Castle of Říčany

Ancient history

The most ancient history of Říčany can be found in the Chronicle of Wenceslas Hájek of Libočany. He describes there a blood-letting battle of 748 between Prince Rozhoň Kouřimský and Prince Nezamysl Vyšehradský for boundaries of Říčany Manor, of which Prince Rozhoň wanted to take possession. Nezamysl of the House of Přemyslides gained the victory and carried off about fifty captives to the Castle of Vyšehrad. He behaved in a noble-minded way towards them, but before setting them free, he ordered to cut off the nose of Rozhoň by a sickle as an exemplary act.  Then, he donated Říčany to his staunch hetman, who had commanded his troops in this battle. Was really Říčany Manor situated on the place of the later castle or the chronicler faked up the entire story? Who knows?

Foundation of the Castle

The promoter of the Castle of Říčany was probably Andrew of Všechromy, the founder of the House of Lords of Říčany. This aristocrat was a faithful supporter of King Přemysl Otakar II. First, he became the king's personal chamberlain with the function of a servant; from 1260, he held the appointment of the Chief Chamberlain. Such a political position requiring an adequate sufficiently prestigious residence gave impetus to construction of the castle (presumably in 1260-1270). In written documents, the Castle of Říčany is referred for the first time in 1289. In a short time, a village of the same name was settled around the castle.

Lords of Říčany

Ulrich, the grandson of Andrew, was the first noblemen, who began to use the title "of Říčany". In 1309-25, he held the office of the supreme land judge, thus he was one of the notables of the kingdom. His descendants lost their main family seat during the Hussite wars. Unlike the castle, the branching family of Lords of Říčany, having about twelve descent lines, had a famous history abounding in eminent personalities and lasting as long as to the late 18th century.  

Exceptional construction

The Castle of Říčany is ranked among the most important constructions of the Czech castle architecture of the era of the last Přemyslides. It was built in the time, when the semi-wooden aristocratic fortified settlements were replaced by more substantial Gothic castles. Therefore, it is a sample of the most ancient stone castles in our territory and specifically of the most advanced variant of Saxony-Hessian castle type characterized by dislocation of the former separate defensive and simultaneously residential tower (keep) to form one complex with the fortification wall and at the same time by creation of a castle palace together with other inner buildings. 

Nevertheless, the appearance of the Castle of Říčany surpasses the context of aristocratic castle architecture of the second half of the 13th century both by using a quadrangular tower and by general layout of the castle together with its circumferential build-up area. Another remarkable feature consists in very high-quality architectural elements indicating the production of the royal stone-cutting works. Only a wealthy nobleman from the immediate vicinity of the sovereign could dare to construct such a miniature of royal type of castle.  Only two examples are known - the castles Říčany and Vízmburk. Thus, the Castle of Říčany represents one of the absolute tops of the aristocratic castle constructions of the 13th century.

Hussite movement

In the early 15th century, the Castle of Říčany served as the seat of a catholic aristocrat Dionysius of Říčany, supporter of kings of Bohemia as well as the Emperor Sigismond and an active adversary of Hussites.  In November 1420, several months after the battle of Vítkov, the troops of Praguers and Taborites under the command of Jan Žižka took the field against Říčany and besieged Dionysius in his castle. Finally, Dionysius capitulated. Having negotiated the conditions of his capitulation only with Praguers, he was captured by Taborites, when he was leaving castle together with his family, and arrested. By order of Jan Žižka, eleven catholic priests, to whom he had granted asylum, were immediately burnt to death in a near-by peasant cottage. Hussites didn't destroy the castle, but occupied it by their proper garrison. The castle remained in possession of Praguers till 1485.

Decline of the Castle 

Lords of Říčany never returned to their castle. The property passed to foreign hands, several times changed its owners and apparently was neither inhabited, nor maintained any more. When it was in the possession of the family of Trčka of Lípa (1485-1544), it was completely abandoned. In 1544, it is explicitly described as a deserted structure. In the Joseph's Cadastre of 1785, it is registered as "an ancient lord's castle, where a quarry can be found; another facility to no profit ".

