Italian court-The Royal Mint
The Italian Court (Vlašský Dvůr) was originally built as a fortified castle to watch over the important trade route connecting the capitals of Bohemia and Moravia: Prague and Olomouc. When a rich deposit of silver was discovered in Kutna Hora in the 13th century century, its fortifications provided the safest storage place and it was pressed into service as a mint.
The discovery of silver at Kutná Hora allowed King Wenceslas II to institute the minting of the Prague Groschen, a uniform currency that would replace the various local coins in use throughout his empire. The experts brought in from Florence for the task were the origin of the stronghold’s new name.
Exploring the building is only possible as part of a guided tour. The first part of the tour focuses on minting and the Prague Groschen of course takes centre stage. Mint workers’ tools and equipment are on display and on the day that I visited there was also a demonstration of minting technique. A man in an ermine robe makes a great show of stamping and hammering and tour-participants are given the resulting small coins to keep as souvenirs.
The second part of the tour leaves minting in favour of Bohemian history. The assembly room of the royal palace flaunts two epic wall frescoes, depicting important events in the nation’s history that took place in Kutna Hora.
The agreement in 1409 between King Wenceslas IV and Jan Hus to allow Czechs equal access to the predominantly German Charles University became known as the Decree of Kutna Hora and set the stage for the heightened tensions between Catholics and Hussites that would soon lead to war. Appropriately, the 1485 Religious Conciliation of Kutná Hora ushered in an era of relative peace between the two groups.
The other notable room visited is the chapel of St Wenceslas, who is one of the four patron saints of the Czech lands. It was created in 1386 and is among the best surviving examples of Bohemian gothic architecture. During reconstruction in 1904, the chapel was painted with intricate art nouveau frescoes, and to protect them photography is prohibited. (In all the other rooms though, it is allowed).
The Italian Court is open April-September from 8am to 6pm, with shorter hours in the off season. The price for adults is 50Kč, and students get in for 30Kč.
Havlíčkovo náměstí 522
28424 Kutná Hora
Tel. (+420) 777 274675