Mikulov Chateau

Town and Medieval Jewish Quarter. Wine tasting. Palava Hills UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.

Order Tour Code: C SEE9
Tour availability: Tour available in summer season

At the foot of Pavlovské hills, surrounded by rich vineyards and lush verdure of South Moravia, there rises a renowned town of Mikulov which will make everyone, domestic and foreign visitors alike, fall in love with it. You will be enchanted by our Holy Hill whose slopes steeply fall into a landscape with the town of Mikulov and monumental chateau in the middle. The dazzling white rocks with silver cliffs, rich flora and unique fauna and azure sky-this is Mikulov, one of the jewels of Moravia.

The town is located amidst the Chateau hill, the Goat hill and Turold, under the impressive Holy Hill.

MIKULOV CHATEAU
Due to the effects of wars and raids, none of the first historically documented stage of Romanesque architecture in the town survives, except for elements found on the chateau hill. Here arose around 1218 a medieval royal castle, acquired by the Liechtensteins in 1249. The still existing gate to the inner courtyard and palace was carved into the rock, and guarded by a cylindrical tower from the mid-13th century.

The first Liechtensteins continued construction on the castle. The main renovation took place in the 14th century, when the Late Romanesque castle was renovated in Gothic. The edged tower dates from that period, as well as another four-sided tower. The castle itself had three stories. In the 1480's a chapel was built into the main tower, which had the shape of a cylinder with an eight-sided tower. In the mid-16th century, in fear of the approaching Turkish threat, the Mikulov chateau was again modified. Huge, solid bastions were built on the southeast, southwest, and west sides at the corners of the outer walls in 1540-1550; they extended out from the walls and featured semicircular artillery ports, which have remained to this day as a typical feature of the castle. By 1560 the power of Liechtensteins was waning, and the town came for a short period into the possession of theHungarianwarrior Ladislav Kereczenyi of Kanyaföld. After a fire in 1561, he began to rebuild the castle as a Renaissance chateau. In 1575 the chateau was acquired by the Dietrichsteins. They continued with renovations, through the extraordinary efforts of Franz Dietrichstein, Bishop of Olomouc and de facto ruler of Moravia, who made the chateau his main residence. At that time, in 1611 to 1618, the castle became a Late Renaissance palace. The bastions on the west side were vaulted, and raised by one floor. At the same time the largest bastion, protruding from the castle on the north side, was given a roof and renamed the Hall of Ancestors. These renovations continued until 1633.

After fires in 1719, the chateau was given a High Baroque treatment. Architect Gustav Alexander Oedtl changed the three-story building into two stories, while retaining the original height. The castle wall was torn down on the east side, and a summer riding school built in its place, with a stairway to the garden. The riding hall (today the theater hall) was finally completed in 1728; below were the stables and outbuildings. On the east side, a terrace with enormous arcades was built in place of a covered pavilion.

In 1945 the chateau was burned by retreating German soldiers; all that remained were charred ruins. In 1947 work was begun that would restore the chateau in its present form.

DIETRICHSTEIN TOMB
The Dietrichstein Tomb, which closes off the eastern side of the square, is a building with a complex history. In 1623, Cardinal Dietrichstein established the so-called Loreta, modeled on the Santa Casa (Holy Crčche) in Loreta, Italy. Exact information on the original Mikulov Loreta has not survived, nor has the original structure, therefore the original building plan of the Cardinal is not known. From what remains of the original building, and from old pictures, we know its form as it was in the mid-17th century, when it was the Church of St. Anna. The Dietrichsteins were buried there from that time until the fire of 1784, when the entire northern part of the square burned down, and the church became a ruin. The remaining salvaged coffins were moved to the Church of St. Wenceslas.

