Brief history of Švihov castle.
Švihov castle was founded in 1480 by Půta of Švihov, the judge royal of Bohemia and one of the most influential men in the country. He enjoyed the favour of king Vladislaus II and thus was granted considerable wealth and power. Besides the castle of Švihov he also owned castles Rabí, Prácheň, town Horažďovice and estates in Northern Bohemia and Silesia which were given to him by the king as a pledge after accommodating the royal chamber with money.
The castle sits in a flat watery river valley and was designed as a moated fortress on an artificial island. The buildings of the inner castle that include both palaces, the chapel and the main entrance tower hide a quadrangular inner courtyard. These core buildings were surrounded by a ring of inner defensive walls with four corners marked by bastions and further strengthened by the first moat. The second outer fortification was also reinforced with a moat and was intended to make the defence more effective. Both moats were supplied by the river Úhlava flowing eastward of the castle’s site. Nevertheless, Půta did not live to see the boast of all his castles completely finished as he died in 1504. His estates were then inherited by two of his sons Václav and Jindřich who commissioned Benedikt Rejt, the master builder of the Late Gothic in Bohemia, to carry out the completion.
But Půta’s sons failed to retain their father’s estates and were forced to give them up gradually. In 1548, a Bohemian nobleman Heralt Kavka of Říčany and Štěkeň purchased the castle, but by the end of the 16th century Švihov castle changed its owner again and passed to Lord Humprecht Černín of Chudenice.
The years of turmoil came in the first half of the 17th century when the castle declined in its importace and lost all previous functions. During the Thirty Years‘ War it withstood two sieges by the Swedish troops but after the war the Emperor Ferdinand III of Austria issued a decree on demolition of numerous castles in Bohemia, Švihov included. His main intention was to prevent their seizures by hordes of bandits which appeared as a result of the long war conflict. However, the then owners of the House of Černín opposed this thorough demolition and the castle was preserved despite losing its original extent and shape, namely the major part of the outer fortification, two bastions and both moats. After the war, the buildings were used only for farming purposes. Both palaces were turned into storehouses and the courtyard into a farmstead. This function lasted until the first half of the 20th century and the castle’s maintenance was dramatically limited. In 1926, it was officially labeled a ruin but in 1930, Eugen Černín, the then owner, made essential steps for its preservation.
The years of WWII did not cause a serious harm. After the war, the castle was confiscated on the grounds of Černíns alleged German citizenship. In 1947, it came under the control of the National culture committee which promptly started research and restoration works that culminated in the 1950s and 60s.
With the restoration finished there was still a question of furnishing the empty interiors since hardly any of the original pieces of furniture had survived. It was decided to create a concept of so called ‘allusive display‘ that should evoke the atmosphere of an inhabited late medieval aristocratic manor.
Nowadays, the castle is administered by the National Heritage Institute (NPÚ) and offers scheduled guided tours in Czech at which foreign tourist can borrow information booklets available in five languages. There is an option of foreign language tours in English or German on prior reservation.