A Walk through Říčany
Řičany is situated about 20 km to the south-east of Prague in undulated and wooded countryside. The town is a calm and peaceful place in which to live, and its history is most interesting. The first mention of Říčany (according to Hájek’s Chronicle) is from 748, when the battle of the Říčany dominion took place.
The ruins of the old Říčany castle, dating back to the period of the last Přemyslid dynasty, are an architectural sight that one should not miss. Later the castle was occupied by the Husites. In the town square we find the Church of St. Peter and Paul. The square was laid out in early Gothic style, and for this reason it is a listed area. The chapel is decorated by frescoes from around the year 1400. Not far from here we find the Marian Column built in 1699.
The castle like building ‘Olivovna’ was established in 1890 by Mr. and Mrs. Oliva and it served as a home for deprived and neglected children. Today it is a medical institution for children with respiratory problems.
The town experienced social and cultural decline after the 30 Years War but, on the other hand, experienced positive growth when the railway between Prague and Vienna was built in 1869. During this time many luxurious mansions were built and Říčany became an ideal and preferred place for relaxation. Nowadays the town provides state administration for the region. A good local environment, a good location and good bus and train services, support today’s dynamic growth and investment.
There is a local museum and theatrical performances are provided by the Tyl Theatre Company and other local groups. Regular concerts of renowned Czech musicians are organized by the “Friends of Music” society. Masaryk Square from spring on is a place of alternative attractions and celebrations. Children’s day is celebrated here and in summer the Petropavel Fair takes place. This is followed in September with a huge historical event called “Říčanský nos” and a scooter race open to people of all ages. The day before Christmas when everyone gathers under the Christmas lights is also an event not to miss.
The town doesn’t lack in sporting activities, the leading sport being rugby. There are also other sports like football, ice-hockey, tennis, table-tennis, keep-fit, cycling, hiking and dancing. A number of walking and cycling trails pass through the town. Tourists and visitors can find all vital information in the Information Centre located in Masaryk Square.
On a promontory above the lake stand the ruins of an early Gothic castle. The castle was built between the years of 1260 – 1270 by one of the founders of the Říčany clan, Ondřej from Všechromy, chief valet to the king Přemysl Otakar II. The clan lost the castle in the war with the Husites and it later changed owners many times before being finally abandoned in the 16th century. The castle was one of the oldest stone castles in the Czech Republic, and built by the royal building works, provides a rare example of the royal type of castle in miniature. It represents the best castle architecture of the Přemyslid dynasty. The first floor of the castle served as a place for storing food and weapons. On the second floor there was the main hall and also the room of the lord of the castle. It was heated with a huge fireplace and was equipped with only the most important necessities – few chairs, chests a large table and a toilet in the oriel window. All family and social life took place in this part of the castle.
Castles from this period now generally have only their foundations remaining. In Řičany almost the whole of the imposing frontage, a corner of the defensive tower (donjon) and a well in the courtyard have been preserved. The remainder of the castle has been built over with the nearby modern buildings.
The Church of St. Peter and Paul
The dominant building in the square is the original Gothic Church of St. Peter and Paul, built in 1270. The only Gothic parts of the church that were preserved until now are: part of the southern wall (with an arched window), the ground floor of the tower with its vault and some frescoes from the period around 1400.
The church was enlarged during the renaissance (a honeycombed vault in the presbytery and above both side altars). Even later in the years of 1628-29 two new bells (St. Peter and the slightly smaller St. Paul) were installed and have been saved until the present day.
During the 30 Years War the church was almost destroyed, and the owner Lady Marie Terezie Savojská had it rebuilt in high baroque style. Building renovation was carried out also in the 19th century. A baroque altar, a pulpit from 1725, a relief of Adam and Eve and three ancient tombstones can be seen. Behind the church stands a baroque sandstone statue of St. Jan Nepomucký from 1759 and a modern statue of St. Wenceslas from 1937 in baroque style.
The Marian Column
In the middle of Masaryk Square stands the gilt statue of the Immaculate Virgin Mary, it is situated on a stone pedestal and guarded by a large stone banister. The virgin’s hands are folded together and she has a crown with 10 stars above her head. The statue stands on a globe with a snake with an apple in its mouth wrapped around it – symbolizing victory over the first sin. The statue from 1699 is a simplified variant of the Marian Column of 1652 by the sculptor Jiří Bendl which stands in the centre of Prague. The actual sculptor, and who commissioned it, are unknown. However such statues were often erected to pay tribute to the avoidance of some catastrophe such as plague or war.
The Old Town Hall
The first mention of The Town Hall is in 1565. Each following century brought new building. In the mid 19th century many changes were made in the state administration sector of the country. In 1855 Říčany became the centre of a political region of ninety villages and around 30000 inhabitants, up till this time it had been under the administration of Uhříněves. A new administrative building was necessary to house the regional court, tax office and regional government, and therefore in 1864 a new two-storey building was constructed in the centre of the square. Today it is called the Old Town Hall. Right next to it is the former court building. On the east wall of the old town hall is a memorial to national liberation and in memory of those who died in the First and Second World Wars. The sandstone relief was designed by the sculptor Břetislav Benda.
The Toll House
The Toll House, building number 44 in the street 17. listopadu is the oldest building in Říčany. It was named after one of its first inhabitants “U Čechů“, and was built in 1706. As described by the name, the Toll House was a place where tolls were paid for using roads and bridges.