The Mikulov Loreta Church was reconstructed in 1845-1852, with design by architect Heinrich Koch, as a mausoleum chapel with an Empire facade. The original structure of the nave was not renewed, and the area it once covered became a courtyard. After the side chapel was rebuilt, 45 coffins with the Dietrichstein family remains were ceremonially replaced there in 1852. The onion-shaped dome on the towers, dating from the early 18th century, was not renewed. The stone facade dating from 1700 by Johan Bernard Fischer von Erlach was complimented by a statue of Christ accompanied by two angels, the work of Josef Kässmann. The courtyard features an 1859 sculpture of Prince Franz Josef by Emmanuel Max, created for the Hall of Ancestors in the Mikulov chateau.

During the reconstruction of the canon houses, what remains of the Mannerist stucco from 1679 by Viennese artist Giovanni Castelli was preserved and restored, through the care of the Regional Archive. Today the spaces serve as a municipal exhibition hall.

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JEWISH CEMETERY
The Jewish cemetery (area 19,180 m2) is one of the largest in Moravia in both size and importance. It lies at the edge of the former Jewish quarter, on the slopes of Kozí vršek (Goat Hill).

At the entrance stands a funeral hall built by Viennese architect Max Fleischer in 1898. The cemetery contains around four thousand gravestones. The oldest surviving markers date from 1605 and the era around the beginning of the 17th century, but according to historical sources, burials took place here earlier, in the 16th century. The Late Baroque gravestones in Mikulov became models for those later appearing in south and central Moravia. Most of them were made of white marble or carved out of Pálava limestone, and the craftsmanship and design were of high quality. The simplest variant is a simple rectangular slab, headed by a semicircular segment at the top. The lower part with inscription is framed by a raised band, in some cases with carved ornamental motifs. In some cases these ornaments become part of the central motif as well. The four-cornered lower part of the slab is sometimes adorned with pilasters and scrolls. High reliefs are used in the main decoration, drawing inspiration from Jewish religious symbolism.

The most often visited part of the cemetery is "Rabbi Hill", where the local rabbis were buried, and from the mid-16th century, the head Moravian rabbis as well, such as Rabbi Menachen Mendl Krochmal (died 1661), and Rabbi Šemuel Šmelka Horovitz (died 1778). The gravestones hold many epitaphs, and provide historically interesting documentation on the lives of those buried here.

In 1938 the cemetery was closed, and time began its work. Bushes, trees, and other wild vegetation changed the austere cemetery to its present appearance. However, it still documents the life of the Jewish community, which was thriving as early as the 16th century, and was increased by Jewish families fleeing persecution in Vienna.

CHURCH OF ST. WENCESLAS
The organ in the Church of St. Wenceslas dates from 1771, the work of Brno master organ maker Jan Výmola. The instrument is very valuable, as fThe provost's Church of St. Wenceslas was preceded by a Romanesque church no longer in existence. It was probably burned around 1426. Construction of a new church was begun during the time when the Liechtenstein's economic power was at its peak, before the Hussite Wars, as noted in the town chronicles from 1414.

The structure has a closed five-sided, reticulate vaulted presbytery, and a reticulated triple nave. This part dates from the period of Late Gothic. On the south side stood a four-sided Gothic tower, later rebuilt in Renaissance. A crypt was dug out under the presbytery.From the inscription "1697" on the portal of the provost's house, today's parish chapter house, it is apparent that the building was reconstructed at that time. Lavish stucco decoration (figural and ornamental) was installed in the provost's residence, similar to that on the vault between the towers of the front facade of the Dietrichstein Tomb.It was supposed that the Mikulov church is stylistically related to the Danube style, as found at the St. Stephen's in Vienna. Later research has showed congruence with that of the St. Jacob foundry in Brno. The scale of the Mikulov church, as befits a subject town, is more modest than that of the Moravian Margrave's seat in Brno, but is certainly equal to that in the royal town of Znojmo. It is clear that this is an extraordinarily rare work of architecture, and serves to illustrate how Mikulov's architecture relates to that in the interior of the Czech Lands. Ew organs in Bohemia or Moravia have survived intact in their original form. This organ is also rare and interesting in its unusual layout, designed to fit into a somewhat cramped space inside the church. The organ maker had to fit the instrument into the space available, so the keyboard is built into the body of the organ, and the organist must sit behind the organ's rear wall; he can follow proceedings around the altar only through a narrow slot in the organ body. With its creative design, this work demonstrates the advanced state of Moravian organ making in that era.

