Švihov Castle

The Švihov Castle is a late medieval castle located in western Bohemia, Czech Republic. It was the seat of the lords of Rýžemberk and it was built between 1480–1510.

Švihov Castle History

Svihov Castle

At the beginning of the 14th century, a new moated fort was built at river level on the main road, at the same time as the so-called upper town of Švihov with its regular oblong square and parish church of St Wenceslas.

At its southern edge, the so-called lower town developed with the hospital church of St John the Evangelist.

After 1480 Půta Švihov of Rýžemberk (reg 1479–1504) built a new moated castle on the site of the fort, which had been damaged during the Hussite wars.

It was founded on an artificial island protected to the east by the Úhlava and to the north and west by a mill race, which also separated it from the upper and lower towns.

Svihov Castle

The concentric arrangement of the castle combines two architectural concepts (Menclová): the older Bohemian type of living quarters and church, with four towers.

The core of the castle consists of north and south blocks, which, with the connecting walls, form a regular inner court. Next to the east curtain wall is the chapel, a separate, single-cell building.

This residential core was surrounded by a moated fortification wall, strengthened at the corners by circular bastions. A second chapel projects across the east curtain, its polygonal apse extending into the moat level with the bastions.

To the west was a tall, square entrance tower. Above the entrance, a stone tablet, which once bore the title and arms of the owner, has been set in a sculptured frame. A drawbridge connected the living quarters to the tower.

Svihov castle courtyard

The inner core was encircled by an outer ring of moated fortifications. Access was at the northern side through a large square tower with a drawbridge, and the western section was strengthened by two square and two circular bastions.

The eastern section was demolished in the mid-17th century, but research carried out in 1951 established that it had broad round bastions open to the court and equipped with embrasures with a revolving drum, a device used at Prague Castle by Benedikt Ried.

The south range had three vaulted rooms on the ground floor, and on the first floor a twin-aisled hall with groin vaults supported on octagonal columns. During the time of Půta Švihov, the north range was given groin vaults by Benedikt Ried.

At the death of Půta Švihov in July 1504 the estate passed to his two sons, Václav (d 1510) and Jindřich, who the following year divided the Svihov castle between them, the north palace going to Václav and the south to Jindřich.

Apart from minor repairs, the interior of the Švihov castle has been preserved in its original form. The north range had a ground floor and above it a hall rising through two stories; these had wooden ceilings. From the first floor, a wooden gallery led to the star-vaulted chapel.

The chapel and entrance tower were held in common. Joint maintenance of the castle involved changes to the original design: a narrow staircase wing joining the two palaces was added to the western side of the court. The large twin-aisled hall on the first floor of the north block was divided into three parts.

The entrance tower was also altered and in the western part of the moat was built a new residential wing, of which only the foundations and traces of paintings in the moat wall have survived. The so-called Red Bastion was next to it to the northwest, with frescoes depicting scenes from contemporary tournaments on its walls.

Svihov Castle

The artist also painted the fresco of St George and the Dragon on the north wall of St Mary’s chapel: Jindřich Švihov and his wife, Princess Voršila Münsterbská, are depicted as St George and the princess. Their arms have been preserved on the parapet of the tribune.

Behind the figure of St George, Švihov Castle is depicted at its apogee in the second decade of the 16th century. The fresco is one of the earliest to give a realistic rendering of the Bohemian landscape.

Of the original decoration of the chapel, there survive sculptured busts of four Church Fathers, dated c.1500, and richly molded embrasures.

In 1548 the Švihov castle passed into the hands of Herald Kavka of Řičany, who made some alterations; in the 18th-century granaries were built in the palatial buildings, and by 1860 the castle had been abandoned. Systematic restoration has continued since 1952.

Švihov Location

Švihov Castle is located in Švihov, 120 km west of Prague and 33 km south of Plzen. The castle is closed for visits on Mondays. On other days the castle opens its gates at 10 AM.

Švihov Map

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