In 1740-1756 in the center of Přímětice, now a suburb of Znojmo, Jesuits from Znojmo built a wine cellar in the shape of a huge Latin cross. The barrel-vaulted ceiling rises to almost seven metres above the floor of the cellar and is probably the largest wine cellar of its kind in the world.
The main corridor (or stipes of the cross) is 110 metres long and the patibulum is 56 metres long.
The walls are covered with a cultivated cellar mould Rhacodium cellare, which ensures stable humidity in the cellar and the acoustics are excellent.
At present it is used and maintained by Znovín Znojmo a.s. wine company which produces and stores the best wines of the region in traditional oak and acacia barrels. Modern stainless tanks can also be found, which are used for wine fermenting. The cellar is open at certain times to the public for wine tastings.
A similar type of cellar can be found in Cape Town in South Africa
written with help from a document written by my friend PhDr. Jiri Kacetl
Znojmo’s Old Town lies hidden in a sheltered valley between Znojmo Castle and St Nicholas’ Church. It is sometimes known as the Pit “Jáma”.
In this eye-pleasing and romantic area there are approximately two dozen small houses built irregularly on the available land as the steep slope allowed.
A 15th Century fortification wall protects the Old Town from the Dyje Valley with a small opening, the “Little Black Gate” through which Caroline’s Garden can be accessed.
In times gone by the gate would have been used as a trade route which connected Moravia with Lower Austria.
After Znojmo received its City Charter in the 13th century, the route was shifted from the Old Town to the New Town via Obroková Street, Masaryk Square and the Vienna Gate (Wolf Tower).
Inhabitants of the Pit during the Middle Ages were mainly Znojmo’s poorest people – man-servants, labourers, stable boys, shepherds, and those people whose professions excluded them from society: gravediggers and the city’s much feared executioner.
During 2009 and 2010 Znojmo Old Town benefited from a rejuvenation and beautifying program, which included new steps and repairs to the “Little Black Gate”, new paths and planting 100’s of attractive plants and flowers.
Today we can admire the picturesque houses with views of St Nicholas’ Church and Znojmo Castle walls.
During the first half of the 11th century the Přemyslid Duke Bretislaus I and his sons fortified the line along the Dyje River against possible attacks from Austria.
The old Moravian castle at Hradiště across the Granice Valley was not up to the required military standards. The Přemyslid Dukes decided to build a new fortress on a large protruding rock opposite Hradiště, which gave excellent views to the river valley and its surroundings.
The building of the first wooden castle would have been completed around 1080 and from this time Znojmo Castle enjoyed important roles in diplomatic and wartime contacts between the Bohemian Dukes (later kings) and the Austrian represents of the Holy Roman Empire.
In 1100 the famous wedding ceremony of Borivoj II, Duke of Bohemia, was held at Znojmo Castle.
Forty years later, when Znojmo belonged to Duke Conrad of Znojmo, the castle was besieged and finally burnt down by the troops of the Bohemian Duke Vladislaus II.
At the end of the 12th Century the castle was rebuilt from stone and divided in two parts by a deep moat. The rear part of castle contained the palace and palace chapel, and the front part contained military barracks and the St. Catherine’s Rotunda. The entrance to the castle was guarded by a mighty, tall, octagonal tower – the so-called “Robbers Tower”, which unfortunately collapsed due neglect at the end of the 19th century (in fact it collapsed a week after a group of “expert” building inspectors said that it was in fine structural condition and would last another 100 years). The tower was never rebuilt.
When King Ottokar I founded the royal city of Znojmo, the castle became a city citadel and was connected to the city walls. A strong garrison was placed inside and commanded by the Royal Burgrave.
Sigismund of Luxemburg, the last Holy Roman Emperor of the House of Luxembourg died in Znojmo Castle on 9 December 1437. It is said that he fell from his horse on the Lower Square in Znojmo and was brought to the Castle where he passed away. His body was placed on show in St. Nicholas’s Church
At the end of the 17th Century when the Turkish threat was once and for all averted by Prince Eugene of Savoy the importance of Znojmo Castle diminished.
In 1710 the Roman Emperor Joseph I decided to dispose of the castle. The front castle was bought by Znojmo burghers, who used the space to build a brewery, and the rear castle became the possession of the Lords of Deblin.
In 1710-1721 the new owners had a High-Baroque Chateau built, probably designed by the well-known Austrian architect J. B. Fischer von Erlach.
The derelict old castle was demolished and the new Chateau occupied the space of the old northern and eastern wings. In the place of the castle’s former southern and western wings, a spacious cour d’honneur was created, which was not oriented towards the city (as would have been usual), but towards the beautiful deep river canyon. The oval entrance hall of the chateau (the Ancestors’ Hall) has an interesting fresco, painted by J. M. Fiseé (born in the Austrian Netherlands – now Belgium), depicting the union of the Czech lands Bohemia, Moravia and Silesia.
The Chateau lost much of its charm at the end of the 18th century and in the 19th century when it was converted into a military hospital.
Today Deblin Chateau is maintained by the South Moravian Museum and houses a permanent historical exhibition.
Znojmo City had a serious water shortage problem until the 19th century. It was impossible to dig deeper wells in the house cellars because the rock on which Znojmo stands is too hard and solid. This difficulty was partially overcome by using the water source from the River Dyje in the valley below Znojmo.
The very steep road which connected medieval Znojmo with the riverbank was called “Napajedla” (German Tränkberg) (English Watering Hill) and was used to drive cattle down to the river to be watered. Horse drawn waggons were also used to deliver water from the river to workshops in the city.
Watering Hill City Gate, which was demolished around 1840, stood where the road leaves the medieval city, a scar in the building on the right shows the position where the gate once stood. From here the Street boasts excellent views of the river valley and the Podyji National Park.
