Konopiště

History of the palace

Although Konopiště is called a palace today, its former owners built a castle at first. In the 13th century a gothic port was built, following the french style, that was covered by flood-plains on one side. It was built by lords from Benešov, who moved there from their former domain.

According to the historians, the majestic castle was named after the fields on which the hemp was grown. (Hemp means in Czech konopí – Konopiště) The fields could have been found near the fort.

Konopiště was an exceptional place since its very beginnings. Although for the majority of castles one, or two towers, were sufficient enough for their defence, the owners of Konopiště decided, that they would not safe money for defence purposes. And that´s why there were seven towers that gave a real majestic look to the castle. And if we consider its exceptional placement the resut was a construction of perfect defensive facility.

In the first third of the 14th century the Konopiště castle was sold to Šternberk family and the next chapter of its history begun. In that „chapter“ many owners changed there, amongst them were many important and famous aristocrats. However, not much fortune was brought to Konopiště by Šternberk family. Zdeněk from Konopiště although favoured the king Jiří z Poděbrad, however, later on he changed sides and he became a leader of so-called „Greenmountain unit“, which fought against the king. And as a result, all his castles were besieged by the royal armies. Konopiště was no exception. But this castle withstanded for the longest time and the starving garrison surrendered after eighteen months of siege.

The important period in the Konopiště history was a moment in the 17th century, when the castle was bought by Hodějov family. Considering the fact that they were a rich fmily and the medieval castle was not meeting the living standard needs of that times, they begun the rennaissance reconstruction of the castle. Several defending walls were demolished and for better view of the nobility trees were planted on the bald hill, on which the castle stood.

Because the Hodějov family took active part in the anti-empire uprising, they lost all their property and that meant, that the palace was given from one owner to another and the palace was more and more indebted. What is more, during the reign of Pavel Michna from Vacínov, people rised against him and the palace was burnt. After the Thirty years war, during which the palace was conquered by Swedes, Konopiště was indebted and deteriorated quickly.

In the 18th cenutry the indebted palace was bought by the Vrtb family, who decided to finish the reconstruction. They built a new building with luxurious chambers, they lowered five out of seven gothic towers and built the palace garden.

The Konopiště was then owned by Lobkovitz family and after them the palace was owned by its most famous owner. He was the Habsburg Archduke Franz Ferdinand d´Este, the nephew of the emperor Franz Joseph I and the throne successor. The archduke was a real romantic so he changed the palace in such a way that it resembled its medieval predcessor. He closed the industrial installations near the palace and built a huge English park. During his life a unique shooting range, museum and collection of hunting trophies were established. Ferdinand d´Este was very universal personality and he makes the most distinguishing part of the Konopiště history, not only because of his sad destiny, but also thanks to many changes, reconstrucions and modern innovations he brought to the palace. All those things make the sightseeing of the palace an unforgettable experience.

Today the object is owned by the state and you may visit it in the opening times. Interiors are equipped in a way as they were in times of its last important owner – several times mentioned Ferdinand d´Este.