HUSOVA STREET
Mikulov became a significant center of Jewish settlement in the early 15th century. Jews began to come to the town in larger numbers probably around 1421, when they were expelled from Vienna and Lower Austria. Another wave of Jewish population settled in the town after 1454, after expulsion from the Moravian royal cities (Znojmo and Brno). Jews settled in the area of Za hradem Street (Hinter dem Haus, Hinter dem Schloss) - today's Husova Street, which became the main artery of the Jewish quarter.

Thanks to Mikulov's favorable location, and also thanks to fortunate societal and economic conditions, the Jewish quarter soon became one of the most important cultural, legal, and political centers of Judaism in the Czech Lands. Even before the mid-16th century, the office of the Moravian Rabbinate was established, which oversaw all Jewish communities in Moravia until 1851. The cultural advancement of the Mikulov community was demonstrated by such 16th-century personalities as Rabbi Jehuda Löw Becalel, the legendary creator of the Golem; Rabbi Menachem Mendl ben Abarham Krochmal, author of the Jewish regional law (1648-1661); and "miraculous" Rabbi Mordechaj ben Abraham Benet (1789-1829). The Sonenfels Brothers came from the Mikulov Jewish quarter, of whom Josef especially made a mark on European politics as a representative of the Enlightenment, and an advisor to Empress Maria Theresa. Austrian President Adolf Schärf (1890-1965) was also born in Mikulov's Jewish quarter.

Jews in Mikulov represented a major element of the local population, a fact reflected in their share of trade and (after the emancipation reforms under Josef II in the late 18th century) of industry. At the end of the 1700's, they comprised 40.6% of the population, in the mid-19th century 41.8%. In 1848 the Jewish community acquired political autonomy, and was headed by a mayor. The first Austrian constitution of 1848 gave Jews full civil rights, led to abolition of limits on the number of Jewish families in individual localities and of special Jewish taxes, brought possibilities for ownership of land and real estate, and absolute freedom of movement. This led to migration out of the cramped quarters in the old Jewish community, and the purchase of houses in other parts of town.

After the birth of the Czechoslovak Republic, the Jewish and Christian towns were merged, but the cultural life of the Jewish community continued to exist in various forms. The events of the Second World War ended the existence of the Jewish community in Mikulov.

SYNAGOGUE

The Upper Synagogue, also called the "Old Synagogue" or the "Dome Synagogue", is located among the row of houses in Husova Street. It is built on sloping terrain at the foot of the Chateau Hill, in a prominent place, past which led one of the approaches to the chateau. For religious reasons, it was built slightly askew in relation to the other row houses in the street. Its foundations date (according to old Jewish records) from the 15th century. It was renovated in Renaissance, and gained its present Baroque appearance after a fire in 1719. Chateau sculptor Ignác Lengelacher took part in its decoration.

The Upper Synagogue's ground floor was reserved for men; women sat in a gallery above. Men entered through two portals on the northern side, while the entrance to the gallery was on the northwest side by way of an outer stairway leading around from the northeast. After a fire in 1561, a portico with a single pillar was built on the corner: this became a typical architectural element of the Mikulov Jewish quarter. During the same period a similar gallery was built onto the rabbinate (where the hotel Rohatý Krokodýl now stands); the house next to the synagogue and the no-longer-existing Lower Synagogue were given two-pillared galleries. In 1689 the Upper Synagogue was expanded, acquiring a two-story women's prayer area on the south side. The Empire modifications were added after a fire in 1819.

When the Germans occupied Mikulov in 1938, the building ceased to serve as a house of worship. It was used for storage during WWII; its reconstruction was carried out between 1977 and the end of the 1980's. Today the synagogue is used by the Mikulov Regional Museum for cultural events (exhibitions, concerts), and houses an exhibit on the history of Mikulov's Jewish quarter.

