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This is Where History Went…

The official seat of Olomouc bishops and archbishops, the place marked by history and the building that hosted many famous personalities – this all is the Archiepiscopal Palace in Olomouc, a significant example of Baroque palace architecture in Moravia.

First to start building the original Renaissance palace on the site of today’s residence was Bishop Stanislav Thurzo at the beginning of the 16th century; his successors then continued in the work. However, the Thirty Years’ War and a fire in 1661 seriously damaged the building and Bishop Karl II von Liechtenstein-Kastelkorn thus had the residence rebuilt and significantly expanded in the Baroque style between 1664 and 1669. The building acquired its present appearance during the reconstruction after the fire at the beginning of the 20th century.

The two-storey building with a richly decorated Neo-Baroque facade and three Baroque portals is arranged around two enclosed courtyards. On the first floor, several representation halls have preserved rich Rococo, Empire and Neo-Baroque artistic decoration, as well as period furniture.

These rooms were the scene of a number of important historical events. The Russian Tsar Alexander and the Austrian Emperor Francis II met here for consultations before the Battle of Austerlitz in 1805, the Austrian Emperor Ferdinand I abdicated and his nephew Franz Joseph I ascended the throne in 1848 and an important peace treaty, the so-called “Punctation of Olmütz”, was signed here between Austria and Prussia in 1850.

The halls also hosted many other significant people: Empress Maria Theresa, Archbishop Jean Cardinal Verdier of Paris, Pope St. John Paul II or Presidents T. G. Masaryk, Edvard Beneš, Václav Havel and his successors. These halls also form the main part of the sightseeing tour available for the public, which also includes a room for short-term exhibitions.

The Archbishop’s Palace is thus a unique complex created by history and personalities that have given the palace an authentic and lively atmosphere of a historical space.
The palace has served and continues to serve as a living space and the furnishings have been preserved in the period context of use and in the authentic space for which they were created. Although the historic halls are supplemented with exhibits, it is a unique collection that is not merely an artificial and grouped museum display. Rather, its spaces fit into the context of residential settlements such as castles and chateaus, which have their own historical continuity and fluidity over time. Its price has been shaped over many centuries by the unique history and events that have left their mark on it.

Tradition Older than Thousand Years

The Olomouc diocese was established in 1063 by the official renewal of the Moravian diocese (later the Moravian-Pannonian archdiocese) founded by St. Methodius in 869. In 1777, the Olomouc diocese was promoted to archdiocese. In this context, the Archbishopric of Olomouc is the oldest still existing institution in the today Czech Republic.

Previous Residences of the Olomouc Bishops

In connection with the establishment (or restoration) of the Olomouc diocese in the middle of the 11th century, it is also necessary to assume the existence of the first seat of Olomouc bishops. Historians now usually situate it somewhere close to the then cathedral of St. Peter. While both buildings have not been archaeologically located yet, they must have stood near the current Archbishop’s Palace.

In the 1130s, Bishop Jindřich Zdík moved his residence to a newly built Romanesque palace close to the new cathedral of St. Wenceslas in the area of ​​the Olomouc Castle. Besides the cathedral and the bishop’s palace, this complex also included a chapter house, a cloister and a scriptorium. Even the torso of the palace preserved to this day testifies to its extraordinary architectural quality, unique within the entire Czech Republic. The building is now part of the Archdiocesan Museum in Olomouc.

The third episcopal seat was built by Bishop Robert at the beginning of the 13th century. The construction probably started due to a fire of the Olomouc castle in 1204. The building in a transitional Romanesque-Gothic style stood on the northeast of the complex; almost nothing more is known about its specific form and size, except for a few architectural elements preserved within the current complex of the cathedral. After the construction of the new bishop’s house, the former Zdík’s Romanesque palace served as a cathedral school.

The Current Archbishop’s Palace

Beginning in the early 13th century, the Olomouc canons living originally in the chapter house near the cathedral started to build their own residences in the area of ​​the so-called “Předhradí”. The bishops then decided to do the same in the early 16th century, probably because of the intended expansion of the St. Wenceslas cathedral. Bishop Stanislav I Thurzo started to build a new residence in the Renaissance style on the site of the central part of the current Archbishop’s Palace in 1516 and the work ended under Bishop John XIII Dubravius. As far as we know, it was a two-storey and probably four-winged building (the existence of the north wing has not yet been proven reliably) around a rectangular courtyard; it occupied about a third of the current area of ​​the Archbishop’s Palace. The outer facades were decorated with sgraffito, the facades of the courtyard only had light plaster without any significant decoration. The ground floor of the west wing opened into the courtyard with an arcade.

Baroque Reconstruction

The Renaissance palace was damaged during the Thirty Years’ War and then by a fire in 1661. Bishop Karl II von Liechtenstein-Kastelkorn (1664–1695) therefore undertook an extensive reconstruction and significant expansion of the residence. The construction according to the plans drawn up by the imperial architect Filiberto Lucchese took place in 1664–1669 and from 1666 (after Lucchese’s death) it was managed by another imperial architect Giovanni Pietro Tencalla. The original Renaissance palace was extended by additional wings on two neighboring plots and the building thus acquired a unified, early Baroque appearance, preserved in its main features to this day. The Baldassarre Fontana’s plastering workshop as well as painters Innocenzo Cristoforo Monti and Carpoforo Tencalla took part in the original Baroque decoration of the palace.

Last Reconstructions

Minor modifications to the layout of the building took place in the mid-19th century according to the designs of architect Anton Arche. Major alterations were then made after the fire in 1904, when most of the second floor was modified in the Neo-Baroque style and the main facade got its main appearance as well: its central part was raised and crowned with a gable, a clock, a statue of St. Wenceslas and a turret. The author of this reconstruction was the architect Vladimír Fišer.

The interior decoration of the palace has also changed over the centuries and today we can thus find elements of almost all periods here: from fragments of Renaissance frescoes to paintings from the early 20th century.