The first mention of the Olomouc castle is contained in the chronicles of Cosmo from the year 1055. In the 11th and 12th centuries Olomouc was, along with Brno and Znojmo, one of the Moravian Přemyslid appanage principalities. The Přemyslid family conquered Moravia with the army of Polish Prince Boleslav Chrabý in the year 1020. The first Přemyslid ruler of Moravia was Břetislav, who later became a Bohemian prince. In 1054 Břetislav introduced a new order of succession for the Přemyslid family. The oldest member of the family was to become the ruler and a system of appanages was established for younger family members, in this case the sons of the rulers. Moravia was divided into three appanage principalities: Olomouc, Brno, and Znojmo. The first Olomouc appanage prince was Břetislav's son Vratislav, later the first Czech king (1085).
Upon departing Olomouc to assume the Prague Přemyslid throne Prince Vratislav II installed as the Olomouc appanage prince Otto I Sličný, who along with his with wife Euphemia, daughter of Hungarian King Bela I, became the founder of the Olomouc branch of appanage princes. Their descendants ruled at the Olomouc castle, with breaks imposed by the Prague princes (during which other Přemyslid family members were installed), until the end of the 12th century. After the final members of the Olomouc Přemyslid line died out (the last appanage prince, Vladimír, died around 1200, followed shortly by his brother Břetislav) the Olomouc castle lost its residential function. Despite occasional disputes with the Prague rulers the Olomouc principality was an important representative of Přemyslid power in Moravia, with the right to mint their own coins.
In addition to being a political centre during the period of the Přemyslid appanage princes, Olomouc was also an important Church and spiritual centre. In 1063 Prince Vratislav II founded a diocese here that was regarded according to period tradition as a continuation of the previous Moravian diocese from the time of the Empire of Great Moravia. In 1158 Olomouc bishops gained the right to coronate Czech kings. During the reign of Olomouc Bishop Jindřich Zdík there was a large scribal workshop in Olomouc which produced numerous important manuscripts, and Hradisko Monastery, founded in 1078 by Otta I Sličný and his wife Euphemia, was also a significant spiritual centre.
The former Přemyslid castle was located on the site of Wenceslas Square and Mlčochova Street in Olomouc. This area included two residential buildings, the Přemyslid castle (whose location is still not precisely known), the Bishop’s Palace (today often and erroneously called the Přemyslid castle), St. Wenceslas Cathedral, a capitular house, and structures forming the fortifications of the entire area. Over the centuries this site went through substantial changes and remaining from the original grounds of the Přemyslid castle are only part of the bishop’s palace (built in the first half of the 12th century), remnants of the medieval fortifications, particularly the Romanesque tower (cylindrical tower with a diameter of 10.6 metres dating to 1204), and today’s Cathedral of St. Wenceslas with preserved remains of the original Romanesque Basilica of St. Wenceslas (completed in 1141).
In addition there are other structures built in later centuries that are today part of the national cultural monument of the grounds of the former Přemyslid castle. The most important of these include the Chapel of St. Anne (original Gothic chapel from the 13th century, today’s appearance is the result of reconstruction at the beginning of the 17th century; the chapel was used to elect Olomouc bishops and archbishops), the area of the former capitular deaconry with a farming courtyard (structure with a late-Gothic core, according to tradition the last Přemyslid, Václav III, was murdered at this site on 4 August 1306; the current appearance dates to the 18th century, in 1776 W.A. Mozart stayed in the building, and in 2006 the Archdiocese Museum will be opened in the building), the statue of St. John Nepomuk (J.A. Heinz, 1724), the Chapel of the Virgin Mary the Guardian (1860), two houses on Wenceslas Square (No. 812 and No. 810, both from the 18th century), and two houses on Mlčochova Street (No. 814 built in the second half of the 17th century and No. 813 from the end of the 18th century).
