The Vrtba Garden belongs among our country's most precious and beautiful Baroque gardens and is considered to be a masterpiece of European importance; however, in the context of other historical monuments forming the premises of the Prague Historical Reserve, its importance is rather at a world level. The Vrtba Garden is described as an Italian-style Baroque terrace garden but the influence of foreign style form is incorporated in a unique and distinctive manner, as is generally typical for Czech Baroque architecture. It is characterized by an ideal accommodation to the domestic environment, a unique layout concept on a small area, a masterful dealing with the space and gradation of material. The concept and the actual realization make the garden a unique masterpiece.
Together with three other Baroque gardens (Vratislav, Schönborn and Lobkowicz), the Vrtba Garden is situated on the slope of Petřín Hill and is one of the most precious and beautiful of Prague's Baroque gardens. The creation of this magnificent palace garden is associated with the construction boom around 1720. The garden was designed by Frantisek Maxmilian Kanka, who first renovated the palace for Jan Josef, Count of Vrtba and then created the garden. Unlike the garden which retained its Baroque style without any significant changes, the Vrtba Palace underwent radical changes during the following centuries. The statue and sculpture decorations were created by Matyáš Bernard Braun. In addition, painter Václav Vavřinec Reiner was involved in the masterpiece. The interior decoration of the Sala Terrena has survived in its original designs until today. The fresco on the vault depicting Venus and Adonis was painted by Vaclav Vavrinec Reiner. In 1990 - 1998, the Vrtba Garden underwent overall reconstruction, following previous static reinforcement. The renovated garden was opened for public on 3 June 1998.
The duke Albrecht Waldstein founded it. The works started already before 1634. A baroque garden designed as an Italian manneristic park, laid out strictly geometrically, was created. Buildings of the palace embrace the garden from the West, North and East; in the southern side, there is a tall perimeter wall with arches. The garden is divided into two geometrically different parts. The larger one includes the largest Sala Terrena in Prague, an aviary, an artificial stalactite wall and a squared marble fountain with a statue of Venus made of bronze. In the smaller part, there is a large pond with an island bearing a sculpture of Hercules, a glasshouse and a riding hall. A sandstone fountain is situated on the boundary line between the two parts. Copies of original statues by de Vries are placed all over the garden, Adonis and Venus, Apollo, Bacchus, Walking horse and A horse and a snake, Neptune, Laokoon and his sons, Wrestlers, as well as relief vases.
Each path, each tree or shrub have its own place, every inch of height of trees and shrubs is important. Even the colour of plants coming into blossom in summer is fixed; they must be silver, pink or blue. The exact composition of original plants is not known but those who could be grown or imported then are being planted now.
Visitors of the garden are attracted first of all by Sala Terrena. A triaxial monumental open building did not have a match in the time of its appearance nor later. Nature of its decoration corresponds to the decoration of the other parts of the Waldstein Palace. The ceiling is adorned by frescoes divided into three sequences of Greek Olympus. Zeus with Hera and Venus in the middle, Trojan gods at the southern side and Hellenic gods at the northern side. The medallions around the Olympus show heroes of the Trojan War, its theme is used in the three lunettes on the front side as well. The door in the southern sidewall opens to an artificial circular grotto with stalactites and a fountain situated on the ground floor under the Audience Hall.
Since day long past, Prague Castle has been surrounded by forest, which complements a beautiful and meditative view of St. Vitus Cathedral. The gardens which lead through the Stag Moat to the Marianske ramparts are rare and magical - the Royal Gardens, hiding a fabulous pearl, the Belvedere Palace.
Gardening and wine-making around the castle were encouraged by the Jagiellos rulers, but true blossoming took place under the Hapsburg Ferdinand I., in 1526. Firm in rule, but with prudence regarding his Czech subjects, Ferdinand was inspired by Antiquity, and its influence on the flowering universal spirit of the Renaissance. Ferdinand was the first Czech monarch to apply new elements of the new architectural style at the Castle.
