Manětín Chateau can be found in the small West Bohemian town of Manětín below Chlumská Mt., north of Pilsen. The landscape here is wooded, relatively sparsely populated and its specific profile is formed by hills of volcanic origin, between which the romantic valley of the Střela River and its tributaries wind. With its history and culture, Manětín is a small miracle and has long been known as the ‘Baroque Pearl of West Bohemia’.
In the 12th century, the Knights of the Order of St. John chose this place as their seat to build their headquarters, the so-called Commandery. It functioned here until the 15th century, when it was closed down and dismantled. At the end of the 16th century, on approximately the same site, the chateau was built together with a brewery and a meierhof . What is more, a Renaissance chateau was built here, which served as the residence of Jeroným Hrobčický of Hrobčice. Due to debts, however, the family soon had to sell it to Kryštof Karel of Roupov.
However, the massive confiscations after the defeat of the Czech Estate uprising in 1620 affected also the Roupov family, which was deprived of all its property, including Manětín. The confiscated property was sold two years later to Esther Mitrovská of Mitrovice. She died as a childless widow in 1638 and her brother, Count Ferdinand Rudolf Lažanský, became the heir to the Manětín estate, whose descendants continued to own Manětín for more than 300 years until the end of World War II.
The fire that brought about the today’s look
The current look of the chateau is the result of a complete Baroque reconstruction, which took place after the great fire of 1712, when the entire town centre was devastated, including a large part of the former Renaissance palace. Count Václav Josef Lažanský and his young wife Marie Gabriela Lažanská-Czernínová lived here during this period. Immediately after the fire, the couple started restoration works on the town, but the Count died 3 years after the disaster and so the burden of responsibility was left to the then twenty-year-old Marie Gabriela, during whose reign Manětín experienced its greatest prosperity. The restoration of the town and the chateau was carried out by outstanding artists, among whom especially Petr Brandl should be mentioned with his pictorial decoration of the Church of St. John the Baptist on the square, to which the chateau is ingeniously connected by a 30-metre-long corridor.
The Manětín square in front of the chateau was completely rebuilt after the fire and generous terraces, the so-called škarpy (moats), were built on the sloping terrain. These were fitted with stone sculptures by the sculptors Štěpán Borovec and his pupil Josef Herscher. You can still admire their works here – figures of saints, stone vases, fountains or allegories of virtues. The Tyrolean architect Thomas Haffenecker created the project for the rebuilding of the castle. His original intention was for an axially symmetrical, rather large single-storey building, as it can be seen painted on the fresco of the entrance hall. However, this plan was not fully realized, as the castle was never fully completed due to financial reasons.
Over collective housing to a museum of homeland geography
After the Second World War Manětín was confiscated by the state and apartments and offices of the State Forestry Administration were established there. Later on, a small museum of local history was established here (thanks to the Union of Friends of Manětín) and, in the late 1990s, a small sightseeing circuit was created for visitors.
Nowadays, you can see the chateau grounds consisting of the main chateau building, which is adjoined on the south side by a French garden and an English park, where in the southernmost corner you can find the buildings of the former brewery and granary. On the western side, the grounds are closely adjacent to the chateau’s farmyard.
The building is in the care of the National Heritage Institute with its territorial administration in České Budějovice, which not only takes care of the maintenance of the whole area, but also allows tourists and visitors to visit the chateau with its garden and park during the season.