The beginnings of Castle Litoměřice are extremely complex, and its transformation into its present form was lengthy and full of changes. With the help of various scientific disciplines – history, construction history and archaeology – we can get to know at least certain moments in its history, its form and the lifestyles of its inhabitants. The castle was constructed from a palace and economic buildings and was protected by separate barriers. Today from the buildings at the site, we know only the palace, which is referred to as the “castle”.
A castle in the northwest corner of the Litoměřice embankment was built during the reign of Wenceslas II (1283 - 1305) as a centre of royal power and representation. At the time, what is the city today was smaller (its northern border ran along today’s Okružní Street) and was gradually being developed. Since there was not enough space inside the city for a castle, it was built outside of the city walls, and only much later during the expansion of Litoměřice in the 2nd half of the 14th century it was connected to the city organism and formed a separate fortress along the southeast embankment.
From the original castle, we know only the foundation of the western wall, the appearance of which at the time we cannot even describe, and a drain ditch with ceramic and glass adornments imported from Saxony. King Wenceslas II never finished building the castle.
Its completion occurred only later, during the reign of John of Luxembourg (1310 – 1346). In 1320, King John had picturesque Kamýk and impressive Střekov built near Litoměřice, and it was probably at that time that the construction of Litoměřice Castle was finished.
In the 2nd half of the 14th century, the castle underwent major expansion, with the addition of the palace, which was built in front of the western wall into the former bailey and which today remains the most important surviving remnant of the castle. We do not know whether it was built by John’s son Charles Iv (1346 – 1378) or his successor Wenceslas IV (1378 – 1419), but it appears likely that Charles IV could have started building it and that his son Wenceslas completed it. However, what we can say with certainty is that it was one of the top quality construction projects at the time. Today all that has remained preserved is the perimeter skeleton, which was damaged by later modifications.
During the reign of Charles IV, Litoměřice Castle finally entered written records. The Litoměřice Charter was issued by the emperor in Prague on 7 May 1359. It permitted the town elders and councillors of the city of Litoměřice to establish vineyards on Mt. Radobýl and in its surroundings. In September of the same year, the emperor visited Litoměřice. He made another visit in December 1369.
While these mentions of the sources regarding Litoměřice Castle are very uncertain, the German document of Charles’ son Wenceslas IV, exhibited in Prague on 2 May 1387, is interesting. In it, the Bohemian king and Roman emperor gives the brothers of Kunat Kaplíř of Sulevice, his minter and councillor John and George and their heirs in line, the castle in Litoměřice with all accompanying rights and benefits and arranges for it to be opened for current and future Bohemian kings.
The “rental” to the Sulevice family did not last more than 10 years, as indicated in the charter issued by Wenceslas IV in Prague on 29 January 1397 for “Elzbeten marggrafynn zu Meisen”, Meissen Margravine Elizabeth. We do not know whether Margravine actually ever resided in Litoměřice. For us, however, there is a more interesting mention from another document from the same year, from 28 July 1397, which Wenceslas IV had written in Prague for Litoměřice. It stipulated that the location where “the courtyard stood in front of our castle in Litoměřice” (“die hofstete vor vnser vesten czu Luthmericz gelegen”) would be connected to the municipality of Litoměřice and that construction could be carried out. The king argued that if he intended to expand and fortify the castle (“die egenanten vesten vnd graben”), if he wanted to live in it personally, the specified location could be withdrawn at any time. This information is important, since it shows us that besides the core of the castle, there was also a farmyard, which was also fortified.
During the 1st half of the 15th century, the northwest cylindrical tower was destroyed, and in its location an open bastion was formed leading inside, which better satisfied military requirements at the time. The fortifying wall was also adapted to the massive expansion of artillery weapons, and it gained new battle areas. Sight holes in its teeth were fitted with beams, on which the shooter could attach the hook of his weapon. From 14-17 October 1420 and from 19 December of the same year until approximately 19 February 1421, Wenceslas’ brother, Emperor Zikmund, resided in Litoměřice
However, the castle was gradually ceasing to fulfil its purpose. As we already know, although Wenceslas IV entrusted the Kaplíř brothers from Sulevice to repair it, he also transferred to the city the farmyard, which provided support for the castle. Vladislaus II of Bohemia and Hungary (1471 – 1546) then transferred the entire castle to the city, so that the city could use it as needed. However, under this arrangement, a space had to be established for storing wine from the royal vineyards. From 1505 – 1513, the Litoměřice radicals reconstructed the city fortress, and that was probably at the time when the castle was definitively incorporated into the city fortress.
