A Brief History of the Vimperk Castle
Main facts and the most important holders
Origins of the Vimperk (Winterberg) castle
The Vimperk castle was founded in the mid-thirteenth century most likely by the “Iron & Golden king” Přemysl Otakar II. The castle was supposed to protect the land border and especially the important trade route from Passau to Bohemia, the so-called “Golden Path”.
In the beginning of 1360s, Přemysl Otakar II lent the walled fortress with a tower house and a palace to the family of Janovic. In 1370, the residence was due to unknown reasons forfeited. For a few years the castle had served as a pawn to the one of the Prague townsmen, then came to the ownership of the noblemen Kaplíři of Sulevice. In the beginning of the 15th century the castle complex consisted of two tall towers, several palaces and it was already set within the developed defensive walls.
Construction of the Haselburg fortress
The effectiveness of gunnery techniques enhanced in the 15th century. As a reaction to the unstable political situation, under the rule of Kaplíři of Sulevice, the town and the castle were merged into a single fortified unit which was easier to defence. To protect a weak point in the defence, which was the south-east side of the castle, an outpost, mighty round tower Haselburg was built.
Architectural modifications during the Renaissance era
From the Malovec family of Chýnov the possession passed to the powerful and well-known House of Rosenberg in mid-sixteenth century. Most probably during the 16th century the strongly fortified castle began to be rebuilt into the Renaissance chateau.
What we know for certain is that in the very beginning of the 17th century the estate was sold to the Novohradský of Kolovraty family, which chose the castle for their permanent seat. Volf Novohradský of Kolovraty with his wife Judith (Sternberk by birth) and their son Jáchym Novohradský of Kolovraty gained recognition from the vast and costly reconstruction of the Upper Castle and building so-called Lower Castle, which has a U-shaped ground plan.
Under the rule of the Novohradský from Kolovraty House, the castle was transformed into the representative residential complex, extraordinarily decorated. The attempt to a generous reconstruction of the Vimperk castle left the nobleman financially drained, which ultimately forced them to sell the estate.
Two centuries in the Schwarzenberg family possession
From 1630 the dominion was held by the Eggenberg family and later on, in 1719, was bought by the Schwarzenberg family, which in the 18th century partially rebuilt the castle in the Baroque style. The last reconstruction of the estate was undertaken under the most unfortunate circumstances. On 20th July 1857 the Upper Castle was struck by lightning which caused a vast fire that led to the severe damages to the buildings. However, in those times the palaces were not used as a representative aristocratic seat anymore. First of all, it had served as a forest administration headquarters. In the era of the so-called First Republic (1918–1938), the castle was rented as barracks to the Czechoslovak Army. After the World War II, the property passed under the so-called “Lex Schwarzenberg” law to the Czechoslovakian state.
The Schwarzenberg administrative centre was transformed into South Bohemian forest management. Apart from various offices, the castle housed also a town museum from 1961. During the Communist era (1945-1989), the perception of the castle had dramatically changed. The castle was not valued as a national heritage site anymore; rather its utilitarian function was emphasized. The castle maintenance began to be neglected. Paradoxically, the period of negligence was not over within the time of Velvet Revolution in 1989. It culminates in the 90s while by the decision of the town representatives, the possession of the castle and the town museum passed to The National Park and Protected Landscape Area of Šumava. Since then the medieval fortress Haselburg has not been part of the castle complex (it was sold to the private owner). Although the new castle possessor intended some extensive and, it should be noted, also insensitive restorations, none of them was finally implemented thus the castle falls into disrepair.
In 2010 the castle was called the National Cultural Heritage – meaning it belongs to the more than 300 most valuable cultural assets in the Czech Republic. On the edge of a state of emergency the castle passed in 2015 to the possession of the National Heritage Institute. The restoration of the castle begins…