Švihov Water Castle
Does the castle look familiar to you? A movie based on one of the most famous fairy tales, Cinderella, was filmed here, and one of the guided tour routes of the castle is dedicated to the film.
The most important personality of Švihov is undoubtedly Půta Švihovský, who skilfully plotted at the court of King Vladislas II. Jagiełło and gained considerable influence and wealth. In addition to Švihov Castle, Půta added the castles of Rábí, Horažďovice and Prácheň to the Rýzmberk estate. He was also granted Roudnice nad Labem in North Bohemia and the Principality of Koziel in Silesia as a collateral from the King in return for a loan of a certain sum of money.
Švihov Castle was designed as an artificial island from the very beginning. The buildings in the central layout formed the core of the castle with palaces, a chapel and a stair tower, thus enclosing a square inner courtyard. They were protected by a belt of inner walls with four corner bastions and the first moat. A second belt of walls, also with a moat, encircled the core of the castle and thus reinforced the defence possibilities. However, this second phase of construction was not completed until after Půta’s death (1504), i.e. at the beginning of the 16th century. The well-known late Gothic architect Benedikt Ried (Rejt) contributed significantly to the completion. Both moats were fed by water from the Úhlava River.
After Půta’s death, his two sons, Wenceslas and Jindřich, inherited the castle. However, they failed to keep the estate and had to gradually give up their possessions. In 1548, they sold Švihov Castle to Heralt Kavka of Říčany and Štěkeň, whose two sons got rid of the castle again fifty years later in 1598. This time the buyer was Humprecht Czernin of Chudenice.
A turbulent period came for the castle in the first half of the 17th century, when it lost its original functions. During the Thirty Years’ War it twice resisted sieges by Swedish troops, but after the war, an order was issued by Ferdinand III of Habsburg to bring the castle down. The Emperor intended the demolition decrees, which applied to a significant number of Bohemian castles, to eliminate the possibility of the strongholds being occupied by marauding hordes, which was one of the consequences of the prolonged war. By the will of the ruler, Švihov therefore lost a large part of its outer fortifications and both moats at that time.
The Czernin family somehow managed to have the demolition of the castle cancelled. However, they continued to use the castle only for economic purposes. Both palaces became granaries and the forecourt became a farmyard. The castle was used in this way under the direction of administrators until the first half of the 20th century and its maintenance was limited to the most necessary works in 1926, it was referred to as a ‘ruin’ in official records. Four years later, however, Eugen Czernin took fancy in the castle and started necessary actions to save the Gothic monument, starting with repairs to the roof.
The castle survived the Second World War as a farm without major damage and after the war it was confiscated as part of the Czernin property. In 1947, the newly established National Cultural Commission took over the administration of the castle and an extensive research and reconstruction activities began almost immediately, the most demanding part of which took place in the 1950s and 1960s. The restoration was largely carried out by Ing. arch. Břetislav Štorm.
After the demanding building reconstructions, the question of the interior furnishing arose, which was complicated by the fact that very little of the original equipment survived. Therefore, a so-called ‘hint installation’ was chosen to give the visitor the impression of a furnished late medieval noble residence.
Today, the castle is administered by the National Heritage Institute and is presented to the general public through several guided tours and special displays.