The spaces of the castle then served for storage purposes and later also as a brewery. The castle was downgraded to only a farm, belonging to the court in Keblice (it was the centre of administration of Litoměřice rural estate from the 13th century). During the New Ages, the castle buildings were in the worst case completely demolished and in the best case reconstructed. They were greatly damaged not only by the teeth of time, but also by fire, which affected the castle twice, on 11 January 1665 and 4 March 1685. Signs of the fire remain visible at the palace even today in the brickwork. The city then repaired only the economic buildings, and the palace remained in ruins. The last major modifications originate from the era of Classicism, when the large palace was adapted for use by the brewery. The two recent modifications have not been mentioned, of which particularly the one at the end of the Communist era left irreversible damage on the appearance of the castle. However, it is also true that at that time a high wall of the palace was newly built, which became an indispensable part of the silhouette of the town with clear highly aesthetic features.
Even despite this, we can still very well imagine the castle in its former fame and through it also draw conclusions about the fate of its owners.
The new era of the existence of the castle came in the 2nd half of the 18th century, in connection with the desolate condition of the brewery in Pokratice, which belonged to the city and was managed by the economic council in Keblice. There the city of Litoměřice, as the owner of several plots of land and villages in its surroundings, had a centre of administration of rural estates since the 13th century. The condition of the brewery in Pokratice prompted the need to look for other solutions, and the choice selected was adaptation of the premises of the former royal castle. In the castle palace from October 1786 to December 1787, a malt house was established, and in the neighbouring premises to the west a brew house and storage areas were created. For the purposes of the brewery, the premises were gradually modified until the end of the 19th century. The castle site apparently still served as a malt house or malt storage area in the 1930s. Here, it is necessary to point out that there were two breweries in Litoměřice. One belonged to the city (municipality) and was located in Pokratice, and the other (on the square named Tyršové náměstí) belonged to burghers with the right to brew beer. Around 1720, they created an association of “burghers with a brewing right” and began brewing beer jointly.
After World War II, an era of searching for new uses of the castle began. At the beginning of the 1950s, establishment of a pioneer house was considered, and from the end of the 1960s, following withdrawal of plans for development in Jiráskovy sady Park, construction of a cultural house was considered. The main premises were to be located in the palace building, a premise with operating foundations was to be built.
The State Institute for Reconstruction of Heritage Towns and Buildings (SÚRPMO) in Prague was entrusted with preparing the project, and in 1971 breakthrough construction-related historical research was carried out, which was added to in 1983. Their author, PhDr. Ing. Jan Muk, recognised the so far overlooked value of the castle palace and also uncovered the castle chapel, which was hidden under the Classicist modifications. He also prepared sketches for reconstruction of the castle chapel, the entrance gate, the main front sections, etc. He also proposed a new roof for the palace, the appearance of which is based on an analogy of Gothic structures in the present-day Czech Republic and Slovakia. The project was also prepared based on that proposal, and in 1987 the roof was constructed by Armabeton Praha.
At that time, static securing of the site was also carried out, which particularly involved a complete makeover with strong walls of cement mortar, enhancing of certain vaults with concrete and grouting of historic masonry. That was the first of the steps that began the irreversible erasure of historical tracts. In the spring of 1971, the hip gable roof was removed and replaced by a low provisional roof constructed from steel support structures. Several variants were prepared for the use of the castle as a cultural house. A breakthrough came at the turn of the 1970s and 1980s, when investment was taken over from the city by the then Department of Culture of the County National Committee in Litoměřice. The construction of a new cultural house at the site of the former brew house and granary became a priority. The project was prepared by Stavoprojekt Liberec (Ing. arch.Švancar), and the castle itself was given a secondary role. The construction of the cultural house was completed in 1991. So that the castle would serve as a “dignified wing” for the new cultural hosue, cultivation of facades was carried out, which was another, but not the last, step in erasing the historical tracks. For example, certain original Gothic wall structures were replaced by new sandstone ones, and others covered the entire plaster. Part of the Classicist structures in the interior was demolished. Nonetheless, thanks to its solid roof, the castle survived without further intervention for several decades.