Pelhřimov (German: Pilgrams) is a town in Vysočina Region of the Czech Republic. It has about 16,000 inhabitants. It is located approximately halfway between Prague and Brno. It is known as "the Gateway to the Highlands" because of its location in the westernmost tip of the Bohemian-Moravian Highlands. The altitude is 498.63 meters above sea level at the foot of the tower of the Church of St. Bartholomew, and 509.7 meters at the railway station.
Pelhřimov's area of 95 km2 is one of the largest for a town in the Czech Republic. Villages and communities have been integrated for 80 years, which are part of the town and are more than 10 km distant.
The extent of the town includes 24 administrative parts:
Benátky, Bitětice, Čakovice, Chvojnov, Hodějovice, Houserovka, Janovice, Jelcovy Lhotky, Kocourovy Lhotky, Lešov, Lipice, Myslotín, Nemojov, Ostrovec, Pejškov, Pelhřimov, Pobistrýce, Radětín, Radňov, Rybníček, Skrýšov, Služátky, Starý Pelhřimov, Strměchy, Útěchovičky, Vlásenice and Vlásenice-Drbohlavy.
The earliest settlement, in the first half of the 13th century, was probably near St. Vitus church and in Hrnčiřská street. In 1289 it was raided by Vítek of Hluboká. In 1290 King Wenceslaus II granted Bishop Tobias of Bechyně a concession to renovate the town and fortify it with ramparts. The town was first settled mainly by German colonists. Gradually Czechs established themselves as the majority. In the Hussite Wars, Pelhřimov sided with the Hussites and even provided one of their spiritual leaders, Mikuláš (Nicholas) Biskupec of Pelhřimov.
The favourable position of the town, on the borderline of the domain of the Rožmberks and of the lords of Kunštát, was important after the upheavals ended and the reconciliation of the lords began. In 1446-1450 Pelhřimov was chosen as the venue of land diets (parliaments or deliberative councils), attended in person even by King Jiří of Poděbrady. Silver mining, in the vicinity of Křemešník, helped the expansion of Pelhřimov. Many crafts flourished in the town: drapers and clothiers, weavers, dyers, gingerbread makers and brewers. In 1434 the town passed into the hands of the Lords Trček of Lípa, who sold the estate in 1550 to Adam Říčanský of Říčany, who built a castle in the immediate vicinity of the town ramparts.
However, the lords of Říčany did not reside at the castle for long. Adam's son Karel systematically interfered with the rights of the burghers and was involved in endless disputes with them. Finally, in 1572, the town bought its freedom. In 1596 Emperor Rudolf II elevated Pelhřimov to a royal town. The repressions that followed the Uprising of the Estates interrupted the promising expansion of the town. The disaster was completed by a huge fire in 1646, which laid waste most of the town's buildings. Paradoxically, Pelhřimov should now be grateful for the fires, because they contributed to the town's present homogeneity. Another devastating fire ravaged the town in 1766; thanks to it, the town houses are uniformly Renaissance-Baroque.
19th and 20th century
The national revival affected Pelhřimov, just as it affected all other towns in the country. Some of the patriotic associations founded during that period continue their activities until today. The Záboj choir was founded in 1862, Sokol in 1865, the Readers' circle in 1874 and Rieger, an amateur dramatic group, in 1894. The salt house built in 1707 was reconstructed as the National House and is today the Pelhřimov Theatre.The 19th century brought an expansion of industry, principally brush-making, hosiery and the production of agricultural implements. In addition to these industries there was a long tradition of brewing. Beer has been brewed in Pelhřimov since 1552, when the town was granted the privilege of doing so. At first the brewery was located in two houses in Růžová street, on the site now occupied by the Secondary Industrial School. In the 16th century a new brewery was built in the moat behind the deanery. The third brewery, which today brews beer called "Poutník", was built at the end of the 19th century, in an area called Na Hradišti. This lager style beer is not pasteurized and contains no chemical additives.
