A Bit of Baroque in the Karst
Best known for its cave systems, the Moravian Karst region of South Moravia has more than just underground attractions to offer.
One such site is the Baroque chateau of Rájec nad Svitavou which is located in the small town of Rájec-Jestřebí; approximately seven kilometres to the north of the region’s main municipality, the small city of Blansko.
The chateau, as it currently stands, is relatively young compared to many others you may visit in the Czech lands. While the land the building sits on passed through many aristocratic hands between the 1400s and the 1700s; the present chateau dates to the time of the last noble family to own it, the Counts of Salm-Reifferscheid, who took possession of the land in 1763.
Construction on the current chateau and its surrounding English style garden began shortly after the Salm family bought the land. It was built to replace a Renaissance style home of the previous owners that had been destroyed by fire in the 1740s.
During the expullsion of Germanic citizens from Czechoslovakia immediately following the Second World War, the chateau was siezed from the Salm family and taken under state control. It remains under state care today.
While the chateau building itself is relatively modest in size, it really is secondary to the valuable collections of art and period furnishings on display inside. Additionally, the surounding gardens play a main role in a visit here.
A Look Inside
Tours of the chateau include the ground floor, upper floor and the chapel; these tours can be done individually or as a complete package depending on your interests and time.
The ground floor contains larger rooms for receiving and entertaining guests as well as the chateau library.
The upper floor contains the Salm family private suites, guest rooms and treasury.
At 60,000 volumes, the chateau’s library is one of the most extensive in Moravia and a very valuable collection.
The library contains a wide range of materials from 14th century manuscripts to works of the early 20th century. Additionally, the library also contains a display of the Salm family tree.
Worthy of note is the library’s stylistic departure from the Baroque style seen through most of the rest of the building.
Take a Step Outside
The chateau is surrounded on three sides by a 13 hectare landscaped park that dates to the early 1770s. It was designed not only to entertain guests, but also to educate them about nature.
A particularly dark spot in the chateau garden history occured during the Second World War, when a prison camp was established there and did tremendous damage to the grounds.
Through the 1950s to the 1980s, the park was completely restored and renovated.
The chateau gardens also contain a greenhouse dedicated to the growing of a variety of plants, most significantly camellia plants. The growing and breeding of camellias as been a major activity at the chateau since the early 1970s and a big part of the chateau’s appeal to visitors.
It is also a very appropriate activity as the collecting and breeding of camellias enjoyed a period of popularity with with the aristocracy during the 19th century and many noble homes had greenhouses build specifically to house the plants.
The chateau is well known for its early spring exhibition of camellia flowers as well as other floral displays through the year.
Rájec-Jestřebí can be accessed by rail and the chateau is not a far walk through the town from the train station.
Visiting hours are variable depending on time of year and the chateau is closed to the public from the end of October to the beginning of April.
The chateau’s official website is available in Czech, English and German. There you can find information about the chateau’s opening hours, admission costs and tour options available.