On the right-hand side, here can be seen a Baroque column with the head of Jesus Christ. A little further down the road on the right can be found the entrance to the Paradise Garden.
At the bottom of the hill there is a Wayside Chapel with the statue of Saint John of Nepomuk. The five stars in his halo represent the five stars that supposedly hovered above the River Vltava where he was drowned in 1393.
The historic town Znojmo and St Hippolytus Mount (Hradiště) are divided by the unusually deep valley of the Granice brook.
The valley remained deforested through most of the Middle Ages for strategic military reasons.
After 1878 the newly constituted Znojmo Beautifying and Foresting Society and Znojmo’s City Council began to co-operate on a lot of development projects, one of which, the Granice Forest Park was founded.
The main entrance to the park was opened at the end of Přemyslovců street, in front of the former Minorite (Franciscan) Monastery.
The valley was reforested and a network of quality paths winding along the slopes of the valley were built.
There are lookouts, romantic stone niches with benches, and a few footbridges were built to allow the paths to pass over the stream.
Early in 20th Century the Granice Forest Park was connected with Caroline’s Garden by a new path along the slopes of the hill below Znojmo’s Castle.
The valley is now a paradise for hikers and cyclists who often enjoy refreshments at the reconstructed Spalení Mlýn (Burning Mill) half way along the valley.
Around 1660, Thomas von Schlesin, the provost of Hradiště and a counsellor to Holy Roman Emperor Leopold I, had one of the first Baroque buildings in Znojmo built on the top of St Hippolytus Mount.
This small oval church was consecrated by the Archbishop of Prague Cardinal Ernest Adalbert Count von Harrach to Saint Anthony of Padua.
St Anthony of Padua’s Church soon became a popular place with pilgrims travelling from far and wide.
Fourteen small “Stations of the Cross” (wayside shrines) were built along the old path climbing up the slope out of the Granice Valley.
In 1992, this “Way of the Cross” was reconstructed and some new art works were added to the small altars in the stations.
The original building dates back to approximately 1100 and was consecrated to St Nicholas patron saint of all merchants and was related to the pre-urban settlement called Ujezdec situated in front of Znojmo Castle gates.
In 1190 the newly founded Louka Abbey to the south of Znojmo was gifted with the church by Conrad II Otto, the Duke of Bohemia.
In the 13th century the church became incorporated into the City of Znojmo.
In 1335 during the Great Fire of Znojmo the old church was burnt to the ground. In the following decades a completely new church structure was erected – this is the present Gothic church.
It was re-built several times in the 15th century.In December 1437 the dead body of Holy Roman Emperor Sigismund was publically displayed inside the church.
During the Baroque period the church altars, statues, paintings and side chapels were modified.The present church tower was built as late as in the mid-19thcentury.
A vast labyrinth of subterranean passages and halls, situated under the entire medieval city, was gradually created during of the 14th and 15th centuries by interconnecting individual cellars under each house and palace in the city.
The purpose of these catacombs was to protect city inhabitants when at war. The Znojmo catacombs lead in some places under the city walls and out of the city which enabled the brave to leave the city for food and other supplies when the city was under siege.
The subterranean halls were ventilated by plenty of shafts and cellar fireplaces were connected to house chimneys. There were wells full of water and also a drainage system, so that the Znojmo inhabitants could spend a long time in their sophisticated refuge in reasonable comfort .
To protect the inhabitatants of the labyrinth, there were traps designed including slippery slides ending with inescapable pits, trapdoors, extra narrow passages, allowing entrance for only one person etc. If an enemy strayed into the cellars then he was not meant survive.
You can imagine the scene of an advancing army breaching the town fortifications to find a ghost town void of life with smoke eerily spewing from the town’s chimneys.
The catacombes are more than 30kms long but have not been totally mapped and measured as some parts are completely flooded.
Water from the catacombs supplied the city until the 1960’s when Znojmo’s Dam was built.
Nowadays, the part of the catacombs are open all year round to the public and there is an exhibition of ghouls, skeletons and monsters to scare you.
(thanks to my friend Dr. Jiri Kacetl whose original text helped me to create this post – that is not him below by the way 🙂 )
Znojmo Town hall tower was commissioned by Znojmo City and was built by the stonemason Nicolas of Edelspitz (Sedlešovice) between 1445-1448. The complex yer elegant copper roof has two galleries and characteristic gothic spires.
Undoubtedly, the tower is one of the best examples of the Late Gothic craftsmanship in the whole of Europe.
Excellent views are seen from the galleries and it was surely used as a lookout tower to allow early warning of advancing enemies.
Nowadays the galleries are used also during the July Music Festival, where musicians can be seen and heard playing fanfare to the city below.
The tower is open to the general public throughout the season.
Another interesting fact, during an air raid by Soviet towards the end of World War II a bomb hit the tower but slithered down the roof and destroyed a council building below, the communists later built the controversial concrete block style Dyje Department Store in its place.
Znojmo Town hall Tower is located in the heart of the City Center on Obroková Street.
St. Catherine’s Rotunda is situated between Znojmo’s Castle and the old Hostan Brewery. This Romanesque circular church was probably built by Conrad I of Brno in the 1080s.
The interior is decorated with the some of oldest frescoes in the Czech Republic dating back to the late 11th Century. They arguably prove that the rulers of Znojmo had a much more important role as politicians than Prague likes to admit.
The Rotunda is run by South Moravian Museum in Znojmo and is open to the public
April – Saturday / Sunday 9:00 – 17:00 May – September 9:00 – 17:00 price 90 CZK
max 10 persons (depending on interior climate of the church)