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.
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.
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.