) only "common" criminals such as murderers, thieves and arsonists were incarcerated, sentenced either to life imprisonment or long periods of heavier kinds of servitude. Špilberk's casemates, in terms both of purpose and their nature, was the toughest prison to be found in the Austrian monarchy. In these cells, no-one of higher birth nor the so-called "state" prisoners were kept. They were rather imprisoned in the rooms of the upper level of the old prison by the back moat, and later in a part of the barracks - mainly the northern wing. The previously one-storey building was converted to produce prison cells (each housing two prisoners) and an extra floor was added in 1800. It was here that the "state" prisoners, including Italian "carbonares" and other opponents of Hapsburg absolutism, were confined. The co-existence of the Spilberk military
fortress and the expanding prison, which from Joseph II's reforms in 1783 had been under civilian administration, brough about a number of problems and disputes. After the demolition of important elements of its fortifications by Napoleon's departing army in 1809, the fortress lost its military significance and was taken out of service. The whole of the Špilberk became a civilian prison and its character was completely transformed by extensive reconstrution in the 1830s and 40s. The building of new cells and progressive amelioration of the prison regime led to the end of the use of the casemates as a prison in the 1830s.
As previously infamous prisons, the casemates were opened to the public for the first time in 1880, after two years of reconstruction, at the behest of Brno's then director of military structures, Antonio Costa-Rosetti. They were visited with great interest for more than a century and became one of the greatest tourist attractions, not just in the city of Brno, but in the whole of Moravia. Even when first opened, the casemates were renowned for several romantic and somewhat horrific legends, which were rather at variance with historical reality. These myths and legends were to grow over the years,
becoming part of tradition and being included in works of literature - and even guides for tourists. The original appearance of the casemates also changed considerably. This was in part due to modifications carried out by the German army at the end of World War II, when a shelter for the Špilberk garrison was constructed in the northern casemates.
The casemates underwent extensive reconstruction between 1987 and 1992, prompted by their having fallen into disrepair, and intended to restore as much as possible their basic appearance from the period at the end of the 18th and start of the 19th century, when they were transformed from a fortress into the worst prison of the Josephian period. The modern recreation of some of the interior rooms of the casemates also evokes this time - an experiment in trying to bring to life for the modern-day visitor a prison from Joseph II's time. Further stages of the Špilberk prison, also known as the "prison of nations" - imprisoning supporters of the French Revolution, Hungarian Jacobins, Italian patriots, Polish revolutionaries, and Czech rebels both from the First World War and more seriously from the time of the Nazi occupation - will be shown in new exhibitions in authentic surroundings after the general reconstruction of the castle.
Today's presentation of the casemates as a unique example of the architecture of Baroque fortifications and at the same time imprisonment in the Josephian era is based on the study of the original plans and other documents and has been produced by the historians of the Museum of the City of Brno, architects and civil engineers. The casemates are again open to visitors, exactly 250 years after they first "opened for business".
Come with us to see the capital of Moravia, Brno. Our guide will show you the historic part of the town with the castle Spilberk and its casemates and also the UNESCO-protected Tugendhat villa designed by celebrated architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.
This tour can also include a visit of the Austerlitz (Slavkov) battlefield, where in 1805 Napoleon Bonaparte defeated the combined armies of Austria and Russia.
8-10 HOUR ROUND TRIP
Austerlitz - Slavkov Battlefield
2 December , 1805
Regarded as Napoleon Bonaparte's greatest victory, Austerlitz was a sublime trap that destroyed the armies of his enemies Russia and Austria.
Tricking his opponents into thinking he was weaker than he actually was, and then calling in nearby reinforcements, Bonaparte initially met the combined Allied army of 85,000 men and 278 guns with just 66,000 men.
The French emperor deliberately abandoned a strong central position on the Pratzen Heights and left his right flank weak.
The Allies eagerly moved forward to occupy the heights and then weakened the centre to crush the French right.
As the bulk of Austrian and Russian troops attacked, Marshal Davout's III Corp arrived to bolster the French line.
With more and more Allied troops sucked into the attack, Bonaparte launched an assault that took back the Pratzen Heights and split the enemy.
After much hard fighting the French crushed the Allies. Thousands of fleeing troops drowned when a frozen lake split under the weight of men and guns.
French losses amounted to 8000 while the Russian and Austrian emperors, present at the battle, saw more than 27,000 men killed, wounded and captured. Bonaparte also captured 180 cannon.
The tour to Brno and Austerlitz Battlefield (Napoleon´s victory) takes 8 hours.