History of Telč

Telč's origins stretch as far back as the turn of the 12th and 13th centuries, when a Slavic settlement appeared on the site of the present town near a ford in the Telč stream. A royal farmstead was situated on a rise above the stream, in the shadow of a Romanesque church and tower. During the 13th century, the settlement developed and grew to include areas occupied by today's Zachariáš z Hradce Square and Old Town suburb. In May of 1339, the entire site was transfered from the holdings of the Czech king Jan of Luxembourg to the hands of the south Bohemian nobleman Oldřich III of Hradec. This event proved to be an important stimulus for the further development of Telč, which, shortly after in the middle of the 1350's, was legally incorporated and became a town. 
The change in status inevitably had its effect upon the community's existing design. The aging farmstead was unsuited to Telč's newfound distinction and so work was begun on a castle in the Gothic style in the town's north corner. Between the years 1360-1370, the parish Church of Saint James was constructed in the immediate vicinity of the castle. New fortifications were also built, consisting of stone ramparts, two gates and a system of interconnecting fish ponds encircling and demarcating the entire town. The original Slavic settlement disappeared beneath the ponds and the remaining dwellings outside the city walls formed the basis for Telč's future suburbs. From that time forward, the town's core would always be situated within the fixed boundaries of the city walls. Around an oblong marketplace, houses began to emerge which represented the first structures forming today's Zachariáš z Hradce Square. The Gothic character of the town is evident even now and, despite the encroachment of numerous other influences over time, its appearance has never been significantly altered. It represents an exceptionally valuable example of Gothic urban planning from the mid- to late fourteenth century. 
Telč's dynamic growth was halted in 1386 by a fire which claimed the parish church and rectory, along with nearly thirty other houses. As a result, the lord in Hradec was persuaded to confer on Telč its first privilege as a town. The early 15th century, with its economic, social and religious conflicts, was a period of disorder. Several buildings were damaged during a miltary campaign led by Jan Hvězda of Vícemilice in the autumn of 1423 and in the course of disputes between the lords of Telč and the surrounding noblemen. Despite this, in November of 1437 Telč served as a temporary residence for the emperor Sigmund of Luxembourg. In the middle of the 15th century, calm was restored. The castle was repaired and extensive repairs were also undertaken on the parish Church of St. James. 
A significant role was played in achieving the town's present architectural cohesion in the late 15th century by Jindřich IV of Hradec, an important figure of the Jagellonian age, an enterprising nobleman and a patron of the arts during the High Gothic period. It is especially thanks to his efforts that examples of the High Gothic arts are manifest in Telč in so many places. Changes included reconstruction of the castle and ecclesiastical structures, particularly the Church of the Holy Ghost, which had once formed the core of the original feudal residence. Other present-day monuments displaying the late Gothic style include ornamentation on the walls of the parish Church of St. James and the Calvary on the embankment of Ulický pond; traces are also visible in the sanctuary of the Church of the Mother of God in the Old Town and on several houses. Under Jindřich's administration, the town became a center of commerce and attained other privileges.The late Gothic period ended with another fire, which struck the central area of Telč in 1530. 
While the years 1535-1555 witnessed a period of reconstruction on the houses of Telč's burghers, a new owner by the name of Zachariáš of Hradec (1527-1589) soon brought a fundamentally new and transforming energy to the town. He had aquired Telč together with the surrounding estates from his older brother Jáchym through a family agreement in 1550. As a prominent Moravian aristocrat and a member of a preeminent noble family, he soon undertook a journey to northern Italy and when he returned he brought with him a love for renaissance architecture. He dramatically renovated and expanded his castle residence in the renaissance style, making it one of the great jewels of renaissance architecture in the Czech lands. The impression created by the fully-preserved palace with its arcaded courtyard and renaissance garden is amplified by the unique furnishings of the interior. The builders and artisans who reconstructed the castle, among them Czech and Italian masters alike, also set to work on transforming the face of the town itself. To the houses on the square an arcade and a new style of gable was added; the original renaissance appearance of most of these houses has been preserved to this day. In addition to the inner town, which included the houses around the square and along a lane within the city walls, there were the suburbs -- Podolí, Štěpnice and the Old Town -- containing fewer inhabitants and standing outside the walls. Among their residents were tradesmen representing approximately twenty trades. Contributing to the commercial development of the town were a weekly market and four annual fairs. During this time, Telč became the seat of the deanery for a large area of southwestern Moravia. In addition to Telč, Zachariáš of Hradec was responsible for the renaissance reconstruction of nearby Slavonice, as well as that of the hunting castle Roštejn; his efforts even had their effect on the shape of the landscape itself, enriching it with new fishponds and other economically beneficial projects. Thus did the prosperous organism that was the Telč region develop in Renaissance south Moravia, led by Telč with its singular union of lordly manor and feudal town, whose enchanting atmosphere has survived to the present day. 
When the male line of the lords of Hradec became extinct, the Slavata family of Chlum and Košumberk became the new owners of the Telč domain. At its head was Vilém Slavata, who, as an influencial adherent of the Hapsburgs, succeeded in shielding the town from significant damages during the Thirty Years War. In 1650 he obtained from Emperor Ferdinand III a new coat-of-arms for the town, which remains to this day. The member of the Slavata family who left the greatest mark on Telč was Františka, born the Countess of Meggau, wife of Vilém's son Jáchym Oldřich and an exceptional patron of early Baroque art. During the years 1648-1657, after the death of her husband, she held the office of hofmistryne, or Steward, serving the future Czech king and Holy Roman Emperor Leopold I. In May of 1651, Františka founded a Jesuit college in Telč, to which was soon added the Jesuit Church of the Name of Jesus and the hostel of the Holy Angels for musically-gifted pupils and, later, a school building and eventually a garden with a summer refectory. It was Františka who brought to Telč the remains of Saint Margaret, who became the town's patron saint and on whose holy day Baroque celebrations were held. Thus developed within the city walls and in the immediate vicinity of the castle and parish church an extensive complex of Jesuit structures which represent a valuable example of early Baroque art in the Czech lands. From that time forward, the Jesuits stood at the fore of the city's religious and cultural life. Under their direction, Telč witnessed an unprecedented growth of scholarly activity -- in addition to the Jesuitic gymnasium and the preparation of missionaries, the order's church served as an astronomical observatory and the Jesuit college was the site of a pharmacy. 
