The Zbiroh Chateau was built upon a glistening rock overgrown with jasper. Care was taken to ensure that it was abundant with unique and mysterious spaces. Nearly 800 years later, Zbiroh still stands. It is home to one of the oldest castle chapels in the Czech Republic, which is adorned with Gothic frescoes. Here, Charles IV and his wife Blanche of Valois recited their private prayers.
A 13th Century refuge tower stands where you can take in the gorgeous landscape of the surrounding Křivoklát and Brdy forests. Did we mention it is the oldest free-standing tower in all of Bohemia?
Zbiroh chateau has the deepest castle well in all of Europe, which was created by breaking up extraordinarily hard cave rock to a depth of 535 feet. (Considering that most floors are 10 to 11 feet, this means it’s as deep as a 50 storey building is high!) The well turns in a vertical directional helix because of the labor intensive way they had to excavate the very hard rock (its composition is close to quartz). I imagine its excavation by medieval means was undoubtedly a difficult matter.
Recently, Nazi writings and other materials from World War II were discovered. Under the first castle courtyard in the hermitage, Nazi SS members established a mystical place for themselves to perform secret rituals. They gathered there and performed mystical rituals around the large hexagram on the floor, attempting to harness the power that rises through a crack from inside the earth that pagans – both Celts and old Slavs – used this place. Some suggest the hexagram may be related to mysteries much older than the Nazis.
Secret Grand Master Freemasonry meetings took place here, led by one of the Czech Republic’s most prominent artists. The Knight’s Templar also left their mark as they have had a presence at Zbiroh since 1277.
There is also an underground dungeon built into the very foundation of the castle building, where prisoners taken during the Hussite wars lived out their miserable lives. After the Battle of White Mountain in 1620, six representatives of the Czech resistance states were imprisoned and tortured here. From that time there is an iron mask and a sword of execution.
The site has attracted strange phenomena and various secret brotherhoods since time immemorial. Many esotericists believe that there is a presence and influence in the chateau which has deeper historical roots than meet the eye. There is a legend about the origin of the castle which suggests that it is a locality where forces called “magical ones” exist. According to the legend, the Zbiroh castle was founded in a place where hunters found many deer antlers. Zbiroh (zbi – roh | sbírejte parohy) can be translated in Czech as ‘collecting the horns’.
Legend has it that Zbyněk Zajíc of Valdek from a very noble Czech family once went hunting near the royal castle. Because the hunt was late and he couldn’t find a way back home, the hunter had to spend the night in the woods. When he woke up in the morning, it surprised him to see a large number of deer antlers laying all around him. We hear this in the castle name, Zbiroh (zbi – roh – sbírejte parohy) which means “collect horns”.
Animals do not all go to the same place to die, so why were there so many horns suddenly appearing at this location? Did the animals die there for mysterious reasons? Perhaps he did not notice the antlers before and they were brought there years before by pre-Christian inhabitants of the region. Was it the presence of mysterious forces, geo-pathogenic zones, or underground energies, or mysterious forces?
This impressive landmark itself is beyond your normal fortress. Parts of the structure have up to 13 foot thick walls. Who needs walls that are 13 feet thick? Moreover, it was not built by the will of the king, but only by a nobleman, which at that time was certainly not customary.
Memorialised in the song Vzpomínka na Zbiroh (A Memory of Zbiroh) by Václav Vačkář, Zámek Zbiroh or Chateau Zbiroh has been around since the end of the 12th Century. Built in a strategic location – on the stony peaks overlooking the village of Zbiroh. It was the first aristocratic castle in all of Bohemia, standing proudly on a hill between the Křivoklátské and Brdy Forests for almost 800 years.
Allow the following video to play as you read this post to give you some added ambiance.
The founder of Zbiroh Castle is considered to be Břetislav of Zbiroh (Brechizlaus de Zbiroh, 1247) of the Sulislav family.
Later, the castle was owned by the Drslavic family (Depolt of Zbiroh), King Přemysl Otakar II., Grand Ducal Family of Luxembourg (1333 to 1437), Emperor Charles IV, House of the Rosenbergs, King / Emperor Sigismund, House of Kolovrats, House of Lobkowitz, and Emperor Rudolf II. Hence the name, “Castle of Three Emperors” as it has been called. Scholars such as Tycho de Brahe, Kepler and others were also there. In contrast, between World War II and 1995, the castle/chateau was subsequently occupied by three armies (German, Czechoslovak and Czech). This is why it is sometimes also called “The Castle of Three Armies”.
It was a site of the Hussite Wars during which time it was besieged and bombarded. Recently, a prison of sorts was discovered in its underbelly. In 1630, after the history-changing Czech defeat at White Mountain, the Austrians crushed the Bohemian Protestant rebellion. After the battle, they rounded up the Czech Protestant lords and imprisoned them in the dank and musty dungeons at Zbiroh. The legate of Aeneas Silvius Piccolomini, later known as the famous Pope Pius II, lived there after receiving an invitation from Zbiroh.