Pelhřimov has been the birthplace of many notable personalities, such as the painter and engraver Vojtěch Benedikt Juhn, the sculptor and medallist Josef Šejnost, the historian Josef Dobiáš and Dean František Bernard Vaněk. The town also has had many enthusiasts working for the protection of historical monuments. The Museum association was set up in 1901 and ten years later a local branch of the Club for old Prague. Thanks to their activities Pelhřimov has preserved its exceptional appearance, despite the loss of some outstanding landmarks, such as the butcher's hall, the synagogue in Rúžová Street, or a Baroque granary. Pelhřimov preserved, however, some sections of the ramparts, including two huge Gothic gates, which together with the town houses of local burghers, the castle of the lords of Říčany, the theatre and the church form the town's historical precinct.
Legend of the founding of Pelhřimov
Several legends exist about the founding of Pelhřimov. The following legend is one of many, which people passed on from generation to generation. The only fact backed by written documents, is that in the years 1224–1225, the Bishop of Prague was Pelhřim (Peregrinus) of Wartenberg.
According to one legend Bishop Peregrinus, on his way to Rome in 1225–1226, stopped by the spring Bělka and was so captivated by the countryside that he founded a town there, to which he gave his name – Pelhřimov. To keep alive his memory, local burghers put his silhouette on the town emblem.
Another version of the legend goes as follows:
A very long time ago a settlement was established on a hillock in the neighborhood. The view into the countryside was excellent. People in the settlement knew about everyone that travelled on the nearby trade road. Unfortunately, the settlement was pestered by frequent unpleasant winds, and people had to travel long distances, to the plain, to fetch building material. Water was scarce too on the hillock. One day people from the settlement descended into the valley of the river Bělá and there, in the shade of a tree, they saw a man. "Who are you, pilgrim?“ they asked him. "I am Bishop Peregrinus on my way to Rome. And who are you; what are you doing here?“. The people told him about the construction of the settlement and of the difficulties they were encountering. The bishop retorted: "Why don't you build the settlement right here? There is water, wood and fertile soil.“ Many settlers then began building again in the new place, in the valley. Later, when they talked about the name for their new town, they remembered the pilgrim's wise advice and in his honor called the town Pelhřimov.
Employment levels in Pelhřimov have not altered much since the socialist era.
In recent years, the local economy has been focused on tourism — Festival of records and curiosities was founded, which was typical of Pelhřimov. Related to this is the Museum of Records and Curiosities, and also the "Waterfront Records and curiosities", a modified waterfront trail, along the river Bělá, with information panels of various interesting records. The trail begins at the Museum of Records and Curiosities, and ends at the House of good days, containing the exposition of Czech Golden Hands — a unique features of the matches (e.g. small statues made of matches, musical instruments etc.).
In Pelhřimov there are many buildings in different architectural styles, therefore there is a 'Trail of Architectural Styles'.
Other exhibitions in Pelhřimov are: the lookout tower, the Museum of Bugaboos (see below), Gallery M, the Museum of Vysočina, the Memorial Hall of the Lipský Family, Church of st. Vitus, and others.
Pelhřimov is a relatively important industrial center, represented by the food industry, engineering and consumer goods manufacture.
Food processing — especially crops grown and produced in the district — is common. Škrobárny Pelhřimov processes potatoes (starch, animal feed and mash). Milk is processed at a branch of the South Bohemian Dairies, MADETA, on Nádražní Street. The Poutník brewery produces unpasteurized beer.
The most important engineering firm is Agrostroj (a large firm in the south of the town), which manufactures farm machinery.
The United kartáčovny SPOKAR produces a wide range of products from brushes to toothbrushes.
The town has numerous restaurants and accommodation facilities. The largest hotel is the Rekrea (since 2008 out of order and for the sale) in Slovanského bratrství Street. Another major hotel, the Slavia, is in Masaryk Square. There are also a few guest houses.
Road transportPelhřimov lies at the intersection of two primary roads: I/19 Plzeň - Březnice - Tábor - Pelhřimov and I/34 České Budějovice - Jindřichův Hradec - Pelhřimov - Humpolec - Havlíčkův Brod - Svitavy. The D1 runs 15 km north of the town to the Humpolec exit 90.
Pelhřimov had extensive bus services from before 1989. In 2008 a new building was built.
An important route is Brno - Jihlava - Tábor - Strakonice. Another is the connection to the eastern metropolis of South Bohemia - České Budějovice - Jindřichův Hradec.
Rail transportPelhřimov railway station is located 1.5 km south of the railway station square, in an industrial part of the town.
