HISTORY

Chateau in Mikulov

Since the foundation of the Great Moravian Empire in the 9th century, the area under Pálava has belonged to places that have played an important role in political arguments with the southern neighbours. In 1082, when the area was joined to Moravia, the Bohemian kingdom acquired an important town that helped protect the Moravian-Austrian borderline. In the 11th and 12th century, a wooden construction on the top of the Chateau hill served as a protective element, as was confirmed by archeological findings. This simple construction burnt down later. In the 1st half of the 13th century, Přemysl Otakar I, the King of Bohemia, or his brother Vladislav Jindřich, the Margrave of Moravia, ordered to build a stone castle on the lime rocks above the village.
At the heart of the building, there was a tower palace (donjon) in the form of an irregular tetragon (11 × 16.5 m) with walls that were almost 2m thick. Today, the Hall of Ancestors is located in the place. A part of this late Romanesque castle contained a drum tower, that was located next to the gate. A bridge connected the tower with the palace on the first floor.
In 1249, the Moravian Margrave, Přemysl Otakar, who later became Ottokar II of Bohemia, the King of Bohemia, gave Mikulov to Heinrich of Liechtenstein. The medieval history of the Mikulov castle is closely connected to this Styrian aristocratic family. In order to maintain the defensive functions of the castle and to create more space for the growing family, the castle was enlarged and enhanced. Perhaps still in the 13th century a defensive tower with a beak (an edge to deflect the incoming projectiles) was built for better protection. The southern castle itself was accessible by a gate carved in a rock between the palace and the drum tower. Its two gothic portals come from the turn of the 13th and 14th century.
The most preserved gothic part of the castle is the octagonal chapel from 1380, dedicated to the Virgin Mary and St. John the Evangelist, which was built into the drum tower besides the southern courtyard. The interior of the castle chapel still retains a ribbed vault with a relief of Christ's head on the key-stone. In the first half of the 15th century, the castle was extended to the north. At that time, a square tower was added to the northern courtyard for better protection.
The danger of Turkish invasions and the development of firearms prompted an extensive reconstruction of the castle, which started around 1540. Four mighty corner bastions with rounded faces were built above the cliffs of the hill. The northern bastion (the Hall of Ancestors today) absorbed the original Romanesque residential palace. The gate at the beak tower on the first frontyard was fortified in the 16th century, and a semi-rounded tower (called the "Smoke House" today) was built next to it. The second frontyard was not fortified any more, but on the top of the opposite hill (The Goat Hill) a canon tower was built.
The Liechtensteins owned the Mikulov estate until 1560, when it was acquired by the Kereczényi family. From 1575, it was owned by the Dietrichsteins, who kept it in their possession until 1945. During the reign of Cardinal Franz Dietrichstein (1570-1636), the castle was rebuilt into a pompous Renaissance chateau, that was more suitable to support the political and social role of the Cardinal, who brought his court and offices to Mikulov. The northern bastion was rebuilt in 1616 into the Hall of Ancestors. The main hall of the castle holds portraits of important family members. Unfortunately, only some of them have survived until today. The northern and southern wings extended the residential parts of the chateau. The eastern and western wings, already existing, were connected with a suspended arcade corridor. On the second frontyard, a theatre was built in 1640. The architect who designed the new chateau was probably an Italian constructor, Giovanni Giacomo Tencalla. Besides that, a new driveway was created on the east part of the hill. The driveway was accessible through a gate, which was later extended and a tunnel-shape part with alcoves was added to it. Today it is referred to as the "Dark Gate".
Cardinal Dietrichstein also paid his attention to the surrounding areas of ​​the castle. Around its perimeter, he ordered to build new terraces that in the park.
His follower, Maxmilian (1596-1655), took over the estate at the end of the Thirty Years War. He tried to overcome the war consequences and decided to support trade and viticulture. The carved giant wine barrel (1014 hl), placed in the wine cellar under the theatre, comes from that period.
Reconstructions and modifications of the chateau and its surroundings were continuously carried out in the second half of the 17th century during the reign of Prince Ferdinand (1655-1698), who was a significant political advisor for the Habsburgs. He had the chateau rebuilt in the Barock style to make it into an aristocratic seat with representative rooms for work and amusement, that accented the social status of the Prince. At that time, a terrace was added to the Eastern wing and a new ballroom was built, which was later turned into a winter riding-hall. Horse stables were established right next to it.
In 1719, the town and chateau were seriously damaged by a fire. Prince Walther Xaver Dietrichstein (1664-1738) hired Christian Alexander Oedtl, a Viennese architect, to restore the damaged chateau. The three floors of the chateau buildings were turned into two, while the height of the walls remained unchanged. A new simple facade was used to cover all of the buildings. Two terraces were newly created. The northern terrace was located above the entrance in the southern courtyard and the southern was connected with the construction of the salla terrena (a Barock leasure place). The reconstruction of the chateau was also provided by Franz Antonin Grimm, an architect from Brno. Sculpture works were provided by Ignatius Lengelacher, an Austrian sculptor, who created the monumental portal with atlantes in the northern facade of the southern courtyard. The artistic blacksmith work, such as the park gate, was created by the Brno locksmith Heinrich Gottfried Förster.
The theater building was restored in 1727 to host the historical library of the Dietrichsteins. The original Baroque cabinets from the 1st half of the 18th century contain more than 11,000 books. The luxurious Throne Hall belongs to the most representative rooms of the Eastern chateau wing. It is located in the southeastern bastion, which was often used for various festive occasions. Maria Theresa, Napoleon Bonaparte, and Emperor Wilhelm I used it for hearings.
Other minor building modifications, carried out in the first half of the 19th century by Prince Franz Joseph Dietrichstein (1767-1854), were the last changes made to the castle complex.
Tragic moments happened during the end of World War II. In the very end, on the 22nd of April, 1945 the chateau was damaged by a fire. Thanks to the initiative of the Society for Restoration of the Mikulov Chateau, whose members followed the plans of the Brno architect Otakar Oplatko, the chateau was restored during the 1950s. The original Barock appearance was sensitively preserved. The interior adaptations were designed to respect the requirements of the future chateau owner. The Regional Museum in Mikulov owns the chateau and manages and operates the buildings.
© Regionální muzeum v Mikulově 2016