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THE TOWN OF KUTNÁ HORA (UNESCO SITE)

The district town Kutná Hora is situated in the roug distance 70 km east of Prague on the Kutna Hora’s table above the brook Vrchlice. From the year 1961 it is a town memory reservation for it represents particulary valuable whole of medieval and baroque architecture of European signification. The continuity of settlement from the neolithic time is documented by numerous archeological findings.

The history of Kutná Hora is closely linked with the mining of silver. The Kutná Hora silver mining district, abounding in silver ore, eventually became one of medieval Europe's largest sources of silver. Already in the late 13th century, one third of Europe's total production of silver came from Kutná Hora. The Prague groschen, one of Europe's strongest currencies of the time, began to be minted here.

Thanks to its wealth, Kutná Hora became the second most important town of the Kingdom of Bohemia, and an economic, political, and cultural rival for the capital city Prague. The first recorded reference to a more systematic mining of the local deposits of silver ore dates from the second half of the l3th century. However, silver coins known as denars had been minted at the nearby Malín walled site, a residence of the Slavník family, as early as in the l0th century. In 1142, Bohemia's first Cistercian monastery was founded in neighboring Sedlec by Miroslav of Cimburk, a nobleman from the circle around Prince Vladislav II. The monks arrived here from Valdsassen Abbey in the Upper Palatinate probably lured by the local silver ore deposits. The presumption is supported by the fact that theirs was one of the Mormon line of monasteries associated with mining activity, as well as by the fact that the Cistercian order, famed for its colonizing efforts, decided to establish a monastery on land that had already been cultivated.

Sometime around 1260, deposits of silver ore were discovered on the territory of the Sedlec monastery itself. By that time, silver had already been mined in Jihlava (from 1230). Thus German miners from Jihlava had been amongst the first ones who settled in Kutná Hora. At the end of the reign of Přemysl OtakarII (1253-1278), the miners' village was named Cuthna Antigua, or Old Kutna (kutna – old monk’s habit). In the year 1290 people were flocking to Kutna in a typical gold, or more precisely silver rush with all the associated vices. Construction was rather chaotic and among the haphazardly erected wooden houses including taverns, baths, bread and meat shops stood the smelting workshops and the shafts. At the end of the 13th century, the miners' village gradually evolved into a wealthy royal town with many privileges.

Around the year 1300, under the reign of King Wenceslas II, the royal mining law was issued (Ius regale montanorum), very modern for its time, and regulating all mining and related activity. According to the law, the King was entitled to a free use of the raw materials found on any plot of land, and granted permission for the opening of mines. This was exercised through his officers that had control over mining. They also collected a mining tax. The issue of the royal mining law was coupled with a monetary reform. King Wenceslas II decided to mint a single coin that would be valid throughout the kingdom where different types of coins had been in use until then. “Prague Groshen” had a fixed content of silver, eliminated the lack of uniformity that had prevailed in the use of money up to that time. The various local mints were replaced by a central one at Kutná Hora's Italian Court and Kutná Hora became the chief support of the Bohemian rulers' economic power and the second largest and most influential town of the Czech state after Prague.

The development of a miners' village into a town was accelerated by the erection of fortification walls, built to protect the mines. This need was hastened by the invasion of the Roman King Albrecht II, who laid siege to Kutná Hora during his two expeditions against Bohemia's King Wenceslas II in 1304 and 1307. As the town quickly rose to glory, a number of beautiful churches and residences of the predominantly German patriciate sprang up. The administration of royal affairs was gradually handed over to these German aristocrats. At the beginning of the 14th century, silver production reached 5-6 tons of silver per year. The people in Kutná Hora's mining business soon became fantastically rich, catching up with the rural aristocracy.