In 1534 Ferdinand founded the Royal Gardens, and with it, the Powder Bridge. He was forced to buy a great amount of land for the unusual project and faced many difficulties finding teh proper finances. He borrowed from Jewish money-lenders. took money frompaid fines, and was often in debt. Consequently, he repaid many debts in wine.
The following year, after Vienna sent a stock of seed, the emperor summoned Francesco of Austria to be the first gardener at the castle. Further royal gardeners arrived from Flanders, Alsace and Spain, and all kinds of seeds and seedlings, flowers, plants and bushes, from all over the world, made their way to Prague. Figs, quince trees, cherries, lemons, pranges, peaches, almonds, and lettuce, until that moment unknown, were welcomed and soon requested at the tables of Prague burghers and especially the Roayl Court.
According to chronicler Vaclav Hajek a fire in June 1541 slowed the garden´s expansion, in 1547, when the nobility and Czech towns revolted, Ferdinand named his second-born son Ferdinand Tyrolsky as his successor.
In 1554, he invited Pietro Andrea Matthioli to become his personal physician, a man who had few equals in field of Botany.
Andrea, an Italian, was an expert in plants and herbs, and published his Herbarium in Venice that year, which became a "bestseller" throughout Europe.
Over the years it was translated into almost sixty languages, including Czech.
Tadeas hajek translated it in 1552, during the physician´s stay in Prague, and interestingly the Czech edition contains some headings and describes some plants which were grown only at the Roayl Gardens.
The Italian´s fame influenced te import of many unusual and new varieties, such as tulips, lilac, hyacinth, narcissus, and mandragora, a magical root par excellence. These, and other plants and flowers brought the Royal Gardens great fame which continues to this day.
"The Roayl Gardens flourished in the late 16th century during the reign of Rudolph II. Crossing the wwoden bridge one passed the Stag moat, and made way to the gardens, three in all that time.
In the centre there was an orchard, bordered by fruit trees of several types, and in the last garden there was a bronze fountain which sang.
The manner in which the water fell, and the manner of the fountain´s design, created harmonic sounds not unlike those of bagpipes.
Another part included the Ball Game Hall.
All parts of the residence were joined by wooden halls, so that the emperor could watch activities outside, without being seen.
A little further in the distance, was the Lion´s Court, today a restaurant of the same name.
In Rudolph´s days wild cats were kept in the court, including lions, leopards, panthers, and cheetahs, sometims used for hunting.
Bears lived in the Stag Moat."
"Three dozen pineapples, raised in spite of the moderate climate, saved the gardens from going to seed, during the Prussian-French occupation in 1741, a gardener gave them as an offering to Prussian general Pueller.
As a sign of thanks, the general ordered his soldiers to care for the damaged grounds."
text - Jiri Kuchar - "Praha esotericka"
Fountains were originally the main source of drinking water in Prague. They could be found in every open place. Sometimes they were simple wooden reservoirs, others were decorated and sculpted with classical, biblical and natural motifs. Particularly in the Renaissance and Baroque periods, rich burghers and noblemen competed in the spectacular decoration of fountains and built beautiful fountains. In 1858 the Prague Waterworks supplied water to 440 fountains, of which 72 were public and the others private. Today there are far fewer fountains, but even in the present time, mostly in recreational areas, new water elements are being designed and built, and endeavours are being made to preserve the old ones. Prague Castle, for example, has 30 functional fountains. Fountains used to be operated from 1st May to 30th September, but many of them no longer work.
The Singing Fountain Near the Summer House of Queen Anne in the Royal Garden of the Prague Castle; the fountain is one of the most beautiful Renaissance fountains north of the Alps. It was cast by Master Jaroš 1562-68 according to the design and wax model of the Italian painter Francesco Terzio from Bergamo, who worked and lived in Prague around the mid-16th century. The wooden mould was cut by Hanuš Peysser. The fountain is made of bell bronze. It is richly decorated with hunting motifs, relief masks and palmettoes. The thick column of the fountain is surrounded by figures. The beads of water dropping from the fountains give a melodious sound of water falling on the resounding bronze plate, however, it is necessary to listen to it when kneeling or squatting under the bowl.
