K l a t o v y
Past and Present
The town of Klatovy lies near to the south-western border of the Czech Republic with the Federal Republic of Germany just off the international road E 53. The town spreads over 81 km and with its 23 thousand inhabitants it represents the largest settlement within the Klatovy region. There are two railway lines crossing the town, the Plzeň-Klatovy-Železná Ruda line and Horažďovice-Klatovy-Domažlice line.
The town of Klatovy historically beloged amongst the architecturally impressive Royal towns. Imposing town walls with bastions encircle the town square along with a number of ecclesiastical buildings. There are several architectural jewels in the town such as the Black Tower, the Baroque Pharmacy, the Jesuit church with catacombs and the Archeacon's church. Cultural and social events are provided by the theatre, the Šumava cinema, the town library and cultural centre, the art gallery "At the White Unicorn" or the local historical museum of Dr. Hostaš.
The Klatovy region is a very attractive tourist region. The local countryside with its rolling hills, valleys, vegetation and wildlife, rivers, village and town architecture, castles and chateaux, and miles of marked walking paths and cycling routes has a lot to offer visitors.
The Klatovy inhabitants like to remember their cultural, historical and sporting traditions. Each year the town comes to live during the Klatovy Fair which is connected with the exhibition of Klatovy carnations Klatovský karafiát, and an international folk festival. In recent years the tradition of the pilgrimage of the Virgin Mary of Klatovy has been renewed. Many sporting events can also be classed as traditional for the town. The oldest car rally in the Czech Republic starts in Klatovy annuallly - the Mogul Šumava Rally. Klatovy is also a haven for cyclist, hosting the cycling marathon, "The King of the Šumava", which attracts thousands of national and European cyclists, who come to Klatovy to win the year's championship.
Schools: The Klatovy grammar school "Jaroslava Vrchlického" was founded in the 1630s and is one of the oldest grammar schools in Bohemia. There are four 14-18 schools, four 6-14 schools, and an integrated 14-18 school and a technical college.
Business and Industry: There are several important building, manufacturing, textile, wood processing and food industries in Klatovy. The many restaurant and accommodation facilities have helped to develop the tourist industry. Many banks are also represented in the town.
Sport activities: Klatovy airport is a haven for aeronautic and parachuting enthusiasts. The town has several sports centres, courts for squash. tennis, volleyball and some outdoor facilities for athletics, tennis, and bathing as well as an indoor swimming pool and a stadium for winter spiorts like ice-hockey.
Cultural sights of the Town
The Black Tower, the work of Antonio de Salla, reaches the height of 81 metres. The tower was built in the period 1547 to 1557 of unplastered ashlar blocks. This unmistakable feature was meant as the place from which to overlook and control the centre of the town and to serve as a lookout against fire and enemies. It was an ostentatious symbol of wealth. To reach the gallery on the fifth floor there are 226 steps. The beautiful view of the surrounding area, and in clear weather the distant peaks of the Šumava National Park, is your reward.
The still majestic appearance of the Baroque Jesuit Church of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary and Saint Ignatius with its richly wrought decorative façade and interior attracts us from the first glance. The architect Carlo Lurago began the building in 1656, later sharing its design and completion with the architect Giovanni Domenico Orsi. During the ensuing centuries it has reconstructed been many times. The church is built in the form of a Latin cross with a cupola on the shoulder of the cross and maintains in such a way the classic concept of a Jesuit Cathedral. The Baroque portals are the most marked external feature, coming from the work of the recognized architect Kilian Ignatius Dienzenhofer.
Concurrent with the church in this period of Jesuit activity in Klatovy must be included the building of the JesuitCollege, which served their objectives of raising the standard of education of the local people. After the dissolution of the Jesuit order the building was turned into a barracks and a school of brewing. From 1990 it has been used as a shopping centre, but is also the seat of the Town library.
