Josefov - Military Fortress
Military Fortress built in the years 1780-1787.Order Tour Code: C NNE6
The fortress of Josefov was built during the years 1780 through 1787 under the auspices of Josef II, the emperor of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The purpose of the fortress was to defend the empire against the threat posed by Prussia.
Fortresses of this type played an important role in the military strategies of that time. The fortress of Josefov was designed by the French general Duhamel de Querlonde, who also supervised the very beginning of its construction. This huge fortress was built in a short period of time, roughly seven years. It is located close to two rivers, the Elbe and the Metuje. It was one of the most important fortresses in the monarchy, the masterpiece of military construction engineering at that period of time. Up to twelve thousand soldiers could be accommodated within the premises in case of emergency. The fortress was also designed to function as a town and it is, in this sense, an important architectural achievement with its rectangular design of streets and buildings. The main buildings were designed in the Empire style, and the most important landmark, the town church, can be seen from a great distance.
During the Napoleonic wars the town of Josefov was in a state of alert several times but did not participate in any fighting. It was not involved in any fighting in the Prussian-Austrian war in 1866 either. Prussian troops did not intend to get delayed there and circled the fortress at a safe distance. The military strategy changed, and in 1888 the town of Josefov lost its official status as a military fortress. However, a large number of troops still remained stationed in the town's barracks for another 100 years.
During WWI a large camp with thousands of POWs was located in the town. Tens of thousands of Russians, Ukrainians, Serbs, Italians, and prisoners of other nationalities were kept there.
German troops were stationed in Josefov during WWII. The Red Army took over Josefov during the Soviet Invasion in 1968 and withdrew in 1991. Nowadays, only a minute number of military personnel are located in the town.
The defense of Josefov as a fortress insisted on walled fortifications, also called bastions, the firepower of heavy artillery, inundation areas by the river, and, most important of all, the underground defense system.
The inner part of the town with its fortifications is well-preserved, and buildings are maintained and repaired on a regular basis. The military cemetery located close to the town is also worth mentioning.
Josefov became a part of the town of Jaromer in 1948. In 1971 the town of Josefov was named a historic preservation site. The town of Josefov is comparable to Terezin, (another fortified town of that period) and other fortified towns, such as Komarno in Slovakia, Zamosc in Poland, Palmanova and Peschiera in Italy, Neuf-Brisach and Verdun in France, and Konigstein in Germany.
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The Underground Defense System
The underground defense system was the most powerful means of defense. This system of corridors enabled the defenders to place underground mines along the fortifications and fire those mines if the enemy approached. The huge maze of underground corridors was about 45 kilometers or 30 miles long. The corridors were built during the construction of the fortress. The whole system may be considered proof of technical prowess in construction engineering of that time. Also the expertise of army engineers and other professions and trades was involved.
The fortifications were designed in accordance with the French military way of thinking of the 18th century. The size and strength of the brick walls guaranteed defense against artillery fire from the enemy.
When the military status of the fortress was suspended in 1888, the fortifications became merely a supply of cheap but high-quality construction material. The town itself wanted to get rid of the inconvenience presented by the fortifications and as a result, all four fortified gateways were destroyed. Some other fortifications were also removed, but, fortunately, the main walls were left intact. Trees were planted in the outer parts of the fortress and, as time passed, they formed a large park suitable for walking and jogging.
1. UNDERGROUND CORRIDORS
The underground corridors, once an important part of the defense system, are visited by tourists as the most interesting place in town. In the eighteenth century, when the fortress was built, these corridors were probably the largest underground means of defense in Europe. Their length totaled approximately 45 kilometers or 30 miles. The tour designed for visitors is about one kilometer or almost one mile long. The tour describes the methods of underground combat and how dangerous the job of army engineers was. The walk in underground passages is overwhelming, mysterious, and romantic. Real candle lanterns, which visitors carry on them, are the only source of illumination. The tour takes about 45 minutes.
Large storage rooms are located in the area of Bastion 1, where one can also get by the connecting underground corridor. A part of the underground area is furnished with original military equipment. In other parts of the strange rooms one can see original statues of saints that were created by the famous baroque sculptor Mathias Bernard Braun. These statues were originally placed on the column monument dedicated to the Virgin Mary. The column is located in the main square in the town of Jaromer.
A parking lot is located near the entrance area. There is also a small stand where beverages are sold. Booklets, pictures, and other interesting things are sold at the ticket booth.
Opening hours: April and October: Saturdays, Sundays 9.00AM to 12.00 , 1.00PM to 4.00PM The last tour starts at 3.15PM. May through September: Tuesday through Sunday (closed on Mondays) 9.00AM to 12.00 , 1.00PM to 5.00PM The last tour starts at 4.15PM. It is possible to arrange a tour in advance after regular opening hours.
Admission: Admission fee to underground corridors only:
Children, students, senior citizens: 20 Czech crowns,
Adults: 40 Czech crowns, free for children below six years of age
Admission fee to both underground corridors and the townhall museum:
Children, students, soldiers, senior citizens: 20 Czech crowns,
Adults: 50 Czech crowns, free for children below six years of age
2. TOWN HALL MUSEUM
The museum is located in the town hall which was built in the years 1883-1884. We can admire stucco decorations in the main hall done in the renaissance style. The exposition of the museum presents the history of the town of Jaromer and Josefov, showing the best of the collection of artifacts. A one thousand-year-old boat is the most unique piece. Additionally, models of original fortress gateways, models of the medieval town of Jaromer, a gothic altar, baroque works of art and other interesting things are presented.
Opening hours: April, May, June, September, October: Saturdays and Sundays only 10.00AM to 4.00PM July and Agust: Tuesday through Sunday (closed on Mondays) 10.00AM to 5.00PM It is possible to arrange a tour in advance after regular opening hours.
2 hours to drive to NE from Prague
1)Josefov CNNE6 - 6 hour round trip
E from Prague, 2 hours to drive
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on Dec 02, 2009
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Last updated on Dec 02, 2009