The Bishop's palace
The structure was likely built by Olomouc Bishop Jindřich Zdík in the 1140’s in connection with the transfer of the diocese from then Church of St. Peter to the Church of St. Wenceslas (construction of the Church of St. Wenceslas completed in 1141). Bishop Jindřich Zdík was the sixth Olomouc bishop and served as bishop for 24 years (1126-1150). He was a man with a European perspective and maintained contacts with important individuals of his period. He initiated reforms in Church life. In 1141 he gained immunity for his diocese, meaning that Church estates were exempt from the authority of the appanage princes and were also exempt from corvée and the payment of land taxes. Bishop Zdík made several trips to Jerusalem. In Olomouc he established a scriptorium and scribal workshop that was quite large for the time (18 scribes).
Works originating from the workshop include the Olomouc Horologium (a liturgical book illustrated by the painter Hildebert), preserved today in the Royal Library in Stockholm, and a copy of St. Augustine’s De Civitate Dei (On God’s Community) with portraits of the book’s creators, painter Hildebert and his assistant Ewervin).
The palace served as the bishop's residence and as the seat of the chapter (the bishop’s advisory board). On the first floor was apparently situated the residential quarters of the bishop (a room with corner fireplace) and the chapter hall (central hall approximately 16 metres long). One room with a raised floor remains on the first floor. The ground floor was likely composed of a Romanesque capitular cruciform corridor with a pleasure courtyard. The palace served a residential function for only a short period, and following the death of Bishop Jindřich Zdík it ceased to be the seat of the chapter and in the end even the residence of the bishop. In the 13th century Olomouc Bishop Robert established a capitular school in the building. As the result of subsequent structural modifications impacting the palace building (during Gothic reconstruction of the Cathedral of St. Wenceslas a Gothic cloister was built on the ground floor of the palace and in 1414 the Gothic Chapel of St. John the Baptist was added) the structure of the Romanesque palace was gradually lost. The remains of the Romanesque palace were rediscovered by chance in 1867 by builder K. Biefel during demolition work. In the 1960’s reconstruction of the palace room was commenced; this work was completed in 1988 and the building was opened to the public. The public exhibition entitled the Přemyslid Palace includes the fragment of the bishop's palace on the first floor, the Gothic cloister, and the Gothic Chapel of St. John the Baptist on the ground floor.
The preserved remains of the original three-wing bishop’s palace are considered to be one of the most important European monuments of residential Romanesque architecture.
The Cathedral of St. Wenceslas
Construction on the church was begun by appanage Prince Svatopluk in the years 1104-1107; work was continued by his son Václav who, prior to his death in 1130, passed the construction on to Olomouc Bishop Jindřich Zdík. The uncompleted work was consecrated on 30 June 1131, and the completion date of the church is recorded as 1141. The church was also elevated to the status of cathedral, a bishop's church, in this same year. The original three-aisle Romanesque basilica with an elevated central nave went through numerous reconstructions; preserved from the Romanesque period are only part of the exterior wall, a buried crypt, and the foundations of the front tower. The original appearance of the basilica is depicted on the seal of Bishop Jindřich Zdík. Following a destructive fire in 1265 the cathedral was rebuilt by Olomouc Bishop Bruno von Schauenberk. This reconstruction almost entirely replaced the Romanesque structure and the cathedral gained a Gothic appearance. The Gothic reconstruction continued into the 14th century (vaulting, interior load-bearing columns, a new arcade surrounding the square pleasure garden). In 1582-1591 Bishop Stanislav II Pavlovský rebuilt the Chapel of St. Stanislav into a family tomb, and in 1589-1595 the same bishop built the now-defunct central tower in the front of the cathedral between the two Romanesque towers existing at that time. In 1616-1618 a new Mannerist chancel was built with dimensions of 35 x 23 metres and a vault height of 23 metres (commissioned by Olomouc Bishop František von Dietrichtstein) and construction of a crypt below this staircase was commenced (completed in 1661). In 1803 a fire caused by lightening damaged all three towers on the front of the cathedral; the front of the cathedral underwent subsequent Classicist modifications and gained a unified appearance.