Urban bus servicesUrban bus services are provided by ICOM transport Jihlava (Division Pelhřimov). There are 4 lines. Lines 1 and 3 provide the main transmission lines, lines 2 and 4 are feeders.
There is a theatre in the neoclassical building located on Solní Street. The only cinema in town, the Vesmír, is on the Třída Legií Street. In 2008 it was renovated to include digitized 3D technology. Vesmír is currently the most modern cinema in the Highlands. Several halls of the house of Máj can be used for cultural activities.
Near the bus station there is a large sports complex with an ice stadium, athletic track, football pitch, tennis courts and swimming pools (including indoor).
There are four primary schools (Komenského, Krásovy domky, Pražská and Osvobození), a special school, a grammar school (founded in 1871), a business academy, an hotel school, vocational secondary schools with a boarding houses, and other secondary schools.
Chateau of the Lords of Říčany
Not much is known about the early history of the chateau. Originally, it may have been a Gothic construction of a tower-like character probably from the 15th century. Some remnants have been preserved in the so-called Gothic Hall on the ground floor of the chateau, showing that was part of the municipal fortification system. New parts were added in 1550–1551, when Pelhřimov was owned by Adam Říčanský of Ricany. After the great fire of 1561, this part of the chateau was incorporated into the extensive Renaissance structure, having two storeys.
After the fire of 1682, significant modifications were made in the Baroque style. The changes also involved the Salt Gate, and a new staircase and jail were added. In 1707 a salt-house was built, which is now the Municipal Theatre, in the immediate vicinity of the chateau. The great fire of 1766 destroyed the chateau, too. After the reconstruction which was begun the next year, the chateau gained the appearance, which has survived to this day in its original form (with the exception of some minor decorative alterations). Between the years 1849 and 1907 it was the seat of the District Court, since 1908 it has housed exhibitions of the District Museum.
Church of St. BartholomewThis Gothic building was founded in the late 13th or the beginning of the 14th century. Since 1589 the church exterior shell has been defaced with graffiti. The main Baroque altar and depiction of Calvary, designed by František Bílek, is inside the church.
St. Vitus ChurchIt is the oldest church in Pelhřimov and the former parish church. It was originally built in the Gothic style, which is still evident in the presbytery. During the Hussite wars, in 1422, Pelhřimov fell into the hands of the Taborites, and Utraquist masses were served here. The vaulting and walls of the church interior show scenes from the life and martyr's death of St. Vitus, as well as allegories of Faith, Hope and Charity. Nowadays the church is used as an exhibition and concert hall.
Church of the Holy Cross (Calvary)In 1671 the burgher and alderman Jan Kryštof Blažejovský and his spouse Dorota had a small chapel built near the town. The structure consisted of an ante-chapel, chapel and a replica of the Holy Sepulchre. In 1865 the town council decided to demolish the structure and build a new church. Dean P. Vojtěch Holý had been raising donations for several years. The project by the local builder J. Štěcha was implemented between 1883 and 1886. The church built in the Neogothic style faces the town with a high tower.
Chapel of the Virgin DoloresIn 1658 the burgrave (mayor) of Pelhřimov, Jan Eusebius, had a devotional pillar erected on this site. After Pelhřimov had experienced cases of alleged miraculous healing, accredited to the picture of Virgin Dolores placed on the pillar, a chapel was built on the site by burgher Tobiáš Grötzel in 1710–1714. The pilgrimage site was closed in the reign of Josephine. The crypt of the chapel used to be a burial place for members of burgher families. The town cemetery was transferred here from the Church of St Vitus in 1787 and was used up to 1906.
Lower (Jihlava) Gatehouse
The Gatehouse was built in the 16th century as a part of the fortification system. It is a 5-storeyed construction, 36 metres high. In the gatehouse houses the Museum of Records and Curiosities, which was opened on June 30, 1994, as a unique institution of this kind in Central Europe and is run by the "Dobrý den" Agency.
Upper (Rynárec) GatehouseJust like the Lower Gatehouse, the Upper Gatehouse was built in the 16th century. They marked the way to Rynárec. The clock was installed at the end of the 17th century.
Fountain with the statue of St. JamesThe fountain in the square was first mentioned in 1546. The present-day appearance of the fountain dates back to the year 1848. On top of the column stands a statue of St. James, in a pilgrim's garment, decorated with shells and with a hat.