KOZI HRADEK - GOAT TOWER - view of Palave Hilss (UNESCO)

Kozí hrádek (Goat Tower), or rather Kozí vrch (Goat Hill), is one of the three stony heights overlooking Mikulov: the chateau, Holy Hill, and Goat Castle. For ages it played a part in controlling the trade route from Vienna to Brno. The hill's original name, "Knieberg", is taken from the nearby bend in the road guarded by Goat Castle. At this spot crossed two trails leading to crossings over the river Dyje, one at Mušov and the fort at Ivaň to the north, and one at the castle at Strachotin, at the western foot of he Pálava Hills. From here, the so-called "mustard trail" crossed the Pálava Hills toward Klentnice, while entrance to the town Mikulov lay to the east. The "upper trail" then went around the chateau and turned toward Laa an der Thaya in Austria.

At the top of Goat Hill in the 14th century, on a saddle opposite the entrance to the castle, a three-story gun tower with gallery was built, with firing holes mostly on the second floor.

The tower contributed greatly to the defensibility of Mikulov, especially the castle itself, an advantage that had ramifications not only for the Czech Lands, but for Central European affairs in general. Surviving today are the Late Gothic outer fortifications, with angled walls to deflect cannon fire. Although Goat Tower's military importance is long past, it remains an extraordinary work, and is an integral part of Mikulov's Urban Monument Zone.

Today one can overlook the entire area of the town from this former gun tower, and take in a romantic, exhilarating view. The town has been destroyed and rebuilt many times, now to serve its inhabitants and visitors alike in the present day.

