Introducing Castle Malešov

In this brief article, I would like to introduce you to castle Malešov, located near the medieval mining town of Kutná Hora, in Czech Republic. I purchased the castle in 2002, and since then we have been restoring it to a state as close as possible to late 15th century. Of course, we have a number of limitations, especially legal ones, when it comes to change the structure and its additions coming from later centuries. Because of this, for example, the roof will retain its baroque shape, the wooden beams will keep some of the technical details added in the 18th and 19th centuries. Overall, however, the castle will be a place, where the public and living history enthusiasts will occasionally have a chance to experience the “feel” of the medieval times first hand. The reason why I write “occasionally” is that the aim of the project is threefold: (1) to build a fully functional "replica" of a medieval small castle, open on selected days to the public and also available for loan/rent to various enthusiast, (2) to create a limited source of income to pay for the significant investment made into the castle, and (3) to build a private home in a splendid building standing on the cliff since the middle of the 14th century.


The outside view on the rebuild defense position - and the baroque roof (Photo by Ondrej Slacalek)

Brief history

The first written remark about Malešov dates from 1303. We are sure, that the main tower already stood here in the middle of the 14th century. The castle was besieged in 1421 by the Hussite army. After a five day siege, the defenders surrendered. The ownership by the new Hussite warlord played a significant role three years later during the bloody battle of Malešov, in which Jan Zizka, at that time already a blind commander, defeated the Prague forces that were pursuing his army for many weeks. It is possible that Zizka spent some time in the castle; also considering the fact that this was the only comfortable place nearby - except for Kutna Hora, which was held by Zizka’s enemies. 

The castle was besieged again in 1472. As a result of the turmoil, the castle fortifications grew significantly, including several towers and double walls in the most vulnerable spots. These additions did not last very long as the castle was too small to withstand any larger attacks. Slowly, it became less and less used, and it burned sometime towards the end of the 16th century. It was restored with some baroque modifications, and the owners started to use it as a grain storage. It was used as such until 1985, when it was turned over to the town hall of Malešov, that used it as a storage of junk. In 2002, finally, the restoration started after the castle moved to private hands.

Current state

The castle currently contains a yard, enclosed by a provisional wooden fence (to be replaced by a stone wall with a gate), a building from the 19th century, and the original large 14th century tower, modified in the baroque period. Also, the cliff, on which the castle stands, is surrounded by medieval fortifications in various state of decay.

In the past eight years, our restoration has focused on rebuilding the fortifications, creating the inner castle, and the outer yard with workshops for the blacksmith, potter, and other craftsmen, as well as a replica of a house for the lodging of the poorer castle dwellers. The inner castle now is almost completely enclosed, and some space around the tower is occupied by a small garden with period plants.


The rebuilt kitchen was done according to other Czech castle kitchens from the period (Photo by Ondrej Slacalek)

 
The inside of the castle was also changed a lot. We created a modern area with toilets and a bathroom for the organization of events as well as a large hall for events, eating and festivities. All of these are located in the 19th century building. The 14th century tower has three available floors. The bottom floor has an open fire kitchen, built as a replica of a medieval kitchen that remained in a few Czech castles. The second floor has a representative dining hall for the castle lord. The size of the castle does not allow for separate rooms for various functions, and the dining hall, being a safe and a dry place, also houses the armory for the castle. The third floor is the private chamber of the castle lord and his family, and includes a living area, and a bedroom, decorated with medieval “pattern” design, taken from originals surviving in the museum of Cesky Dub. This floor will be also accessible directly from the outside via a draw bridge, that is now being restored in the original medieval passageway, that has been opened again last year, for many years partially walled in and used only as a window.


The decorated walls of the private rooms of the castle lord (Photo by Ondrej Slacalek)


During the restoration, we have been lucky to cooperate with a number of excellent local craftsmen, who take interest in working their craft “the medieval way”. For example, our carpenter creates every beam using an ax, taking a round tree trunk and chopping it into a square piece. All joints and construction details are also built according to the years of experience in the restoration of medieval castles and buildings.

Currently, we are waiting for the decision of the European Union funding commission to receive a grant for a major acceleration of the restoration project. If the grant is approved, the year 2011 will be very busy for us. We will be plastering the building, purchasing new windows from hand blown glass and pewter, replacing the wooden fence with a stone wall with wooden walkway, and building a replica of a medieval tile stove, to complete our bedroom. All of this will be aimed to show the Malešov castle in 2012, ten years after the initiation of the project, in a completely new light. And if all goes well, we are looking forward to host the very first Company of St. George event here with us.

For more photos, please take a look at our website at www.malesov.cz.

By Ondrej Slacalek, guest author.

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