The fountain with the statue of Hercules In the Royal Garden at the Prague Castle; the fountain by Jan Jiří Bendl from 1670 is set into the Baroque niche based on the design of architect Francesco Caratti. The statue represents Hercules killing the three-headed Cerberus with a club.
Fountains in the Garden of Na Valech at the Prague Castle; this fountain, designed by Josip Plečnik, was placed here in 1923. It is decorated with an early Baroque statue of Hercules from the 17th century, which was taken from the fountain in the 1st Castle courtyard. Hercules is holding open the mouth of a lion, from which comes a stream of water. The Slovak emblem is on the front of the fountain. Another fountain is located at the entry into the garden from the Castle Staircase. It is made of Mrakotín granite, supported by two parts of the original broken monolite. The third fountain in the Garden is Baroque and is in the shape of a four-leaf clover, with a small spout leading out of it.
The Vojanovy Gardens (Vojanovy sady) are considered to be the oldest partially preserved garden in Prague. They are a part of the former fruit garden, which originated simultaneously with demolishing an Episcopal court in 1248. At that time it was called after its owner Pytlíkovská or Flavínovská.
In 1653, Ferdinand III bought the garden together with an adjacent house for the Order of Carmelite Sisters. The Carmelites built a convent with a church of St. Joseph in the years between 1673 and 1690. The garden was established around the year 1670 and it served as a utility garden. In the 17th century they built an arcade wall with niches between the garden and the convent. At that time a chapel of St. Elijah was built in form of a stalactite cave with wall paintings – the scenes from the saint's life, the resurrection of souls and the purgatory. On the altar there is a statue of St. Joseph by Matouš Václav Jäckel. Originally, a corpse of St. Electa, the first Prioress of the Prague Carmelites, was buried there under this chapel. At present, her mummified remains are kept in the church of St. Benedict at Hradčany. The chapel of St. Elijah is in a desolate state (to October 2006). In 1743 a Baroque chapel of St. Teresa of Ávila was built, which is decorated with a ceiling fresco by Karel Kovář from 1745, illustrating a legend about this saintess.
There is also a panoramic terrace with a niche in the gardens, on the terrace there are benches and pink pergolas, on one of the walls there is a very successfully restored sundial. The sundial is with a fresco painting and its main theme is the blessing reverend sister Mary Electa of Christ, the Prioress and the Superior of the Convent of the Discalced Carmelites. The sundial was established around the second half of the 17th century and in the 90s of the 20th century it has been restored.
The convent was abolished in 1782 and from 1783 it was assigned to the Sisters of Loreto who used the building up to the year 1921. Just in the 19th century the garden was partly remodelled in style of English park, with a pond and coniferous trees. After the establishment of the Republic, the convent complex was taken over by the Ministry of Finance that built new buildings in the garden.
The garden covers an area of 2.4 hectares. It was opened to the public in May 1954 and on that occasion it was named the Vojanovy Gardens to commemorate a famous Czech actor Eduard Vojan who lived and died near from here in Klárov.
As for the modern sculptures, there is placed A Sitting Woman by Jan Kodet from 1960 and Spring and Autumn by Jan Kavan from 1968. Several interesting trees grow there, such as ginkgo biloba, red common beech, white weeping willow and magnolia.
The Gardens spread out over the southern slope under Prague Castle. The gardens were established on the site of vineyards or Renaissance gardens attached to aristocratic palaces. The steep terrain has been refashioned into several terrace levels. The nature of the gardens ranged from pure utility with vineyards and fruit trees, right through to decorative with rich and varied landscaping. The gardens are linked nowadays and their composition makes up a unique garden complex. All of the Palace Gardens have varied architectural decoration, decorative staircases, balustrades, lookout terraces and small pavilions integrally composed with vegetation into picturesque ensembles.
On the southern slopes leading down from Prague Castle there is a group of gardens formed by 5 palace gardens – the Ledeburg garden, Lesser Pálffy Garden, the Greater Pálffy Garden, the Kolowrat Garden and the Lesser Fürstenberg Garden. All of these gardens are interconnected.
There are unforgettable views of Prague from the almost 30 garden terraces.
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