Extensive neo-Gothic renovations were conducted in 1883-1892 (commissioned by Olomouc Archbishop Cardinal Bedřich Fürstenberg, architects G. Meretta and R. Völkel). This work mainly involved the construction of neo-Gothic towers on the front of the cathedral, the reconstruction of the choir chapel, the construction of an entirely new main tower, and the neo-Gothic reconstruction of the chancel and the interior. Repairs to the entire exterior stone walls of the cathedral are currently in progress. Today’s appearance of the cathedral arising from the years 1883-1892 represents a distinctively monumental work containing various construction phases, from the Romanesque style up to the neo-Gothic Romanticism at the end of the 19th century. The creators of the reconstruction gave the cathedral a unified appearance consistent with the concept of cathedral construction as a long-term, multi-generational process. The newly created silhouette of the cathedral with a 100.65 metre high main tower enriched the panorama of the city and became of its most visible symbols.
Additional points of interest
The Bishop's palace
((1st floor), double and triple compound stone gallery windows with rich ornamentation (particularly acanthus and palmette leaves), unique for the time of their origin in Czech lands. The windows were made of sandstone in an advanced foreign workshop.
The tomb of Knight Jan Kužel of Žeravice
(Chapel of St. John the Baptist), Renaissance figural tomb from 1524.
Passion and Christmas cycle
(Gothic cloister on the ground floor), cycle of Gothic mural paintings from the end of the 15th century and beginning of the 16th century (Christ with Halo and Adoring Saints, Christmas cycle – the Annunciation in Nazareth, Worship of the Three Kings, Worship of Shepherds, Easter cycle – the Crucifixion, Removal from the Cross, Resurrection).
Relief of the Virgin Mary
(Fürstenberg Chapel), late-Gothic work transferred from the front of the defunct Olomouc Church of the Virgin Mary located in the settlement below the castle.
Sculpture of St. Peter and Paul
Four early-Renaissance sculptures
(Neo-Gothic altar), purchased from the Roman Church of the Santa Maria Maggiore.
(Pieta (altar of St. Peter and Paul in the west bay), a copy of a Gothic sculpture from the end of the 14th century.
Tomb of Bishop Mark Khuen.
Renaissance tomb of the Olomouc bishop who died in 1565, created by Nuremburg master H. Streubinger.
Tombs of the archbishops
The tomb of Přemyslid Princes Václav and Břetislav.
The Renaissance tomb of the Přemyslid princes, whose remains were transferred to the cathedral from the Hradisko Monastery in 1603.
Grating of the Chapel of St. Stanislav.
Renaissance grating from the 16th century, the relief ornamentation of the bronze grating was executed according to graphic works by H. Goltzia and V. Solis.
Stations of the Cross
Pews in the choir
Completed in 1985 (mechanism by A. Schindler, 15 bells cast in the workshop of L. Dytrichová in Brodek u Přerova).
Exhibition in the Baroque crypt.
The crypt also serves for the display of works of art and liturgical objects.
Ludwig van Beethoven composed his Missa Solemnis for the cathedral.
Text: Jindřich Garčic
Bytřický,J.,Dohnal,V.,Hlobil,I.,Pojsl, M.,Štulc, J.:The Přemyslid Palace in Olomouc, National Cultural Monument, a Guide. Olomouc 1988
Dohnal,V.,Pojsl,M.,Slavík,I: Olomouc in the Period of Jindřich Zdík. Olomouc 1996
Garčic, J. :A Guide to the City and Surrounding Areas. Olomouc. 1996
Pojsl, M .,Hyhlík,V.,St. Wenceslas Cathedral. Velehrad 2000.
List of Cultural Monument Structures in Olomouc. Olomouc 1996
Wurmova 9, pošt. schr. 193