Podještědské Museum and the Commandery of the Order of St. John in Český Dub


Podještědské Museum in Český Dub  Commandery of the Order of St. John in Český Dub 
 
CONTENTS OF WEB PAGE

PODJEŠTĚDSKÉ MUSEUM IN ČESKÝ DUB
Museum History
The museum building, known as Blaschka’s villa
  Museum Collections
A preview of the exhibits available in Podještědské Museum

THE COMMANDERY OF THE ORDER OF ST. JOHN
History
Architecture

PRACTICAL INFORMATIONS
Services of Podještědské Museum
  Hours of operation and fees
  Where to find us   
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PODJEŠTĚDSKÉ MUSEUM IN ČESKÝ DUB

Podještědské Museum in Český Dub

The terms „Podještědské“ and „Podještědí“, literally „under Ještěd“, refer to the region surrounding the Ještěd mountain which overlooks the nearby city of Liberec

 



Museum History

 

 

 

In August of 1914, a group of local enthusiasts, led by the young teacher Václav Havel, organized an ethnographic exhibit in Český Dub.   This exhibit marked the beginning of more extensive efforts to establish a regional museum, focusing on local history.  However, the realization of these plans was significiantly delayed by World War I.
 
Czech writer Karolina SvětláThe museum in Český Dub was formally established in the fall of 1919, and opened to the public in 1921. The founder and first curator of the museum was Václav Havel, who remained the museum curator until 1961. During these 40 years he was able to acquire extensive collections, consisting primarily of ethnographic and historical artifacts.  One of Havel‘s significant contributions was also the acquisition of the estate of the Czech writer Karolina Světlá.
 
To protect the collections of the museum from theft and destruction during the German occupation of Sudetenland in 1938, Havel arranged for their relocation into the interior of Bohemia.   During World War II, the museum collections were kept safe in multiple locations in the neaby regions of Turnov and Mnichovo Hradiště.

The collections were returned to Český Dub in 1945.  Due to the efforts of Václav Havel they were installed in the newly available villa of the family of a German textile industrialist from Český Dub, Blaschka, where the museum remains to this day.   The year 1945 was thus the first time that the museum acquired its own building, designated exclusively for housing the museum collections, as well as a venue for related activities.   Until this time the collections were available to the public only sporadically, in several rented spaces in the Český Dub region. The museum re-opened to the public on July 14, 1946.  
 
Several later curators also significantly contributed to the further development and focus of the museum; most notably, František Formáček (curator from 1971 to 1980), who systematized the extensive collections, and PhDr. Tomáš Edel (curator from 1985 to 2010), who popularized both the museum itself, and the town of Český Dub, with his discovery of the commandery of the Order of St. John (discovered in 1991), which was assumed to have been destroyed and which today represents a significant component of the museum’s collections.
First curator of the museum Václav Havel Curator of the museum from 1985 to 2010 PhDr. Tomáš Edel

 

 

                              

 

 

The museum building, known as Blaschka’s villa

 

Blaschka´s villaPodještědské Museum in Český Dub is located in an architecturally significant neorenaissance villa, later modified in the style of art nouveau.  The villa was built between 1880 and 1881 for a well-known textile industrialist from Český Dub, Franz von Schmitt, who had it built for his son-in-law and future business successor, Conrad Blaschka.   The interier of the villa was renovated in 1906, according to the plans of a Viennese architect Wilhelm Klingerberger, who introduced into the original neorenaissance building a monumental art nouveau hall, with a grand staircase and gallery, illuminated by a dominating French window.

In addition to several of the original, unique historical rooms, characterized by their wood paneling, most of the original interior decorations of the villa have also been preserved to this day.

 

 

Museum Collections
 
Ethnographic exhibit 1914In addition to the original contents of what became known as Blaschka’s Villa, and the collections related to the history of the families of the Český Dub entrepreneurs Schmitts and Blaschkas, the museum houses extensive collections acquired over the course of its almost hundred year history.  These include the following collections:  ethnographic, focusing on the region Podještědí region (including furniture, dishes, folk costumes and embroidery, paintings on glass, and agricultural and craft tools); historical (history of the local area, prominent persons of the region of Český Dub, local Judaica); mineralogical, geological and paleological (including Fendrych’s mineralogical collections with an extensive geological map); archeological (including Louda’s archeological collection and the artifacts uncovered during the discovery of the Commandery of the Order of St. John and its immediate surroundings), naturalistic (including Holub’s herbarium and butterfly collection), and many others.
 