Municipal TheatreThe original building from 1707 was a salt-house. In 1766 it burned down during a great fire and the salt-house was moved to the granary. In 1882 foundations were laid for the town theatre (The National House).
House of the Šrejnar FamilyThe north-western corner of the square is dominated by house No 10, named after the rich merchant Krystof Srejnar. The house was built in 1614 in the Renaissance style. Currently, it houses a tourist information center and the Memorial Hall of the Lipský Family.
Fara HouseThis house has Baroque façade and a mansard roof. In 1913–1914 it was rebuilt under a project by the well-known Prague architect Pavel Janák in the Cubist style.
Drechsel's VillaIt was built in the Cubist style in 1912–1913 by the local builder Karel Postránecký, under the supervision of architect Pavel Janák for his counsellor and district hetman Jan Drechsel.
Ruins of St. AnnaThis chapel was founded in 1699 and originally was dedicated to the Transfiguration of Our Lord. Under the communist regime it was demolished; now there are only the perimeter walls.
Lookout towerFrom the 30-metre-high tower there is a great view on Pelhřimov and the surrounding landscape.
There is a belfry, with historic photographs of Pelhřimov, in the top part of the tower. The bells together weigh over 4 tonnes.
Museum of Bugaboos
A unique display of bugaboos occurring in the Bohemian-Moravian Highlands in the past as well as at present. The exhibits are mostly made of wax and are life-size. The Museum is in the cellars of the former Burgrave's House, No. 17, Masaryk Square.
Museum of RecordsThe Museum of Records is one of the few institutions of its kind on the Continent, and the only one in Central Europe. It is housed in an historical gatehouse, which in the past served as part of the fortifications of the town, and was called Jihlavská brána (The Lower Gatehouse or Jihlava Gatehouse).
Thanks to collectors and makers of all possible and impossible things, an unrivalled collection, unseen anywhere else in the world, has been collected in the five newly reconstructed storeys of the exhibition. There are mini-sized as well as giant objects, strong men and tumblers, makers of endless puzzles, and dare-devils jumping from 80 metres.
Golden Czech handsThe exhibition located in “The House of Good Days” is unique in the world. Tomáš Korda from Vrchlabí has spent 40 years of his life making these objects. During an unbelievable 63,310 hours of work, he has made dozens of buildings using an incredible 820,215 matches and match-heads.
Muzeum of VysočinaHighlands Museum Pelhřimov focuses primarily on issues of regional history and ethnography.
The first section of the exhibition is devoted to two important personalities Josef Šejnosta (art, sculptor and medal) and his son Zdeněk Šejnosta (sculptor and restorer).
The second section focusses on middle class life in the 19th century, the culture, clothing, housing and social life.
The third section is devoted to the town hall and town jail.
Memorial Hall of the Lipský FamilyThe Commemoration Hall of the Lipský Family was set up in the ground-floor premises of house No. 10 in Masarykovo Square, the so-called Šrejnarovský dům – House of the Šrejnar Family. Of the Lipský family, most people especially remember Oldřich Lipský, the director, and his brother Lubomír, the actor. Much work for theatre and television has also been done by other members of this dynasty of artists.
The exhibition is divided into three parts. The first one gives information about the Lipský brothers' lives and work. The second part of the exhibition is devoted to movie-making; there is a cinema where you can see a sample of the Lipský brothers' best-known movie scenes. The third part is named after the film “Velká filmová loupež (The Great Film Robbery)“ made by Oldřich Lipský.
This project has been realised with financial help from the Vysočina Fund.
Vojtěch Benedikt Juhn (1779–1843), painter
Josef Dobiáš (1888–1970), historian and classical philologist, member of the Academy of Sciences
Lubomír Lipský (1923–2015), actor
Oldřich Lipský (1924–1986), film director and screenwriter
František Vyskočil (born 1941), neurophysiologist
Jan Kůrka (born 1943), sports shooter, Olympic winner
Jiří Novotný (born 1983), ice hockey player
Tomáš Sivok (born 1983), football player
Martin Frk (born 1993), ice hockey player
Libor Šulák (born 1994)], ice hockey player
Twin towns – sister cities
Pelhřimov is twinned with:
Dolný Kubín, Slovakia
St. Valentin, Austria