Wednesday, August 09, 2006


Karlstejn is approximately 30km south of Prague, perched on a sheer ridge that acts as a natural barricade for the river, Berounka. Karlstejn was constructed under the mandate of Charles IV with Matthias of Arras from Avignon as the architect of the royal treasury. Matthias of Arras was also the visionary to design the cathedral of St. Vitus which put Prague on the map as a cultural competitor to other European cities.

As the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles IV understood the importance of encouraging education and culture to flourish. The Castle in Prague elevated him not only above the city, but into the world's view with the new development of a cathedral worthy of an archbishophry. His father, John of Luxemburg, was a strong ally of Philip IV the Fair, and died on the battlefield of Crecy in 1346. Influenced by his father's love of the French, he styled the cathedral and Karlstejn after the best in French Gothic. The papal court was already established in Avignon. Charles' rule and death coincided with the return of the papacy to Rome in 1378. The foundation was laid in 1348 and the castle was completed in 1355 to serve principally as a fort. The castle stands atop one of five peak

s: Javorka (384m) Knezi (357m), Haknovec (380m), Haknova (402m) and Plesivec

(362m). The castle is surrounded by nearly impassible terrain should there be an attempt to overrun it or invade Prague from the south over land. The hillside aong the river was also cultivated by Charles IV with vineyards as he used Karlstejn as a domestic retreat.

The castle is constructed of three major parts. The large tower is called the Great, housing the Chapel of St. Cross which was finished with frescoes of the life of Charles IV by Mikulas Wurmser and 127 paintings by Master Theodoric representing the army of the heavens that include the Knights of the Theban League, members of the clergy and the saints. The walls are gilded and set with semi-precious stones with the ceiling encrusted with quartz to represent the stars in the heavens. A "sister chapel" is found in St. Vitus in Prague, designed with jasper inlay and semi-precious stones. The chapel is on the second floor so that access could be prevented as the knights kept watch below. The tower measures 25 x 17 meters and the walls average to be 4meters thick. In some areas, they are 6meters thick to make penetration impossible.

Inside the fort, the Church of Palmacive was constructed, but was alter destroyed in the Hussite Wars and reconstructed. The present bulding dates back only to the 16th century.

The Imperial Palace was designed to be the residence of the King and Queen. The ground floor was equipped with an armoury and housed the knights who protected the castle and its inhabitants from assault. The second floor housed the King, providing apartments for his entourage. The second floor contains the Hall of Ancestors with a parade of royal portraits. The upper floor was the Queen's residence with apartments for her attendents.

How to get there—

Trains leave from the Main Station and Smichov approximately every half hour. A roundtrip ticket with a monthly metro pass is 43crowns. Without the pass, the roundtrip ticket is about 70crowns. Do not buy a ticket on the train as tickets are nearly double the price for walk-ons. The aggravation of the conductor is not worth the inflation.

For cyclists, it is a pleasant stretch of road going south through small villages with just enough hills to make it enjoyable. Bike and hiking maps are available in the book sections of Carre Four, Tesco and HyperMarkt as well as local bookstores.

Okoli Prahy 12 by Kartografie Praha 65crowns covers the Beroun area with walking, biking paths with campsites and climbing sites. A good hike is Kakrlstejn-Srbsko-St John on the Rock.

For birders, take along your binoculars. The area is heavily populated by large raptors.

Tour tickets can be bought at the castle.
The Imperial Palace 200 Crowns for adults; 100 crowns for students and kids.
The Imperial Palace and the great Tower 300crowns for adults; 100 crowns for students and kids.
The castle is open Tuesday- Sunday. Mondays are closed. Schedule varies during the year in accordance to tourist flow, but 9-17 are regular spring and summer hours.

tel: 420 311 681 617 or 311 681 695
fax: 420 311 681 211
email: Karlstejn

There are several pensions in the area where you can stay overnight and plenty of local pubs and eateries to stop for food and drink.


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