During the years 1651-1773, when the Jesuit order and Telč were closely tied, representatives of the church and citizenry alike counted among their ranks many notable supporters of the graphic arts. The second half of the 17th century alone saw renovations to the Church of the Mother of God in the Old Town, the building of the the Chapel of St. Charles between Telč and Vanov and the construction of the Cemetary church of St. Anne, where a new town graveyard was established. The interiors of these structures were likewise furnished and ornamented in the Baroque style. Other monuments of the Baroque period can be found outside the historic center, as well as in the town's environs. Among the very best of these works is a series of statues along the path known as "On the Tiles," built near the middle of the 18th century, which joins the town center with the Old Town and the Church of the Mother of God. The facades of a number of houses assumed their present form during the Baroque period and the town was likewise enriched by the addition of many valuable sculptures. 
In the High Baroque period, represented in Telč by the first half of the 18th century, patrons of the arts included several of the town's wealthier citizens. A column to the Virgin Mary, funded by Zuzana Hodová, was erected on the square in the center of town during the second decade of the 18th century. Bequests from the merchant Ondřej Hanusík provided for the construction of the Chapel of the Virgin Mary in the Štěpnice suburb, a group sculpture of the Holy Family beneath the Upper Gate, and the corridor leading to the parish Church of St. James. It is thanks to them and others of this period that the town center achieved its present likeness and the suburbs acquired their respective dominant features. 
Near the end of the 17th century, Telč found itself once more under new ownership. When the last living male Slavata and an eminent member of the Carmelite order, Jan Karel Jáchym, refused to receive his inheritance, the town passed into the hands of the Lichtenstein-Kastelkorn family, the most noteworthy member of which was the count František Antonín, who constructed the Church of St. John Nepomuk and the Chapel of St. Vojtěch near Telč. In the 1760's, Telč became the property of the Podstatský branch of the Lichtenstein and it remained in their hands until 1945. Administrative and economic reforms were instituted in the Telč estates and in the town itself, thanks to Aloise Arnošt and his son Leopold I, as well as to the efforts of German Jewish entrepreneurs who operated a cloth factory in Telč from the beginning of the 19th century until the 1860's. Today we are reminded of their activities by the presence of the Lannerova villa, which once belonged to the owners, and by the steam mill near the Old Town pond. 
By the end of the 18th century, Telč had begun to concern itself with the development of its schools. It was aided by the tradition of its medieval school and Jesuitic gymnasium, by the interest of Leopold I in educating his noble officials and by the cultural orientation of Leopld's son Leopold II, the court's "count of music," whose work brought the Telč castle to prominence as a regional center of culture. Local supporters of the Czech National Revival likewise worked towards the establishment of Czech as the language of instruction. Their efforts were rewarded in 1871 with the founding of a Czech provincial secondary school, the first in Moravia. The development of education and of civic life led to the founding of numerous societies whose goals included the support of education, physical education, the environment and the local economy. Amongst them, a significant role was played by the National Union for southwest Moravia. 
The second half of the 19th century brought a number of figures to the fore in Telč, who strove to bring about improvements in culture, education and the town's social life. Working against this trend, however, was the rapid development of industry, which occured in spite of the absence of a railway connecting Telč with other towns. The first trains didn't arrive in Telč until 1898. 
Still, as late as the end of the 19th century and the first decades of the 20th century new, noteworthy structures appeared in the town which continue to capture our attention today. The secondary school was constructed in the Podolí suburb near the end of the 19th century and originally bore features of various historical styles. Next to the school, the building housing the local sokol organization was built in the 1920's, bearing the hallmarks of inter-war modernism and ornamented with imposing figure graffito. It was also during this period that the Catholic Center was built. Of course the number of residential houses increased as well. In the 1920's and '30's, the tourist trade emerged in Telč. 
Even the post-war socialist government sought to identity itself with the town's rich historical, artistic and architectural heritage. Its attention focused primarily on the historical core of Telč, that is to say the castle and the houses which surround the square. In 1970 the Ministry of Culture declared this area an Urban Historical Reservation. While the restored monuments were meant to merely support the growth of tourism, they have found themselves the subject and setting of numerous works of graphic art, literature and film as well. 
Efforts to preserve the legacy with which we have been entrusted and to nurture the development of tourism are our priorities even at present. Contributing to the achievement of these goals was the inclusion of Telč in 1992 on the prestigious UNESCO World Heritage List of Cultural and Natural Monumnents. Three years later, Telč Castle was declared a National Cultural Monument and Telč's Old Town, itself a unique example of folk architecture from the turn of the 18th and 19th centuries together with the Baroque complex of its Church of the Mother of God, its hospital and its Chapel of St. Roche, was declared a historical zone the same year.

translation (c) MÚ Telč



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