Almost every town has its Town Hall. From here have sprung the decisions and impulses which have influenced the development of the town and the surrounding area. The building of the Town Hall was begun in 1557, but various repairs and alterations over the centuries have completely changed its appearance.The last big transformation was in the pseudo-Renaissance style, based on the plans of the architect Josef Fanta and completed in the period 1923 – 1925. The sculptures are the work of C.Vosmik and F.Rouse, the painting are by L.Novak and J.Cejka. This building still houses the Town Hall administration.
A tour of the town is invigorated with a visit to the Baroque Pharmacy, ‘U Bílého jednorožce’ (At the White Unicorn). This unique exposition of the pharmacy of the time maps the development of this ‘trade’ from 1776 to 1966, when the pharmacy stopped being run as a business. With its interior and furnishings and equipment, not lacking elements of curiosity, coming mainly from the 18th century, is a recognised monument of cultural history placed in the register of UNESCO.
The mysterious underground rooms under the JesuitChurch of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary and Saint Ignatius evoke a feeling of religious reverence. In this church crypt were buried members of the Jesuit order and important people of the town. Even before the completion of the building at the beginning of the 1670’s the first dead were laid to rest here. The Emperor Josef II forbad by decree burial in the catacombs, which also forbad burial in churches. Because of the ingenious system of ventilation it was possible to maintain the optimum temperatures necessary for the conservation of the mummified bodies. 30 mummies are preserved at present.
The gothic Archdeacon’s Church of the Virgin Mary offers a moment of peace and spiritual reflection, situated on one of the little streets off of the square. This 13th century building is the oldest in Klatovy although it has been many times altered and enlarged. Alterations in the 15th century completely changed its original appearance. Largely as a result of this intervention a unique atrial space was created, which now just as then impresses with its particular church atmosphere. Within its confines is the miraculous picture of the Virgin Mary of Klatovy holding in her arms the child Jesus, and to which is related not only the centuries old legend of miraculous healing, but also the authenticity of human blood on her injured brow. Also preserved is the Chapel of the Revelation to the Virgin Mary, ‘Chaloupka’, (the Little Cottage) built in 1696 at the place where the original house stood in which the miraculous picture was for some time stored. Ever year at the time of the Klatovy Fair an important church procession takes place through the streets of the town honouring the memory of this painting.
A little apart from the cathedral stands the White Tower, originally a belfry built in 1581. After the fire of 1758 it was raised and altered into its present form. The portal of the tower was originally sited in the façade of the Archdeacon’s church.
Worth mentioning is the nearby Dominican Church of St Vavřinec built between 1694 -1709 and like all the other monuments significantly altered over time. The Klatovy builder, Marco Antonio Gilmetti, of Italian origin, directed the construction of the church. With its plain, unadorned style it suggests how the Dominicans were not as wealthy as their counterpart Jesuit brethren. The church is not open to the public.
Other conspicuous sights that catch the eye of the visitor are some town houses with well-preserved facades eg. No.’s 63, 64 65, 66, 150, 151, 154, 155, 169, 170, 171 and the important Listed Buildings eg. No.’s.1, 70, 90, 118, 163, 167.
In the historical house on the square, No.149 is the Gallery ‘U Bílého jednorožce’ (At the White Unicorn)with impressive exhibition space for the display of modern art.
Amongst more modern examples of impressive architecture are the fin-de-sičcle Dr. Hostaš Museum of Local History and Geography, rebuilt in the years 1905-1907. The museum details in an interesting way the development of the region in individual stages from prehistory to the present day.
North from the centre of town is the Jewish Cemetery from the second half of the 19th century. There is also a Synagogue, restored in the years between 1966-67 but at the moment used for other purposes.
Double stone walls defended mediaeval Klatovy, built at the foundation of the town. They were 10-12 metres high integrated with bastions and ditches. The best preserved part of the walls is on the eastern side of the town, where two circular bastions still stand.
And now we have finished this little guide to the history of Klatovy. Whoever fancies stepping back in time and immersing themselves in the depths of history should delve into the old chronicles and wise books….. or simply take a walk around Klatovy.
For more details:
Enquiry office - nám. Míru 63/I, 339 01 (right on the square, next to theTown Hall)
Tel.: + 420 376 347 240, 376 347 250
Fax: + 420 376 347 390