Are you going on a tour around Prague for the holidays? Or perhaps you have gone on a kosher cruise on the Danube and now want to spend time around the Czech capital and see what it has to offer.
One of the places you might want to go to is the Konopiste Chateau.
Konopiste is a chateau near the town of Benesov in the Central Bohemian Region, 40 kilometres southeast of Prague. It lies about 2 kilometres west of Benesov. Today it is known as the main and last residence of Archduke Franz Ferdinand d’Este, the successor to the throne of Austro-Hungary, and his Czech wife Zofia Chotková. His assassination in Sarajevo lead to the start of the First World War.
The area is now protected as a National Cultural Monument of the Czech Republic. It is owned by the Czech state (administrated by the National Heritage Institute) and is accessible to the public. It is one of the most visited chateaus in the country.
Konopiste is an important noble castle that was converted into a chateau. It occupies a hill above Zamecky Pond close to Benesov, near Prague. The first mention of Konopiste dates back to 1318, when its owners were brothers Benes and Dobes from the Benesovic family. It is believed that the Gothic castle was founded at the end of the 13th century, around the year 1294.
Its founder was probably the bishop Tobias of Benesov, the counselor of King Wenceslas II. He was a prominent and influential political personality of the period after the death of King Premysl Otakar II. The Benesovic family held Konopiste only until 1327, when they were replaced by the Sternberks, a noble family that ruled until 1590.
The Sternberks, successors of Benesovice, belonged to the leading Catholic families of the country. Petr of Sternberk, Lord at Konopiste and Ceský Sternberk, fought with the Hussites for his entire life, until his death in 1420 at the Battle of Vysehrad. Zdenek Konopiský of Sternberk, who held Konopiste from 1440, was a well-known character.
The followers of Jirí z Podebrad became the main personality of the rebellious Jednota Zelenohorská that plotted against the king. When the king decided to break the military power of the Catholic nobility by force, he started an offensive against the followers of Matthew Corvinus in April 1467.
It was part of the siege of the most important fortifications of the Jednota zelenohorská- who were gradually captured one by one. Konopiste resisted the longest time. The 18-months long siege is a rarity in the history of Czech medieval warfare. However, the castle was not captured by force; its defenders surrendered for lack of food in December 1468. Zdenek Kostka of Postupice was the commander of siege. The descendants of Zdenek of Sternberk later rebuilt it in 1479. Since then they have kept the castle continuously until 1590.
In 1602, the provincial court asked for a commission to sell a manor, on which more than 86,000 piles of the Meissen Groshen were spent. On October 18, 1603, Dorota Hodejovska of Harasov bought the Konopiste estate for 110,000 piles of the Meissen Groshen.
In 1887 Franz Ferdinand d’Este, since 1896 the successor of the imperial throne of Asutro-Hungary, bought the chateau with the entire estate into his possession. Franz Ferdinand started major reconstruction and works on the entire real estate. He brought the water supply and electricity to the chateau. A hydraulic passenger elevator was installed, one of the first ones in the world, around the year 1890, as well as many other features.
Following his assassination in Sarajevo in 1914 – which effectively led to World War I – the Habsburg property was confiscated under the special law of 1921 by the Czechoslovak State. Subsequently, it was partly made available to the public. During WWII, Konopiste was confiscated by the Nazis, and the main headquarters of SS for the Protectorate was established there. These units were part of the tank division SS-Totenkopf.
After the liberation in 1945, Konopiste was again made available to the public. The castle has survived to the present day in the form it was given to it during the last reconstruction by the Archduke Franz Ferdinand d’Este. The interior equipment remained the same as the times when the successor of the throne with his family lived here.
Visiting the chateau as well as its premises is one of the most interesting activities that you can do if you have a free day to spend around Prague or you might also want to spend your time on a kosher cruise on the Danube.