Originally a medieval church cemetery and then later a decorative park belonging to the adjacent Piarist monastery, the beautiful open area now known simply as the monastery gardens was reconstructed in the year 2000.
The gardens are made up of several different parts. The large central part is a sweeping flat stretch of thick green lawn. In one corner stand a dozen or so neatly pruned deciduous trees, and close to the fountain there’s a lone sculpture, but apart from those two elements, the lawn is open and is probably the largest one in the country that does not double as a sporting venue.
Above the city walls
Litomyšl sits on a hillside sloping down from the chateau to the Loučna River, and the downhill side of the monastery gardens ends at the top of a tall stone wall that was once part of the chateau’s fortifications. The ‘uphill’ side is terraced and seating has been cleverly built in to provide a view across the gardens to the towers and rooftops of Litomyšl’s historic centre.
Small lawn and musical fountain
A smaller lawn is off to one side and dividing it from the main lawn is a low stone wall that funnels visitors past the musical fountain. The fountain is a shallow pool recessed below ground level and speakers built into the nearby walls play recordings of classical music by Litomyšl’s favourite son, Bedřich Smetana. The fountain also features sculptures of four maidens, each standing on a pedestal jutting into the water something like a short diving board. The bronze figures were sculpted by Olbram Zoubek, and they all seem to be on the brink of a decision to either dance or dive. A single male figure stands a short distance away in the corner of the large lawn.
Flowerbeds and Benches
Both lawns are surrounded by well-maintained gravel paths, but while the wide path around the large lawn is open and bare, the paths around the smaller lawn are lined with bench seats and flowering plants. Even in December yellows and oranges were showing on the perennials.
The churches at either end are also integral parts of the gardens’ landscape. The white gothic church of the Holy Cross is an impressive structure, but the baroque Piarist church in its coat of sandy cream and deep red is the architectural star of the monastery gardens show. It rises dramatically from the flatness of the gardens and the unusual round towers at the corners give it a wonderful organic curvaceousness that is as graceful as any of Zoubek’s diving maidens.
Performances of classical music take place in the gardens during the Smetana’s Litomyšl International opera festival and the outdoor beer garden is a good place to warm up with a coffee or cool down with a beer.
Admission to the gardens is free, they are open year round and are an unmissable highlight of any visit to Litomyšl.