Tips for Trips: Kutná Hora
Kutná Hora, treasury of the Czech Kingdom
The formerly second most important city in Bohemia, Kutná Hora, is situated just one hour driving in south-eastern direction of Prague. The cities importance was based on its rich silver mines, which in the Middle Ages provoked a Silver rush unseen in Europe. The name of the city itself is interesting: following a legend a Cistercian monk named Anton became tired during a walk and lay down to sleep near the church of all saints. In his dream he saw three silver rods growing out of the ground and when he woke he indeed found the rods. To mark the place he put his cowl on the ground and ran back to the monastery to announce his discovery and this is the way the name of the city originates (Kutná - cowl and Hora - mountain).
The St. Barbara church is the ideal starting point in a visit to the city. This glorious Gothic sacral building is representative for Kutná Hora’s claim to be at least as important as Prague. Interestingly enough the church shared a similar destiny as the St. Vitus Cathedral in Prague. The construction work started already in 1388, but because of the Hussite wars among other reasons it finally took till 1905 until the church was finished in Gothic revival style. Originally the church was designed to be double in size, but the constructors ran out of money. Another interesting aspect is that the church was exclusively reserved to those citizens who were active in the mining. All other citizens were denied access.
Walking alongside the Jesuits College (built during the Catholic revival) in direction of the city centre you come to one of my personal highlights. A visit to the medieval Silver museum in the castle (Hrádek) is most interesting. Here the interested visitor can familiarize himself during the offered tours with the very different aspects around mining in the Middle Ages. Begin with the work in the galleries through to the smelting and extraction of the silver as well as the coinage. Already when you have a look at the names of the galleries you realize the great distances the miners had to deal with to work here. For example one of the galleries is named „Denmark“, because the work in the mines was so lucrative that even people from the far North were attracted. Beginning with the year 1300 the coin named Prague Groschen was minted in Kutná Hora, which because of its high Silver content was much appreciated all over Europe and in this sense was an early precursor of today’s Euro.
Before feasting on the local specialities at the main square you should take the time for a detour to the Stone Fountain, which is also witness to the expansive consequences of the Silver mining. Built around the year 1495 it was part of the water supply system of the town. Due to the mining the groundwater level dropped dramatically and moreover it was polluted by the heavy metal used for the silver extraction. The water had to be brought over a distance of 5 km and was originally transported in holed and sealed oak trunks from the vicinity of Bylany to Kutná Hora and then distributed to the other fountains in the city.
An absolute must and, at the same time a creepy and thrilling experience, once you are in Kutná Hora is the visit to the ossuary in the city district of Sedlec. In the course of the secularization during the rule of Emperor Joseph II the family of Schwarzenberg acquired the buildings and estates of the monastery. The family entrusted František Rint with the design of the interior decoration. For this purpose he used the remains of 10,000 people who perished in the 14 ct. and 15 ct. due to plague and the Hussite Wars.
A very pleasant day trip, which absorbs just 5 hours of your day.
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