Petr Dillinger - Český DubOne of the most significant components of the museum’s holdings is its literary and artistic collection, in particular, the estate of the writer Karolina Světlá, which represents one of the most extensive literary-historical collection in the Czech Republic, and the estates of other prominent individuals associated with Český Dub, for example, the writer František Křelina, painter and graphic artist Peter Dillinger, and the founder of the museum and ethnographer, Václav Havel.

An integral part of the museum’s collections is also an extensive museum library, which houses around 5000 volumes, including old prints from the 16th – 19th centuries. 

 
A preview of the exhibits available in Podještědské Museum
 
Podještědské Museum in Český DubPodještědské Museum is located in an architecturally significant Neo-Renaissance villa, decorated in Art Nouveau style, which retains a large portion of its original furnishings and interior design.  The museum offers its visitors several interesting, thematically grouped expositions, comprised primarily of the museum's extensive collections of ethnographic, historical and artistic artefacts.
 
A preview of the exhibits available in Podještědské MuseumIn this unconventionally conceived museum, the visitors have an opportunity to gain insight into the private and public life of the Czech writer Karolina Světlá (Světlá returned frequently to her beloved Podještědí, from 1853 until the year of her death in 1899, and dedicated five of her novels and 30 short stories to this region).  Visitors can also become familiar with the period of life of the Czech composer Bedřich Smetana which he spent in Český Dub (Smetana visited Český Dub a number of times, to spend time with his mother, and even gave several concerts in the town; Podještědí is also associated with Smetana through the setting of his opera Hubička (The Kiss)). In addition, visitors can also explore the historic setting of the nearby Světlá magistrate, a fictitious rural household from the Podještědí region, from the beginning of the 19th century, as well as the apartment of the original owners of the Blaschka´s villa (now the location of the Podještědské Museum). Visitors can also become acquainted with the preserved wealth of the Jewish community of Český Dub (exceptionally well-preserved furnishings of an 18th century prayer hall), with the treasures of the local association of Czech national revival movement of the early 19th century (Česká Beseda), and, through the reconstruction of a one-room schoolhouse, get a glimpse of the lives of the children of Podještědí region from the turn of the 20th century.

Exhibit of the Gothic decorative stencilingIn addition to the above, Podještědské Museum also offers two exceptional exhibits.  The first is an exhibit of medieval furniture, decorated using the gothic stenciling technique (a method used by the well-known medieval Czech painter Master Theodoric, the court painter of the Emperor Karel IV (Charles IV), and later popularized, and displaying an original late-gothic stenciled armoire from the end of the 15th century, found in the church of the Holy Spirit in Český Dub. The exhibit of the Gothic decorative stenciling in Bohemia is further enhanced by the stenciled interior decorations, which transport the visitor into a late Gothic interior.
 
Commandery of  the Order St. John in Český DubThe most recent artistic and historical exhibit, and the crown jewel of the Podještědské Museum, is the multi-story complex of well-preserved Romanesque-Gothic structure of the former commandery of the Order of St. John (that is, a monastery of knights hospitaller order of St. John), founded in 1237 by the prominent Bohemian nobleman, Havel of Lemberk, and his wife, St. Zdislava.  The most interesting part of the Commandery is the large Romanesque-Gothic entrance hall, with three cross-vaulted arches, and the Romanesque chapel of St. John the Baptist, which is one of the oldest existing Romanesque structures in northern Bohemia.  The uniqueness and historical mystery of the Commandery of St. John in Český Dub is enhanced by the building’s fascinating fate. Until its surprising discovery in 1991, the Commandery was hidden under a cloak of architecturaly anonymous recent structures, and considered to have disappeared without a trace, after its destruction during the Hussite Wars of the 15th century.
 
An integral part of the exhibits of the Podještědské Museum, and the Commandery, is the guided tour and commentary, which is based the results of long-term historical and archaelogical research, and the knowledge and deep understanding of the local genius loci.