In the middle ages they also collected payment for the protection of merchants passing through the land. Customs duties were also collected on imported goods that were offered for sale in the town. The building was recently reconstructed and modernized.
It was established in 1908 and during its history has changed location many times. After 40 years the town gained a town house in which it could keep its collection of fine items. Most of the Museum is used for modern exhibitions but we can also find permanent exhibitions dedicated to the history of Říčany. Other exhibitions serve as short term, usually to show regional and other historical events. Each exhibition includes specialist and general items. The Museum’s many changes offer each visit and visitor something new and attractive.
The Railway Station
The new railway leading from Prague to Benešov, which was built in 1869, was very important for the development of the town. Five years later the first railway building, at that time single storeyed, was built. The railway was very significant because it enabled easy access to and from Prague for people from Říčany - and vice-versa. The area quickly became a frequently visited recreational area. Before the First World War daily sixteen trains a day ran through Říčany transporting 150000 people a year. By 1937 twenty trains travelled through Říčany in both directions, transporting 1900 workers and students each day. The old station could not withstand this sort of pressure and by 1894 an additional floor was added to the old building which serves its purpose till the present day.
The Memorable Lime Tree
The old village Radošovice is situated on a hill above Říčany and dates back to the year 1357. The development of the recreational areas in Říčany at the beginning of the 20th century caused the village to grow and it ended up merging with Říčany and forming one large town. The only part of Radošovice that resembles an old village is the Square with The Memorable Lime Tree. Here time looks as if it has stopped. It is decorated with a cast-iron cross from 1872 and there is a small chapel with a small bell in the square. In the nearby Square of the Czechoslovakian Army, amidst buildings from the First Republic, there is a monument dedicated to those who fought and died in the WWI. On it there is a bronze commemorative plaque of the first president of Czechoslovakia, T.G. Masaryk.. The statue was designed by František Lhoták and later were added the names of those who fell in WWII.
The Lake Jureček
In the Lake Jureček bathing area, with its wooden changing rooms and old world image, one feels back in the 20’s. The beautiful lake seems like it has been there since time immemorial, in reality however it was built in the 1920’s with a grant from the Radošovice council in order to try and attract more holiday makers and recreational visitors. In August 1934 a bathing area with restaurant was opened next to the lake attracting more visitors then ever. The resort provided not only water sports, but concerts various entertainments, good food, tennis courts and ice-skating in winter.
Many famous artists and stars were very fond of the lake and so visited often.
And the name? It is taken from Antonín Jureček who worked at the resort from the first day in 1934 until 1958.
The Medical Institution Olivovna
Because of the local healthy micro-climate - and on the recommendation of the renowned Dr. Josef Thomayer - the well-known Prague benefactor Alois Oliva and his wife Louisa established “The Reform School of Mr. and Mrs. Oliva” on 18th October 1896. The aim of the institute was: “…Above all to take care of morally neglected children, who are in danger of total moral ruin and secondly the acceptance of children who are poor and homeless. The institute takes the responsibility of providing an alternative home, looking after their health and education, improving their morality, and preparing them for their future life by taking into account the abilities and needs of each individual child…”
There were 80 girls and 40 boys who were looked after by 17 teachers and priests and a night caretaker. The institution was made up of classrooms, rooms for accommodating staff, a garden and other facilities for the children. Everything was paid for mainly using Oliva’s charity. The children also worked on a nearby farm.
In 1926 ‘Olivovna’ became a Children’s Medical Centre for Prague, after WWII it was a convalescent home for children and in the 80’s it became the medical institution for children with respiratory problems. In 1990 Oliva’s Charity renewed its activity.
The Lake Marvánek
On the turn of the 19th and 20th century Říčany became a popular summer resort for people from Prague, but compared to other resorts it had one draw back and that was a lack of swimming areas. In 1934 the old lake Marvánek was reconstructed and three years later made into a modern outdoor swimming resort with beaches, changing rooms with a roof terrace, showers, diving boards, slides and a restaurant. In the summer season it was used for various events and swimming races. In the winter it was used as a winter stadium for skating and ice-hockey. The resort was in full swing for many decades but now it is just an abandoned lake used for recreational swimming for people living in the area.
The Church of St. Wenceslas from Jažlovice
The village Jažlovice, formally called Žežlovice, lies 3,5Km southwest of Říčany. There used to be a fortress here, already mentioned in the 16th century. In the eastern part of the village lies the former Roman church St. Wenceslas with its vaulted apse and its more recent circular tower. The original Roman rotunda (today the apse) was partially demolished in the 13th century and enlarged with a square nave. The church was gradually baroquified and its nave was again enlarged in 1854. It is well worth seeing the recently discovered 15th century Gothic frescoes inside.
The Educational Říčany Trail
The educational Říčany trail introduces visitors to the town and to the surrounding environment. The trail is 9km long and is suitable for even the less sturdy tourist and for children. Starting in the town centre, at the old town hall on Masaryk square, the trail follows a semi-circular path via field and forest tracks returning to the Jureček bathing area. The trail has eighteen stops all of which bear importance relevant to the town Říčany.. The first three of the eighteen stops are dedicated to history and culture. The remaining stops are oriented to nature and related activities – trees, pond-life, vegetation, mammals, hunting, mushrooms, forestry, water sources, insects, earth’s surface, geology, invertebrates, reptiles, amphibians and birds.