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History of Literature in the Český Krumlov Region

Liber depictus, Český Krumlov early 14th century, St. Vitus and jugglers In comparison with other regions of Bohemia and the regions along the Dunaj river, the region of Český Krumlov was settled quite late. That is also why literature came at the time of intensive colonisation in the second half of the 13th century. In the 13th century this region became a centre of the growing power of the Witigonen. This distant region of South Bohemia also drew the attention of the Czech king Přemysl Otakar II who thought this could be a connecting point between the newly built union of Bohemia and Austria and of course he felt competition from the Witigonen. An expression of the interest on both power centres, royal Praha and the Witigonen, is the foundation of two Cistercian monasteries - Vyšší Brod monastery established by Wok von Rosenberg in 1259 and Zlatá Koruna monastery that was established by king Přemysl Otakar II in 1263.

Both of these spiritual institutions that were given a large feudal background, quickly became the centres of the civilisation progress. The refined background of the Cistercians that was closely connected with their mother monastery in Burgundy, called for a need for books. At first the type of literature that was comprised of theology and the liturgy, was slowly supplied with original work in both monasteries during the 14th century. They were for example in both monasteries copies of famous European writers and also local themes that give evidence about a crisis in church before the Hussite wars at the turn of the 14th and 15th centuries. A huge library containing about 70,000 volumes was preserved until today in the interiors of the Vyšší Brod monastery (Monastic Library in Vyšší Brod). It never suffered from any serious disaster in the past and that is why it represents the second most valuable historical library in the Czech Republic - considering the importance of the Middle Ages manuscripts (220 of them are on parchment) and the intactness of the preserved complex. The library in the Zlatá Koruna Monastery broke up in 1785 when emperor Josef II abolished the whole monastery.

In an effort to reach the standard of the Praha's court we can also see literary ambitions among the aristocracy at the court of the Rosenbergs in Český Krumlov at the beginning of the 14th century. The so-called Rosenberg Book is very significant monument of old Czech law prose and for example the richly illuminated manuscript of theological content, the so-called Memorial Volume of Český Krumlov. The significance of Český Krumlov as a cultural centre arose in the second half of the 14th century and especially in the 15th century. In 1380 a chapel library was founded by the archdean of St. Vitus church on the initiative of Václav of Rovné and also a town school was established. And the 15th century was especially important for the town because it became a residential town of the aristocracy and a refuge for the Catholic orientated clergy from all over Bohemia.

Krumlov memorial volume, beginning of the 15th century, devil stuffing sinners into the jaws of hell The Hussite period, that caused an acceptance of humanistic ideas later in Bohemia, did not touch Český Krumlov. On the contrary - it forced the Rosenbergs and financially very well provided Catholic townspeople to look for the new contacts abroad. It was especially important in the sending of higher and higher numbers of students to the foreign humanistic schools. A group of the middle classes orientated in humanism was established around the Rosenberg's chancellor Václav z Rovného at the end of the 15th century. Some of those people were former students of the Italian universities. Václav z Rovného owned a big collection of ancient papers and he kept correspondence with a Bologna humanist Filip Beroald Starší. Many of chancellor's books were preserved until today in the Minorite library in Český Krumlov. Today this library is placed in Zlatá Koruna. The humanistic ideas became common among the middle classes of Český Krumlov later in the twenties of the 16th century.

The libraries had a great support from both of the last Rosenbergs - Wilhelm and Peter Wok, both of them followed previous funds that already in the pre-Hussite period surpassed the standard of other aristocratic libraries in the Czech lands. Under the rule of Peter Wok von Rosenberg the library was extended to more that 11,000 volumes. It was at that time - in the beginning of the 17th century - the biggest fund in the central Europe. At a later stage the library was passed over to the collections of Rudolf II. von Habsburg and together with these collections became the spoils of war of the Swedish army after the Thirty Years' War in the middle of the 17th century. Václav Březan, the archivist of the Rosenbergs, who made its register and the secretary Theobald Hock from Zweibrücken, who is also said to be the first poet of the German Baroque, had a great merit in this library.

In the 17th and 18th centuries the attention that was given to the literature in the Český Krumlov region was especially connected with dramatic production. It took place at the court of the Eggenbergs and in the Jesuit college in Český Krumlov. The Eggenbergs´ library tells us a lot about the interest in literature of the members of this family. In 1719 it had 2,296 volumes mostly printed in Roman languages and they had no devotional content.

Apart of the funds of the prelat´s and Jesuits´ libraries in Český Krumlov, the fund of the Cistercian monastery in Vyšší Brod was getting extended. Under the administration of the abbots Quirin Mickl and Hermann Kurtz in the middle of the 18th century the library was reconstructed in the Baroque style and set a very ambitious aim for itself, but this time it was finally: to get together the literature of all fields of human knowledge. At the end of the 18th century the monastery had to give up this aim and to focus itself only on devotional literature and its own scientific activity. The reason for this was quite clear - the influences of the church on social events slowly diminished. Xaver Maxmilian Millauer (1784 - 1840), who came from the Cistercian monastery, was the most significant personality of that time. Later on he was promoted to rector of the university of Praha.

At the beginning of the 19th century the southern part of the Pošumaví regions became more and more only a peripheral area not just in economy but also in culture. In the Czech-German border-lands the dominating question of language became important. This was linked to the rising material and social emancipation of the middle classes. The Czech National Revival touched the Český Krumlov region only lightly and it is represented with only two of the more significant revivalists of the region - Josef Vlastimil Kamarýt (1797 - 1833) who came from Velešín, and Antonín Borový, a teacher from Zlatá Koruna (1755 - 1832).

Antiphone from the end of the 15th century, music of latin song The regions around Český Krumlov were markedly more settled with German settlers. At the turn of the 18th and 19th centuries mainly the popular theatrical culture was developing. The plays of knighthood, robbers, Christmas and especially Passion Plays with the text of Paul Gröllhesel are very famous. These plays became famous lately during the Passion Plays in Hořice na Šumavě.

Of course the most famous personality of the Český Krumlov region in literature was Adalbert Stifter (1805 - 1868), who wrote in the German language. This native from Horní Planá also stayed in touch with the Šumava region at the time when he became famous outside the region. He was excellent in describing nature. Also Josef Gangl (1868 - 1918), a writer who as well as Stifter wrote in the German language, and Hans Watzlik (1879 - 1948) were very talented authors.

After the evacuation of the German settlers at the end of forties, when the important ecclesiastical institutions were abolished and some of the cultural institutions were closed down in the Český Krumlov and Kaplice regions, a whole part of South Bohemia was hurt and fell silent in literature. We can see some signs of restoration to life only after 1989.

Institutions with the biggest book funds in the Český Krumlov region :

Cistercian Vyšší Brod monastery: a historic monastery library
Český Krumlov State castle: a historic castle library
Former Cistercian Zlatá Koruna monastery: a department of the manuscripts and valuable incunabula of the State Scientific Library in České Budějovice public library
Český Krumlov: Municipal Library in Český Krumlov; public library.


Further information :
Tales and Legends of the Český Krumlov Region
The Český Krumlov Region in Literature
Český Krumlov in Literature
The Manual of Joan Staicz in Vyšší Brod monasterial library
The Oldest manuscripts in Vyšší Brod cloister
The first prints in monasterial library in Vyšší Brod