Prague Castle is surrounded by 7 gardens. Undoubtedly, the most famous is the Royal Garden. It was founded in 1534 at the order of Emperor Ferdinand I on the site of the former vineyards lying to the North of the Stag Moat. It used to be a place for the king and his family to relax and play. Apart from decorative shrubs, the garden was planted with exotic species of trees such as lemon and fig. During the Renaissance period, several Renaissance structures were erected in the garden. You should not miss the Royal Summer Residence, the Royal Ball Game Hall or the extraordinary Renaissance and Baroque sculptures and fountains. The Renaissance era brought a new life-style and new ways of spending time. The rulers and the aristocrats wanted to enjoy their free time in a pleasant environment, so the gardens were very carefully arranged. It had to be symmetrical and decorated with numerous fountains or waterworks.
Royal Summer Residence
The leading architect of the gardens was Giovanni Spatia, from Italy. The most famous building in the Garden is the Royal Summer Residence which was built between 1538 – 1563 as a romantic gift from Emperor Ferdinand I to his wife – Queen Anna Jagiello. The construction was started by the architect Paolo della Stella and after his death, continued by Bonifac Wohlmut. It represents an exceptional work because of the progressive attitude of both architects. Neither of them followed the rules of Renaissance architecture and, in a way, they anticipated future development of this artistic style. Apart from the architectural and the sculptural decoration the building is remarkable especially for its unique Renaissance roof. In front of the building you might find the Singing Fountain dating back to 1564.
It was popular to grow exotic plants in those times. This lifestyle was brought to Prague by Emperor Ferdinand I. He enjoyed exotic plants, so it was possible to find Mediterranean plants such as orange trees, lemon trees and fig trees planted in the garden. As early as 1554, the Royal Garden in Prague was the first place in the whole of Europe to grow tulips, before becoming more popular in the Netherlands. Tulips originally came from Turkey and were much admired, and so later they spread from Prague to the rest of Europe.
The Royal garden was famous not only for plants but also for the Lion Courtyard. It is considered to be the first private zoological garden in Bohemia. Lions were kept at Prague Castle as heraldic animals by the time of Charles IV, and perhaps even earlier. The houses around the Courtyard were built by Ulrico Aostalli in 1583. Today you can find a restaurant here offering a special view of the St Vitus Cathedral.
Royal Ball Game Hall
The Royal Ball Game Hall was built by Bonifac Wohlmut between 1567 and 1569. The Emperor’s courtiers used it for sporting activities with various competitions and games being organised here.
Emperor Rudolph II
The Royal garden was built by Ferdinand I and particularly by his son and vice-regent Ferdinand of Tyrol, and then his successors – Maxmilian II and Rudolph II. A follower of Maxmilian Emperor Rudolph II founded a pheasantry in the Royal Garden in 1604. He also used the Royal Summer Residence as an astronomical observatory. Two of the Emperor‘s famous astronomers, Tycho de Brahe and Johannes Kepler, worked here.
Thirty Years’ War
The Royal Garden was seriously damaged during the Thirty Years´ War. It had to be reconstructed in the second half of 17th century by Leopold I. in the Baroque style. The Baroque garden was originated by the Zinner family, the court gardeners – great proponents of Baroque art.
Fountains And Statues
There is a beautiful Baroque Hercules fountain dating back to 1670 which represents the work of the sculptor Jan Jiří Bendl. The statue Night by M. B. Braun is a reminder of the Baroque modifications of the garden. There was also a new glasshouse built by K. I. Dienzenhofer.
Last Three Centuries Of The Royal Garden
In the 19th century the garden was gradually converted into an English park which, however, fell into a state of disuse by the late 19th century. During the 20th century, further modifications were not carried out until shortly before the Second World War when the architect Pavel Janák reconstructed the small Renaissance garden in front of the Summer Palace. The Royal Garden had been closed for the public for centuries. However it has been recently renovated at great expense – and made accessible to the public. Nowadays, it is only closed during the winter season.
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