EU funds help: Across the border for a shared medieval history (VIDEO)
23. 8. 2023
The year 2020 marked the most extensive construction project in the history of the town of Havlovice in the Trutnov district. The Czech-Polish project 'In the Footsteps of our Shared Medieval History', which aimed to connect the Vízmburk castle and the Polish Zabkowice Slaskie with an educational trail, also included the roofing of the castle. Thanks to a contribution from EU funds, the unique building has been saved as well as opened to tourists.
Vízmburk - The newly accessible castle welcomed its first visitors in May 2021. Until then, it had never been officially opened to the public. After that, additions were made to the exhibition displays. Replicas of a medieval stove, medieval furniture, and a Gothic window were created. The soul of the Czech part of the project was the Association for Vízmburk, which has been taking care of the castle since 2008.
The association mainly hopes that the project will boost visitor attendance at the castle. "The goal was for visitors from the Czech Republic and Poland to discover new lesser-known sights and thus unveil the unknown beauties of the Czech-Polish borderland. We believe that we have succeeded in it with this project and that the goal will be achieved in the coming years," says Jaroslav Balcar from the Association for Vízmburk.
Part of the Czech-Polish project was also the ceremonial opening of the castle, which was attended by seven hundred visitors. The project was finally concluded in the summer of 2022 with the installation of educational signs at selected heritage sites in the area. The cross-border educational trail, spanning over 200 kilometres, connects 19 sites. Of these, seven are in Poland, with the castle in Zabkowice Slaskie being among the most significant. This location in Kladsko was incorporated into the territories of the Czech Crown by Charles IV. After his demise, confrontations ensued between the Hussites and their adversaries. The castle in Zabkowice Slaskie was the first Renaissance castle in Silesia.
And thanks to several EU-funded projects, the site has been expensively renovated and has become a tourist attraction.
A COMPLEX PROJECT
Given that the budget of the castle's renovation exceeded CZK 18 million, the project was a significant challenge for the enthusiasts. The grant covered 80 percent of this amount. Several companies, capable of handling such work, were selected for the renovation of the castle.
Masonry and stonework began in January 2021. The masons first constructed the perimeter walls and cleaned the cellars. In April, they repaired the collapsed arches of the southern cellar. All work was carried out under the close scrutiny of the staff of the National Heritage Institute. The professional quality of the work was personally supervised by Jiří Balský, the director of the Institute’s regional branch in Josefov. "Every two weeks, a site meeting was held, attended by representatives of the contractors and the designer. In the next months, the masons embedded 38 steel bases into the perimeter walls and into the spaces of the castle rooms," Jaroslav Balcar describes. These bases support the roofing of the entire structure.
The majority of the work at the castle was done using medieval techniques. Even the mortar was prepared based on a medieval formula. "Gradually, the entire castle was repaired. The walls were restored up to the height documented by archaeological research from the 1970s. The main help were photos from the archive of the National Heritage Institute taken during the research, all of which we have at our disposal," continues the vice chairman of the association who even mortgaged his own house for the sake of the reconstruction.
The EU grant was only paid in the course of the project and after the building's approval inspection. The association had to take out a loan to be able to pay the bills for the construction work. “My family gave me the nod," Balcar said with a smile, reflecting on the risky move.
In the next step, a crane was moved to the construction site. Transporting it, along with the steel structures, up the steep hill to the castle was a feat of daring. "Without a large crane, however, handling the 12-meter beams would not have been possible," Jaroslav Balcar explains. In the end, the steelworkers installed the entrance staircase as well as the stairs and railings on the tower. "We managed to complete everything according to plan. It was a very demanding year, as it was necessary to daily inspect the construction and address any discrepancies immediately. However, our reward is the flawlessly executed, high-quality work that future generations will benefit from," Jaroslav Balcar boasts.
Besides construction crews, volunteers also contributed their efforts. Over the years, the volunteers have put in countless hours at the castle and continue to do so this season. This year, the castle exhibition has been enriched with a medieval sideboard, a weapon stand, and a kitchen shelf. Vízmburk is open during the summer holidays every day from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Photo: Jiří Šmeral