From Goat Hill one can also see the Palava Hills, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, unique for its plant and animal life, its geology, and its fascinating role in history and prehistory.
PALAVA HILLS UNESCO BISPHERE RESERVE
Palava lies in the northwest promontory of the Panonská lowlands. It is the warmest and almost the most arid area in the Czech Republic, and therefore vines are cultivated here. Because of this climate some plant species that do not occur anywhere else in the country grow here. The colourful mosaic of arid rock grass, fringe communities, thermophilous bushes and thermophilous oakwoods on the Děvín slopes, which originated partly due to the influence of grazing, is called karst forest steppe. The Děvín forest plateaus are dominated by sparse loess oakwoods together with a species-rich herbaceous layer, while Panonian oak-hornbean dominates the north-facing slopes and valleys. Alluvial forests with pedunculate oaks and narrow-leaved ashes and quite small areas of alluvial meadows have been preserved in the Dyje floodplain in the vicinity of Křivé lake. Remains of halophytic vegetation, which occurred quite commonly on the salinated grazing land in South Moravia, still survive on the western bank of Nesyt pond near Sedlec.
The Pavlov Hills, in Czech also Pálava, surrounded by fertile vineyards, with their white limestone rocks, irises flowering in rock steppe bathed in sunshine, oak groves, ruins of medieval castles, unique architecture of the historical town of Mikulov and wine cellars in the surrounding villages are among the best-known and most frequently visited places in the Czech Republic. Little wonder, these features and the dry and warm climate give Pálava an almost Mediterranean character that cannot be found anywhere else in Bohemia or Moravia.
The Pavlov Hills are situated in the middle of the ancient cultural landscape of southern Moravia, which is one of the oldest inhabited areas in the Czech Republic. A hunting camp of the Stone Age mammoth hunters was situated between the modern-day villages of Dolní Věstonice and Pavlov, and lots of mammoth bones and remains of fireplaces, but also the world-famous Věstonice Venus statuette were left behind. The farmers appeared in this area very early, already in the Neolithic period, and in the 2nd century, a Roman military campsite existed on the flat hill above the left bank of the Dyje River near the no longer existing village of Mušov. One of the most important centres of the Great Moravian Empire was situated in Pohansko downstream of the town of Břeclav, while Mikulov/Nikolsburg was one of the most important towns in Moravia during the Middle Ages and to this day remains a centre of Moravian wine production. Despite the intensive human activities, valuable parts of natural landscape have been preserved in the midst of the intensively cultivated countryside, mainly on the slopes of the Pavlov Hills and in the mildly rolling Milovice Hills east of Mikulov, serving as a refuge to many endangered flora and fauna species. Pálava and its surroundings are therefore a good example of a balanced relationship between humanity and the nature, which resulted in the creation of a picturesque cultural landscape.
The Pálava Protected Landscape Area was established in 1976 on 83 km2 in order to protect natural and cultural monuments in the Pavlov Hills. Ten years later, it became the third place in the today’s Czech Republic to be listed as a UNESCO biosphere reserve as a part of the Man and Biosphere Programme. The Křivé jezero National Nature Reserve, located in the Dyje floodplain downstream of Nové Mlýny, is a part of the wetland of international importance protected according to the Ramsar Convention. The entire area is included in the list of European Important Bird Areas and is likely to be included into a Special Protected Area according to the Birds Directive within Natura 2000. These facts show the exceptional importance of this small piece of nature and landscape in the Czech Republic.
The Pavlov Hills consist mainly of hard Jurassic limestone, which in certain places form scenic rock cliffs. The altitude difference between Děvín Hill, with 554 m a. s. l. the highest point in Pálava, and the level of the lower water reservoir in the Nové Mlýny system of 390 m makes the limestone ridge of the Pavlov Hills a true dominant of the South Moravian lowland. Mesozoic limestones are surrounded by deposits from the Tertiary period, including mainly flysch argillites and sandstones that form the rolling Milovice Hills east of Mikulov. Calcareous loess from the last ice age has been preserved in many places; thick layers of loess with buried fossil soils were uncovered in the so-called Calendar of Ages near Dolní Věstonice. The northeast part of the protected landscape area protrudes into the Dyje floodplain, which consists of river sand and gravel from the Quaternary period mostly covered by flood loams and clay.
As Pálava is situated in the northwest edge of the Pannonian Lowland, in the warmest and almost the driest part of the Czech Republic, winegrowing is possible here, and many flora species that could not grow anywhere else in the Czech Republic occur here. The patchwork of dry rock grasslands, thermophilous forest fringe communities, xeric scrub, and thermophilous oak forests on the slopes of Děvín Hill, which is partially a result of grazing, is referred to as karstic forest steppe. The Milovice Hills are covered mainly with Pannonian thermophilous oak forests on loess, supporting species-rich undergrowth, on north-facing slopes and in valleys replaced by Pannonian oak-hornbeam forests. The hardwood forests of lowland rivers with the Pedunculate Oak and Narrow-leaved Ash and small patches of Continental flooded meadows have been preserved in the Křivé jezero National Nature Reserve in the Dyje floodplain. The remains of halophilous vegetation, which used to be quite common on saline pastures in southern Moravia, still survive on the western bank of the Nesyt pond near the village of Sedlec.



3 hours to drive from Prague , SE
on the way to Wienna
SE from Prague, 3 hours to drive
Trip:
1)Mikulov SEE9 - 9 hour round trip
Trips combinations:
2)Mikulov SEE9 + Namest SEE7 - 12 hour round trip
3)Mikulov SEE9 + Lednice and Valtice SEE8 - 12 hour round trip
4)Mikulov SEE9 + Jaromerice SEE6 - 12 hour round trip
5)Mikulov SEE9 + Moravsky Krumlov chateau, Alfons Mucha´s Slav Epic SEE5 - 12 hour round trip
6)Mikulov SEE9 + Vranov chateau SEE10 - 12 hour round trip
7)Mikulov SEE9 + Moravian Karst SEE4 - 12 hour round trip
8)Mikulov SEE9 + Brno and Austerlitz SEE3 - 12 hour round trip
9)Mikulov SEE9 + Catholic Pilgrim Sites in Moravia SEE11 - 13-14 hour round trip


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Last updated on Mar 23, 2011