In 1868, the castle was purchased (and saved) by entrepreneur Baron Bethel Heinrich Strousberg, a German Jewish industrialist and railway entrepreneur who also happened to be one of the most influential men in Central Europe at the time. Strousberg bought the estate for 9.4 million in gold, and planned to create the most modern and largest center of the iron industry in Bohemia. The Neo-Renaissance reconstruction of the chateau to the Baron’s image was just as bombastic as his vision. At that time, Baron Strousberg was one of the richest Germans. However, his plans abruptly ended when the Baron went bankrupt.
It is believed he was the victim of shady “business intrigue” of the Rothschild family, who managed to bribe his secretaries, and learned that he was planning on going to Russia with a large bribe to get a contract to build the local railways. The Czarist police invaded the meeting and imprisoned the Baron for two years. Obviously, he was unable to run his businesses out of jail, and thus it went bankrupt. Of course, the Rothschild won the contracts in Russia. This was in 1875 and afterwards, the castle was literally plundered by creditors. Strousberg died in 1884 at the age of 61. He was in complete poverty and destitute. His fall also meant the decline of the whole Zbiroh region.
After the Strousberg bankruptcy in 1879, Zbiroh was purchased by the Colloredo-Mansfelds.
Perhaps the most famous resident of Zbiroh Chateau of our time was the master painter, Alfons Mucha. Whilst visiting the Colloredo-Mannsfeld family (who owned it at the time), Mucha discovered a hall upstairs with a skylight which suited him perfectly for painting large canvasses. Mucha lived and painted in the chateau from 1912 to 1928. His son, Jiří Mucha. was born at the chateau and spent his entire childhood there.
Those of you who are familiar with Mucha’s Slav Epic may be surprised to learn that it was painted at Zbiroh. Mucha’s most praised achievement was his Slav Epic, a series of 20 large-format paintings that represented the lives of Slavic people through a depiction of different events, summarizing Slavonic history. He painted the Slav Epic between 1912 and 1926 in the studio at Zbiroh Chateau. In fact, most of Mucha’s paintings were painted in that studio.
Mucha was also a Freemason, and he served for a time as the Grand Master of the Paris Lodge. With his knowledge of France, America and the world at large, and his undeniable patriotism, self-sacrificing nature, and great degree of idealism, he was an ideal personality for this post.
The chateau has a Masonic Hall and was once a meeting place for Grand Masters. It was the Grand Master of American Masons, Charles Crane, who was responsible for Mucha living in the chateau. He was the one who granted Mucha’s request to paint his life’s work, the Slav Epic, and paid the lease of Zbiroh Castle for 20 years.
Crane was one of the most influential Masons of America. He met Mucha through Sarah Bernard and was very interested in the Slavic peoples. He advocated the idea of establishing a Slavic sympathy after the break-up of Austria-Hungary in Central Europe against the expansion of the Germans. That is why he invited TG Masaryk to the USA (in 1902) for a lecture tour to the USA. It was Mucha who contributed to TG Masaryk becoming a friend of the Crane family.
Most members of the First Republic government were Masons including A. Rašín, P. Samal, J. Masaryk, E. Benes, but they were also diplomats, industrialists, wholesalers, bankers, lawyers, artists and university professors who influenced the life of the country and managed to get the Czechoslovak Republic economically to the top ten most developed countries in just 20 years. These included Václav Havel’s father and uncle. It is also well known that the founding of the United States was once also directed by its Masons; including G. Washington, E. Roosevelt, writer M. Twain, and many others.
Another little-known fact is that Mucha had his bed in the room directly above the mouth (and the energy) of the castle well.
During World War II (between 1943 and 1945) a secret Nazi SS division occupied the chateau. Mucha was one of the first artists arrested by the Gestapo. Fortunately, Mucha’s works were wrapped up and hidden away before the Gestapo arrived. He knew they were much interested in him because of his Freemason activities.
Mucha was certain the Nazis would immediately destroy an epic devoted to Slavs because a cornerstone of Hitler’s ideology was his belief that Slavs were subhuman. In Mein Kampf, Hitler ranted about their subversive power, and blamed the Masons for being a cause of Germany losing World War I, so the Nazi’s really hated the Freemasons.
The Gestapo’s harsh interrogations severely damaged Mucha’s physical and mental health. Soon after, he contracted pneumonia, and they released him because of his frail condition. Wartime suffering and illness took their toll, and on July 14, 1939, Alfons Mucha died. He was 79 years old. He is buried at the Vyšehrad Cemetery in Prague.
Apparently, the Nazis wanted the chateau because they could use the area to monitor radio communications all over the world. This was because of the abundance of stone jasper, which runs directly beneath the chateau. Jasper reflects radio signals, hence the reason the chateau became a very useful location in monitoring radio traffic. The Nazis evicted the Colloredo-Mansfeld family and set up equipment to observe radio communications across the globe.
