Except for the square itself, the renaissance chateau at the narrow end of Telč’s main square is the town’s most notable historic sight.
The first written mention of the chateau is from the year 1339, when it was still a gothic fortress and was traded by King Jan Lucembersky to the aristocratic Vitkovice family in exchange for Bánov castle close to the strategically important Hungarian border. The Hradec branch of the Vitkovice family extended the castle in the 1360’s around the time that the surrounding township began to flourish. When the wealthy Vitkovice lord Adam I of Hradec died, his lands and fortune passed to his sons. Elder brother Jáchym settled in the main family chateau at Jindřichův Hradec, and younger brother Zachariáš chose the fortress at Telč.
The Early Renaissance
In 1551, Zachariáš was one of the prominent Czech aristocrats who took part in an expedition to Genoa. He returned inspired by the Italian renaissance and set about transforming the fortress at Telč into a stately residential chateau suitable for an influential nobleman. Italian master builders were brought in to design and carry out the work and today’s appearance of the chateau is the result of their labour.
The single gate tower through the high stone walls now houses a ticket office. You can visit the chateau interior only on a guided tour and you’ll be offered the choice between Routes A and B. Route A is the introductory tour and is probably the best one to start with. The fee is 80Kč for adults and 40Kč for students and the tour begins from a courtyard lined with high, graceful arcades and raised walkways.
Chapel of St. George
The tour peeks into the two-storey cellars before entering the chateau proper. The first highlight is a small chapel built in 1553 and completely covered with rich relief sculptures, including an excellent depiction of St George fighting a dragon. The gold-leaf illuminated books of the great library and the rich murals and theatrical masks of the theatre room are the next highlights, but the most outstanding place on the introductory tour is the African hall.
Owners of the chateau in the early twentieth century, the Leichtenstein-Podstatzkýs were apparently avid hunters, and the hall displays dozens upon dozens of wall-mounted trophy-busts. As morally questionable as it may be today, the rhinoceros, hippopotamus, lion, leopard, crocodile, and buffalo hides make fascinating viewing.
The tour winds its way through the knights’ hall, with suits of armour weighing up to 100kg, the Golden Hall, which was a ballroom and has the most beautiful of the carved renaissance ceilings, and the Blue room, whose 450-year-old ceiling was in such good condition that it needed only to be cleaned during the recent restoration.
The tour finishes back in one of the arcade-lined courtyards, where you can decide between continuing on with Route B, strolling around the manicured gardens, or visiting the gallery of Jan Zrzavy’s paintings. There’s really a lot to absorb on route A and it gives a thorough indication of aristocratic life during the renaissance, so it’s no embarrassment to opt for a bit of relaxation in the gardens.