 
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THE COMMANDERY OF THE ORDER OF ST. JOHN, DEDICATED TO ST. ZDISLAVA AND HAVEL OF LEMBERK

Commandery of St. John in Český Dub
 

History
 
Commandery of the Order of St. John - St. ZdislavaThe commandery of the Order of St. John in Český Dub (that is, a fortified cloister of the Order of the Knights Hospitaller of St. John of Jerusalem), together with the adjacent market settlement, was founded in 1237 by the prominent Bohemian nobleman, Havel of Lemberk, and his wife, St. Zdislava. This occurred during the reign of the Bohemian King Václav I. (Wenceslas I), who wanted to ensure the safety and security of one of the major long-distance trade routes, between Prague (in Bohemia) and Zittau (in Upper Lusatia), which passed through what is today Český Dub.  Václav's goal was to construct a chain of commanderies of the Order of the Knights of St. John.  The responsibilities of this order, in addition to purely religious functions, included also the defense of its entrusted territory, as well as hospital services to the pilgrims. To ensure the safety of the traders and travelers, the commanderies were built along the route at distances corresponding to a single day’s journey.

Commandery of the Order of St. John - Chapel of  St. John the BaptistThe importance of the commandery of the Knights of St. John in Český Dub during the 14th century was further demonstrated in 1357, when it was honored by a visit of the Holy Roman Emperor and Bohemian King, Karel IV (Charles IV).  Over the subsequent years however the commandery of Český Dub gradually lost importance. Its existence definitively ended during the Hussite wars, when, in 1425, it was burned down by Hussite orphans (a radical Hussite organization formed after the death of Jan Zizka). During the 16th century, a Renaissance chateau was built on the site of the former commandery.  Following its destruction by a fire, a Burgher manor was built on the site in 1858.
 
Commandery of the Order of St. John - ExterierUntil the beginning of the 1990's, it was assumed that the buildings of the commandery had disappeared without a trace during the Hussite wars.  In 1991 however, historical and architectural exploration of the buildings on the site of the former chateau, conducted by a team from Podještědské Museum led by its curator PhDr. Tomáš Edel, yielded a surprising result: a rediscovery of the walled-in commandery (see book by T. Edel: Příběh ztraceného kláštera blahoslavené Zdislavy (that is The Story of the Lost Monastery), Praha 1993).

During the period between 1991 and 1993, the site was excavated and renovated, and in 1993 the commandery opened to the public. Today it represents a an important distinct and independent exhibit of the Podještědské Museum.
 

 
Architecture
 
Commandery of the Order of St. John - UndergroundFor visitors, the most attractive parts of the commandery are the large entrance hall and the chapel of St. John the Baptist. The entrance hall is built in the Romanesque-Gothic style, with three cross-vaulted arches.  The chapel is Romanesque, and represents one of the oldest remaining Romanesque structures in northern Bohemia (from the era around 1240). Visitors also have access to a smaller hall of the convent, dating from the 1240's, and parts of the Late-Gothic underground spaces, which connect to an 80 m long escape passage (not open to the public).  
 
The Romanesque chapel of St. John the Baptist, on whose walls are preserved the original consecration crosses, was re-consecrated, following renovations in 2001, and continues to be used for a variety of functions, including liturgical purposes.  In the crypt below the chapel is a symbolic tomb, where several dozen human remains have been reverently placed.  These were most likely monks of the order of St. John, whose remains were found in the cloister of the commandery during the archeological excavations.

 
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PRACTICAL INFORMATIONS

Services of Podještědské Museum
 
Podještědské Museum offers guided tours of both the museum itself and the commandery of the Order of St. John.  The tours are available for both individuals and groups (e.g. schools, organized excursions).
 
In addition, the museum is available for rent for cultural and social events (e.g. discussions, lectures, concerts and meetings), as well as for private functions, such as weddings or filming locations.

Related publications, maps, postcards and souvenirs are available for sale at the museum shop.



Hours of operation and fees
 

 

 

Where to find us

 

Podještědské Museum in Český DubAddress of Podještědské Museum
(physical location of the museum):
Svobody 31/IV
463 43  Český Dub

Correspondence and billing address:
Podještědské muzeum a knihovna, p. o.,
Kostelní 10/IV
463 43  Český Dub

IČ: 75096188

 

 

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Tel:        +420 485 147 090 
(please, talk on the phone only in Czech or German; for communication in English write e-mail)

FAX:     +420 485 147 090

Telephone of museum guides: +420 728 045 065
(please, talk on the phone only in Czech or German; for communication in English write e-mail)

E-mail: muzeum@cdub.cz  (write e-mail in English, Czech or German)

 

 

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Where to find us:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

GPS: 50°39'31.994"N, 14°59'27.658"E


We thank Eva Hudlicka, Ph.D. very much for the English translation.

 

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