Lobkowicz: The Palace, The Beer and More

Autumn Breughel at Lobkowicz, Prague

Lobkowicz is one of the most inspirational museums I have ever been to!  Not many museums, if any, have brought tears to my eyes!  This one did.

Photos were not allowed inside but you can find several on the official web site.

Lobkowicz Palace has a very long history reaching back to the 1500’s.  One of the “old” histories is very funny, actually.  This palace witnessed one of Bohemia’s most significant events.  In 1618, the infamous “defenestration of Prague took place.  That is when Protestant rebels threw their Catholic Imperial ministers from the upper windows of Prague Castle.  Surviving the fall (they literally landed in a dung heap) they took refuge in the adjoining Lobkowicz Palace!

However, it is the most recent history that I find interesting. It starts during WWII when Prince Maxmilian Lobkowicz, Gillian, his English wife, and their son, Martin, were forced to leave Prague.  They had to flee with nothing but the clothes on their backs, leaving all their personal belongings and other properties behind. (Like most royalty, they owned several palaces and estates.)  They spent the war in England and the USA as part of the Czech government in exile.

After the war, they came back with Martin who was about 10 years old.  Thinking they were back for good, it was only 2 or 3 years later that communism came and they once again lost their properties.  This time they went to America where Martin grew up and eventually married an American girl, Brook.

Time passed by and Martin and his wife, had a son, William.  Finally as they watched the fall of the Berlin Wall on TV they saw a small glimmer of hope that they might return once again to their beloved Prague.  When William was about 14 years old, the family did come for a short visit.  It was during that visit, that William had the desire and the hope that some day he would be able to regain all the properties the communists took away from his grandfather, who had since died, and his father.

Today, that dream has come true, although it has been somewhat altered.  First off, the family learned the good news that the Czech government was giving repartition to those people who could prove they lost properties and goods.  This was the impetus for William to return with his family: Alexandra and their three children.  With the help of several lawyers, time and money, and a LOT of hard work, they did manage to locate many of the original paintings, furniture and other items that had been taken from the palaces.  (Michael and I are in total amazement that the Nazi’s or the communists did not destroy them).

Most other family properties, however, were in ruins so they were sold to raise funds to refurbish the three that were kept.  One they refurbished is called Nelahozeves Palace, which is only 15 miles north of Prague and is open to the public.  That was the boyhood home of Martin, William’s father, who recalls riding his bicycle up and down the halls with the pictures of “disapproving ancestors” watching.  The other property is the original brewery, started in 1474 and is once again brewing and selling worldwide under the label  “LOBKOWICZ” — I had one and it is good, but Pilsner Urquell is still my favourite!.

Although William is technically a “Prince” the Czech government does not allow the usage of that title anymore.  Also, William, Alexandra and his 3 children live in an apartment below the palace, not in the palace itself.  (I bet it is a beautiful apartment though!)

To help support Lobkowicz Palace it and its collections have been opened to the public.  He also rents out the huge palace rooms for gala events, such as wedding receptions, he has had many requests for large dinners for business affairs and he has a lovely gift shop and a small restaurant.  I read recently that he still finds it hard to “make ends meet”…so guess even the rich have it tough, huh?

I think what made this tour so special were two things.  One, we had most of the rooms to ourselves which might have been due to the snowy weather.  Secondly, the free audio that comes with it was very nicely done by the family, giving it a personal touch.  We heard Martin, tell about the anguish of when he and his family had to leave when the Nazis came and then again when communism came.  Then we heard both wives, tell about some of their projects they had personally taken on and their dedication to see it accomplished.  William was the main speaker and his stories were sometimes humorous and sometimes mindboggling!  Every family member, it seems, took it upon themselves to work hard to make the palace worthy to open to the public.  We understood perfectly, that the goal was to keep it running so they could keep the palace in the family and not let it go again.

One of the rooms was dedicated to birds where we saw beautiful bird pictures made from real feathers of that particular bird.  They had been re-found in a terrible state, all buggy and water damaged.  William’s wife had the job of getting them restored.  We saw rooms of very old dishes and pottery the family was still using right up to the day they had to flee.  Most of it was incredibly beautiful.  One was a table service for 150! We “met” all the ancestors in huge oil paintings with interesting anecdotes about most so that you almost felt you knew them.