Family coat-of-arms

The coat-of-arms of the Lords of Říčany consisted in three white water lily leaves linked by their stems in the middle of a red shield - forming a so called trefoil. The same leaves put between two red wings served also as a family jewel of several family descents. Up to the present day, the shield with three white water lily leaves has served as the coat-of-arms of the town Ledeč nad Sázavou remembering former Lords Ledečtí of Říčany. An older execution of this coat-of-arms can be found in the Castle of Písek and in the church at Dolní Jirčany.

Appearance of the aristocratic seat

The castle of roughly oval form was situated on a large promontory. It was protected by a not very high escarpment, mighty fortification with a height of two floors, by an ingeniously constructed system of ponds from three sides (at present, only one pond has remained) and from the side opposite to the town, by a deep moat with ramparts.
Two high structures dominated in the centre of the castle - to this day partially preserved keep and palace.

The keep of the Castle of Říčany used to be a square and probably three-storied tower with flat ceilings and thickness of walls of 2.7 m. It was situated in a place of the entrance from the area in front of the castle to the inner areas. Other buildings adjoined to it from both sides.

The main early Gothic palace of the castle was a three-storied structure built of quarry stone with walls thick of 1.8 m. At that time, it was a building without differentiation of housing functions.

The ground floor covered with a flat girder ceiling had the entrance directly from the courtyard and consisted only of one room with dimensions of about 5 x 13 m lighted by two narrow windows from the courtyard side. The hall served as a storehouse of foods, weapons and ammunition.

The same chamber with grilled windows was also in the first floor. It had an entrance only from a wooden gallery connecting the palace with the adjacent lower two-storied palace building. Any internal connection of individual storeys didn't exist.

Above that chamber, the palace had its main hall heated by a fireplace, with a three-field cross vault and accessible from a house-top of the adjoining residential wing. The second floor was alight by two Gothic gemel windows with trefoil traceries on their tops. In deep embrasures under them, there were stone benches. The entire life of castle lord and his family was concentrated here. The hall was equipped only with bare necessary furnishings comprising some chests disposed along the walls serving as wardrobes and clothes-presses and initially also as beds, then several chairs and a big table. The equipment included also a so called "prevet" - a toilet built in an oriel-turret on cantilevers with a direct outfall along the outer wall. The hall was destined for sleeping, eating and working. Here, the guests were received; the family members were born and died. They lived here without any privacy. The palace was covered by a house-top under the roof consisting of a wooden structure with a double sloping roof encircled by a gallery with stone machicolation.

Present situation

Nowadays, most of the castles of this type and age have been preserved only in a ground-plan, at best with a fragment of a tower. The Castle of Říčany represents an absolute exception, because here, almost the entire courtyard front face and one cross wall of the main palace remained and this practically in the whole their height. In addition to it, a corner of the keep, small part of the courtyard wall of the lower palace building and a water well in the middle of the courtyard have been preserved inside the Castle of Říčany as well. The rest of the castle has been engulfed by the surrounding town so that at present, its former circumferential shape can be hardly recognized in the new built-up areas.

Not long ago, an archaeological exploration performed by the Archaeological Institute of the Czech Academy of Sciences considerably improved the possibility to reveal the real appearance of the castle. In addition to it, in eight drill-holes of the excavation, more than 6 000 pieces of different material were found (ceramics, bones, tiles, iron, glass, porcelain, etc.), which will enable to reconstruct the objects used in the medieval castle and thereby, enlarge our knowledge concerning the life of people of that time.

 

Město Říčany
Masarykovo náměstí 53
251 01 Říčany
Ústředna:
+420 323 618 111
+420 323 618 211
podatelna@ricany.cz
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e-podatelna@ricany.cz
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