Although in the early 15th century, silver mining declined considerably, the town managed to retain its economic and political significance. Italian Court, frequently visited by Bohemia's King Wenceslas IV who liked to stay at the newly built palace, became the venue of major political events. This is where the Kutná Hora Decree regulating the representation of 'university nations' at Prague's Charles University in flavor of the Czechs, and the Royal Edict calling for the people's disobedience of the Pope Gregory XII during the Great Schism had originated. During the troubled reign of Wenceslas IV, the king's brother, Hungarian King Zikmund, besieged the town, robbed Wenceslas's coffers, and collected a huge amount of money through racketeering. In the early 15th century, Kutná Hora became involved in the Hussite revolution. It witnessed the bloody struggle of the Catholics, represented by the German patriciate, and followers of the Hussite movement, with merciless killing engaged in by both sides. Some two thousand Hussites were thrown into the Kutná Hora mines. The town was burnt to ashes on two occasions: in 1422 by the retreating King Zikmund who tried to prevent the Hussites from exploiting the town's mineral wealth, and two years later by the Hussite army of Jan Žižka. The operation of the mint discontinued and many mines were either flooded or filled with earth. Not only were the mines destroyed, but a part of the wealthy German population fled the town, and mining activity was paralyzed. The Germans gradually began to be replaced by newly arriving Czechs. It took an immense effort to restore mining activity here and shifting it from the centre of the town to the new deposits discovered outside its limits. The town again became the scene of major political events and the economic support of the Kingdom of Bohemia.

In 1448, George of Poděbrady, later a Utraquist King, was elected provincial administrator at an assembly at Vlašský dvůr. In 1471, Vladislav of Jagellon, was elected King of Bohemia here. Under the reign of the Jagellon family (1471-1526), Czech culture gradually came out of the isolation where it had been thrown during the Hussite revolt. Sumptuous Late Gothic structures were erected across the town. The construction of St. Barbara's Church was resumed after an interval of many years caused by the Hussite wars. The patrician house known as Kamenný dům (Stone House) and a rare polygonal fountain have been preserved from that time. The Renaissance slowly entered Kutná Hora. However, all this would be impossible without extensive silver mining.

As the ore veins had to be looked for deeper and deeper, the available technology became unsuited to the needs. In the mid-16th century, the Kutná Hora mining district experienced a widespread recession. The Osel mine, the worlds deepest at its time at 600 m, was shut down. Striking of the Prague Groshen was terminated in 1547 (was replaced by the tollar). At the turn of the 16th century, silver production in Germany grew substantially and huge amounts of silver also started to be imported from America. All this dealt yet another blow to Kutná Hora's mining. The crisis came to a head with the Thirty Years' War. The city was plundred by both the Imperial and the Swedish armies. After the war, Kutná Hora altogether lost the character of a miners' town. Still in the course of the war, in 1626, the Jesuit order arrived in Kutná Hora. During its stay, the local population was re-Catholicized and many Baroque structures were erected here under the supervision of leading architects. However, Kutná Hora's change into a provincial town was unstoppable. Attempts to restore an intensive mining activity were undertaken in the following centuries but most of them were unsuccessful. At the start of World War II, the German occupational authorities started to mine lead and zinc here. The two metals then continued to be mined in Kutná Hora until 1991, when the very last mine was closed down.

Modern industry embeded in Kutná Hora, which obtained rail connection in the year 1870, only slowly. As lately as after the World War Two the develompent of engineering, textile and other production branches occured, and also the advancement in the mining of non-ferrous metals and their metallurgies.

A heft of visitors comes in Kutná Hora at present above all for artistic and historical sights. A multiplicity of these sights was preserved there; not only the change process of prime small settlements into royal town remains apparent, but also individual evolution periods of prosperity or decline. New mining villages grew up beside individual pits; they were formed by wooden houses and shops connected throuhg radial ways. After deep-mined pits disappered from the town centre. The grond-plan got rather regular shapes and blick objects were appeared. Mostly the subterraneous or ground-floor parts of houses only were preserved.

 

Main sights

  • Cathedral of Our Lady (Chrám Nanebevzetí Pany Marie)
  • St. Barbara's Temple (Chrám Svaté Barbory)
  • Sedlec Ossuary (Sedlecká kostnice)
  • Church of St. James (Kostel sv. Jakuba)
  • Church of St. John Nepomuk (Kostel sv. Jana Nepomuckého)
  • Church of Ursuline Convent (Klášter řádu sv.Voršily)
  • Jesuit College (Jezuitská kolej)
  • Italian Court (Vlašský dvůr)
  • Marian column (Morový sloup)

Book the tour to Kutna Hora and Sedlec Ossuary here.

 

 

SEE KUTNA HORA PHOTO GALLERY IN "KUTNA HORA EXCURSION" SECTION.

The continuity of settlement from the neolithic time is documented by numerous archeological findings.

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