Castle of the Week 118 – Strekov Castle (Støekov), Czech Republic
On the left bank of the Elbe River are train tracks, built in 1851. Taking the train along this beautiful route along the river, passengers are continually given the opportunity to turn a corner and see yet another castle perched on a cliff. This was an ancient salt route, and over time the castles lining the river were built to protect the route. Strekov is one such castle.
Strekov is first visible at quite a distance, and with the way the river curves, both sides of it can be seen quite well. The Gothic castle is perched on a 100m cliff overlooking the river, close to the city of Ústí nad Labem in the Czech Republic. Construction on Strekov Castle began in 1318 by Peaek of Støekov, on land given to him by King John the Luxemburger, whose vassal he was. His ownership was short-lived, however, as the next year the King gave the land to the Vartemberks, who finished building it. The tower dates from the 14th century. The castle changed hands several times over the years.
During the Hussite Wars the castle belonged to Vlaaek of Kladno, who supported the Catholic Church against the Wycliffites and Hussites. Vlaaek used Strekov Castle to hide Catholic treasure for safe-keeping during the conflicts. Books from St. Vitus’s Cathedral in Prague as well as treasure from the Augustinian monastery in Roudnice found a home at Strekov.
In 1479 the castle received renovations from Hanua and Lorenc Glac, the owners at the time. The Glac brothers had made their fortune mining the Kruané mountains. Around 1500 the Gothic palace with tower was built, followed by a chapel in 1520. As it had through much of its history, the castle then changed owners several more times. Václav Popel of Lobkovice gained ownership in 1563, renovating the castle once again.
During the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1638) Strekov Castle was occupied by Sweden four times. Rocks in the river below the castle were blown up in order to increase the water flow, and remove obstacles for the ships carrying away stolen treasure from Prague. Following that war, use of the castle gradually decreased, and the last time it saw military use was in 1757.
During the 19th century, when artists were traveling the Continent seeking inspiration, many found it in the Gothic brooding stonework of Strekov Castle. Poets and painters stayed at the castle for periods of time. Among the artists was the composer Richard Wagner, who in 1842 planned his opera Tannhäuser while in residence (a fact proudly told to me by a fellow passenger on the train as we pulled in to her hometown of Ústí nad Labem). Accessibility to the castle was aided by the addition of the train route on the other bank of the Elbe in 1851.
Following World War II the castle became the property of the State, and it underwent many renovations, such as having the walls reinforced and the roof re-covered. In doing the renovations, previously unknown stairs were found that led to the second floor of the tower palace. In 1989 after the fall of Communism, the castle reverted back to its previous owners, the Lobkovics. Today the castle is open for visitors, and has a restaurant.
Write-up and photographs by Kester.