Zvíkov Castle

Zvikov Castle is located in the southern part of the Czech Republic. It was the private seat of Vaclav I (between 1230–1253) and Přemysl Ottokar II. First mentioned in 1234, the Zvikov Castle was founded at a strategically important position above the confluence of the Vltava and Otava rivers.

Zvíkov Castle

To the east and west, the headland is protected by abrupt cliffs, with the Otava on the north side. The oldest part of the castle is the great square tower built of rusticated ashlar masonry typical of Hohenstaufen architecture. It faces the south end of the headland and is protected by a moat.

On the ground floor, it had a single rib-vaulted bay, the ribs descending to pyramidal consoles. The square wall ribs and the vault webs are of brick with surviving impressions of the original wooden centering. The space was lit by two arrow slits and was accessible through a passageway with two doorways with pointed arches.

The living room on the first floor had groin vaults supported by corbels on a string course. There were further rooms to the east and west of the tower. The south range retains its early form, with two rib-vaulted rooms on the ground floor and an asymmetrical wooden-roofed entrance hall leading from the courtyard, giving access to the ground floor of the tower and to two rooms of the palace.

Zvikov Castle airplane view

The resemblance of the tower vault moldings to those in the Cistercian abbeys at Zwettl and Lilienfeld indicate that the first masons’ workshop in Zvíkov came from the Danube area of what is now Austria.

About 1250, when Hirzo, a member of the court, became castle burgrave, the Zvikov Castle was radically altered and renamed Klingenberg. Construction was taken over by a new workshop from the Danube region, which built four ranges of living quarters around an internal courtyard with an arcaded gallery, a new type of ground plan first used for the royal castle at Plzeň. Fundamental alterations were made both to the plan and to the rooms of the castle.

Zvikov Castle Tower

The main change was to the function of the great hall, which ceased to be the main living area since each range now had three rooms: a central, two-bay, vaulted hall linked to a paneled room on one side and a room with a fireplace on the other. This arrangement was supplemented by further rooms as and when required. The best preserved of the new living units is in the west range, the ground floor of which includes a blind-arcaded entrance and passageway.

The first floor has a central two-bay vaulted hall with an adjacent room, and three windows above the passageway grouped in pyramid form. The original fireplace survives on the wall adjoining the great tower. The rooms in the north range were similar, but the east range had a great hall with six bays of vaults resting on two central octagonal piers. As at Plzeň, the individual ranges of the castle were linked by arcaded galleries, which remained untouched until the restorations of 1840–1844 and 1881–1885.

The last and artistically richest building in the residential part of the castle is the chapel of St Wenceslas, which was built on the first floor of the south range, with a door in the west wall. The chapel is a single-cell building with two bays of sexpartite vaults.

Zvikov castle kameny

The walls are divided horizontally by the deep window-ledge into a lower level of blind arcading running around the entire building, the capitals decorated with naturalistic leaves or berries, and an upper level that harmonizes with the High Gothic clustered vaulting shafts, which are corbelled into the window-sills.

The west end of the chapel is occupied by the royal tribune, with three bays of vaulting resting on molded capitals and octagonal piers. The two-light windows have a trilobed pattern of tracery. Attached to the north side of the chapel is the sacristy, dedicated to the Virgin. It has two bays of rib vaulting, the transverse arch resting on corbels carved with human heads.

The chapel retains its original altar; the walls were frescoed, and the windows were filled with stained glass (destr.). The floors of both chapel and sacristy were covered in glazed tiles with heraldic figures and inscriptions in German in praise of Ottokar II. It is presumably he who is depicted as a donor on the tympanum of the west portal, at the center of which is a seated Virginflanked by angels.

Zvikov Castle arcade

The chapel, which must have been finished by 1263 when Hirzo was recalled to found the town of České Budějovice, is evidently the work of a local team that had absorbed the French High Gothic styles introduced through Cistercian architecture.

About 1270 a new fortified curtain wall was built, and the southern neck of the headland was reinforced by a gate-tower with a cylindrical tower à bec, its sharp edge aimed in the direction of presumed attack, as at Pernštejn Castle.

Zvikov Castle Location

Address: Zvíkovské Podhradí, 397 01 Písek Czech Republic. Use this map to get directions:

Zvikov Castle Map

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