Loket Castle: A Gothic experience

By Tracy A. Burns

Loket Castle near Karlsbad

Loket Castle near Karlovy Vary (Karlsbad)
Situated near the popular spa town of Karlovy Vary (Carlsbad or Karlsbad), Loket Castle is an 
outstanding example of Gothic architecture and offers much more than a taste of the Middle Ages. There is also a porcelain museum, an archeology exhibition and a museum of torture instruments.

History of Loket Castle up to the Hussite Wars

Loket Castle was founded during the second half of the 12th century. Originally built in Romanesque style, it was given a Gothic facelift from the 1250s to the 1420s. Even today it is possible to see Romanesque elements. For example, there is a Romanesque rotunda that was not discovered until 1966. The castle has historical significance, too. Queen Eliska Premyslovna and her three-year old son Prince Vaclav were once imprisoned here. Some years later Prince Vaclav would become known as Emperor Charles IV. Interestingly enough, during his tenure as emperor, Charles IV did not avoid the castle where he had once been incarcerated. He even stayed overnight at Loket. Yet the emperor who was a patron of Prague is not the only historical figure associated with Loket. For instance, Johann Wolfgang Goethe toured the town and castle on his 74th birthday in 1823.

Karlovy Vary Tours from Prague

History of Loket Castle from the Hussite Wars up to 1992

Loket Castle was founded during the second half of the 12th century. Originally built in Romanesque style, it was given a Gothic facelift from the 1250s to the 1420s.The Hussites never were able to conquer the castle during the 15th century wars. The Slik family was given the castle in 1434, and they stayed in charge for 100 years. The Silks made quite a name for themselves as they were one of the wealthiest and most powerful clans in the region. However, when they revolted against King Ferdinand I and the Habsburgs in the revolt of the Czech Estates during 1546 and 1547, the castle was confiscated. The Thirty Years’ War also brought much destruction to the town and castle and triggered an economical downfall. This financial decline lasted until the beginning of the 18th century. During 1822 the castle was turned into a prison, and it remained so until 1948. It was only in 1992 that the then dilapidated castle was returned to the town.

The statue of Gottstein and legends

Before exploring the former prison cells and torture chamber that features life-size figures and special sound effects, take a look at the small statue of Gottstein, a gnome-like creature that sports a long, golden beard and holds a club behind his back. A plaque proclaims him the ruler of the Loket cliffs, rocks and underworld. According to a legend, if a person touches the top of Gottstein’s beard, leaves some money and wishes for something good, the wish will come true. However, if a person touches the club behind his back or thinks about something mean, that person will feel Gottstein’s wrath within one year. Before heading inside, also note the Gothic and Renaissance portal constructed out of ochre-colored sandstone.

Other features of Loket Castle

There are breathtaking views from the 26-meter high tower, Romanesque in style. According to legend, the Loket Dragon is hidden there.There are breathtaking views from the 26-meter high tower, Romanesque in style. According to legend, the Loket Dragon is hidden there. The chapel is impressive as is the Ceremonial Hall. In one space a Late Baroque painting features the allegory of Justice. Another painting shows the romantic Svatosske cliffs near the town. Hailing from the reign of Czech King Wenceslas IV (1378 – 1419), frescoes depict a garden of fruit trees. Because the frescoes had been whitewashed several times, the originals were not discovered until 1986.

Weaponry, porcelain and more

Loket Castle near Karlovy Vary (Karlsbad)That’s not all there is to see. A wing at the tower features weaponry and armor. The Museum of Porcelain shows off many old spa cups, such as a tea cup with a view of Karlovy Vary from 1824 and a bath cup depicting a spa colonnade from 1833. Art Deco sculptures, tea sets, plates with floral designs, Baroque vases and porcelain figures are also on display. The town, dating back to the 12th century, has a picturesque main square with opportunities for meals or snacks. A Baroque church nearby boasts a main altar with paintings rendered by Czech master Baroque artist Petr Brandl.

A variety of displays

Loket Castle near Karlovy Vary (Karlsbad)While Loket may not be as popular as Karlstejn or Krivoklat castles near Prague, it has its own charm. Loket offers such a variety of displays – from porcelain to weaponry to art to torture instruments and legends.

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