At approx. 550 feet below the chateau itself, investigators have recently discovered a false concrete bottom to the well. Historical documents suggest that it conceals a passageway used by the Nazis to store valuable stolen treasure. The false bottom was constructed from reinforced concrete and was decorated with jasper stones so that it looked natural. Further examination has proven risky as the Nazis may have protected the cavity with explosives, either to secure the treasure or to prevent access to the chateau through the passageway.Maria Slavkovska, from the SCSA Security Company
After the war, the Czechoslovak army moved into the chateau and continued the tradition established by the SS units. The 59th Battalion of Directional Stations had its headquarters there. In part because of the jasper, a department that specialized in radio wiretapping set up shop and began working on things that we would know today as electronic warfare.
According to geologists, there are about a million tons of iron ore in the hills of Zbiroh. The metal is present mainly in hematite, a mineral that is weakly magnetic and conducts an electric current. Physicists include hematite among ferromagnetic substances, ie those that can be permanently magnetized easily. Their properties include that they amplify the electromagnetic field.
If this interests you, Google the Tamara passive sensor project and you’ll discover how Warsaw Pact armies secretly monitored the “invisible” stealth airplanes with the help of Tamara radar which was at the site.
After World War II, under the command of the Czechoslovak army, Zbiroh became a strictly guarded location. From its medieval bastion, the super-secret radar, Tamara monitored the air space against possible enemies in close cooperation with the then USSR.
Reportedly this was one of the most secret projects of the Warsaw Pact, where spies were trained, and kept the most secret ciphers. The area ceased to exist – it became hermetically closed to ordinary mortals because the maps even pretended that there was no such thing as a castle or chateau at Zbiroh.
On his first trip to the United States in 1990, President V. Havel was questioned numerous times about Zbiroh Castle and the operation of the Tamara radar. He had not been informed of anything, but immediately after his return to the Czech Republic, these devices were shut down and taken away.
Zbiroh is the largest privately owned chateau in the Czech Republic and one of the largest chateaux in the country. I’ve never counted it up in square meters, but I can say we have some 228 rooms, it takes four and a half hours to open all the windows and four and a half hours to close them, so just airing out the rooms is an entire day’s work for one person.Jaroslav Pácha
After 1989, the chateau was acquired by the town of Zbiroh, which then sold it to Gastro Žofin in 2004. Gastro Žofín, later became the catering company Chateau Catering, and it was discovered the owner of the company was a private person related to the Templars order. The influence of the Order of the Templars is visible almost everywhere in the chateau.
The chateau first opened to the public in 2005 and now serves as a hotel, restaurant, wedding and conference venue and museum. It is opened year round.
Architecturally, we can say that today the chateau is 50% Gothic, 20% Romanesque, 20% Baroque and 10% Art Nouveau in style. The Zbiroh Chateau now serves as a hotel with 53 rooms and luxury apartments. Visitors, guests, and clients first class service with award-winning gastronomic services.
After all, you will be dining and taking in repose where three Emperors and Kings once ate and slept.
Among other things, it is the seat of the Templar Order of Central Europe and the Templars still meet here regularly.
The Chateau Hotel Zbiroh is the only hotel where you can spend the night in the chambers where such great people as Emperor Rudolph II, Charles IV, Sigismund, Alfons Mucha, Czech operatic soprano, Ema Destinová, and many others stayed over the centuries.
Another special treat is the chateau tavern U Rudolfovy kratochvíle where the waiters tend to you in period costumes and serve exquisite traditional Czech specialties from days gone by. Sit where a king sat with a wine goblet or a beer mug and enjoy something to eat. Zbiroh has their own vineyard and makes its own wine, as you can see on this table.
Restaurant staff matching the Medieval interior ensures that they set the correct tone and ambiance for your meal. Traditional as well as historic foods are served. The prices are reasonable for staying overnight and the rooms look comfortable.
The next time we are in the Czech Republic, we will stay just to be able to try the Emperor ‘s pancake with raisins and apricot puree.
English parklike gardens surround Zbiroh Chateau, which covers nearly 150 acres of land. It is located in the Pilsen Region (yet only about 30 minutes from Prague) and it has been protected as a cultural monument since 1958.
Zbiroh Chateau Zbiroh
338 08, Zbiroh, Czech Republic
GPS: 49º51´30˝, 13º 45´23˝
Join this group of Czechs who take a vacation to Zbiroh and share the experience via YouTube. It’s 13 minutes of such typical Czech-ness, we enjoyed it. Some good footage of the castle, a huge bottle of Fernet, and singing at the pub ensues…
What’s going to happen when this generation of Czechs is gone? The thought makes me very sad.
*Special thanks to my father Milan Hilmar and Sven Rehulka for sharing some pertinent information about Zbiroh Chateau which then led me to an all-night research session. ;)
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