Another huge painting showed the Duchess Maria Manrique de Lara who came from Spain to marry a Nobleman in Prague.  She was given the Infant Jesus of Prague as a wedding gift from her mother.  Then when her daughter, Polyxena, who had married a Lobkowicz, became a widow, she gave the Infant to the Carmelites in the village below the palace called Mala Strana.  Today you can see this Infant Jesus of Prague in the Lady of Victory Church. (I recommend seeing it and learning it’s interesting history.  Legend is that in the 1600’s, during the Thirty Years War, the doll was dumped in a trash heap, re-found and now holds a very important place.)  Read about our visit here.

Also it was pointed out that most of the Lobkowicz’s were dog lovers and to notice how many of the huge oil paintings of ancestors had dogs in them!  We saw splendid furniture; amazing weaponry (which Michael valued at totally priceless); we saw rare books; beautifully painted ceilings.  One of the lovely original oil paintings was “The Hay Harvest” (1565) by Pieter Bruegal the Elder, a Dutch Renaissance painter (thumbnail above) . There were amazing other paintings which were strictly acquired as a “hobby”!  We also saw beautiful religious items in gold and some covered in jewels.  (The Lobkowicz’s were/are Catholic – being vassals of the Hapsburgs).

But the room that moved me to tears…was the room that had some original Beethoven’s and Mozart’s hand written transcripts!  Also a collection of wonderful old violins, oboes, and cello’s.  The 7th Prince Lobkowicz, who was appreciative of the arts, saw in Beethoven something very special.  At that time Beethoven was taking on different patrons so he could write music, but he always had to write what the patron wanted.  What Beethoven truly wanted was to write for himself.  So when Lobkowicz became his patron, Beethoven could then compose music of his own desires.  Beethoven dedicated numerous works to the 7th Prince Lobkowicz, including the 5th, 6th, and 3rd, (Eroica) Symphonies. (From reading I have since done, I realize Beethoven’s time in Prague was only about 1 year but I am sure that Lobkowicz and Beethoven kept in touch over the years.)

All the while I am listening to William telling me this, with Beethoven’s 6th playing in the background, I look down and can actually see the volumes of handwritten music!  Then I walked over to the window and looked down to the village below all silent and carpeted in snow…then I looked over to the Charles Bridge (where so many composers, Haydn, Dvorak, Smetana, Mozart (to name a few) have walked and probably mused over their music compositions) and then I gaze at the many spires in Old Town. I was absolutely and utterly besotted!  The tears just rolled out of my eyes.  To think this beautiful music was written by such an incredibly talented man and that he played it in this very palace… encouraged and appreciated by the Prince who believed in him and his talent!  I wanted to share my feelings with Michael, but could not find my voice without being afraid of sobbing out loud.  So I just stayed quiet and let the music enfold me. One of life’s rare moments and I felt blessed.

The last room to visit was the actual Music Room where daily concerts are held every afternoon.  They play various classics with flute, violin and piano.  In fact, when we first entered the museum we could hear the concert as we visited some of the rooms close by.  Now, how nice is THAT!  Adjacent to the Music room was the Family Chapel with rich red wallpaper and angelic paintings around the windows. Made me wonder how many family “secrets” were confessed, how many “heartaches” were asked for healings, how many children were baptized, or how many marriages were performed?

This was one tour I was very sad to see end.  We lingered with cappuccino’s in the restaurant, we lingered some more in the gift shop where we saw a tapestry of Bruegal’s “Hay Harvest” painting we had seen upstairs and thought how nice it would be to have one on the wall but realized it would not work in our very plain Greek decor. There were lots of “doggie” pillows, but they didn’t appeal.  What did appeal was the beautiful jewelery that was WAY beyond my budget!  I guess I was satisfied to just have seen and buying really wasn’t that important. Well, I did buy a set of playing cards with music notes on the backs.

Anyway, I will carry this lovely visit in my heart for a long time.  Unfortunately, no pictures were allowed, so I am unable to share it with you visually, only in my words.  Which seem rather pathetic and trite compared to the real thing!

We did take a lovely walk both to and from the Palace, so this picture album is of a day I call “Magic Sunday”!

Magic Sunday! A trip to Lobkowicz Palace at Prague Castle
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4 thoughts on “Lobkowicz: The Palace, The Beer and More

  1. Hi Michael & Karin,

    You may remember me from Antiparos. I have been following your blog with interest, and was fascinated by the entry on Lobkowicz Palace. A friend of mine, an art expert from England, has spent several years helping the Lobkowicz family restore the palace and it’s art collection.

    It sounds like you are enjoying your stay in Prague. I look forward to seeing you again sometime when we are all back on Paros.


  2. Karin and Michael,
    I loved this post. We must see this palace when we visit Prague. Thanks for the nicely detailed description. It sounds amazing.

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