Sight of interest in Opava
Silesian Hospital and Psychiatric Hospital
The complex of pavillions of the Psychiatric Hosptial built in 1889 in the Renaissance style is a remarkable sight. When it was first opened, the hospital had the capacity of 200 patients. It steadily grew to accommodate 1,100 patients before World War I. The adjacent Silesian Hospital was built ten years after the Psychiatric Hospital according to an Art Noveau project caled Light designed by the architect F. Ruppel, the construction was overseen by the architect Adolf Müller from Opava. In 1990 seven of the pavillions including the directorate building were declared national heritage.
Nursing Care Museum: http://nemocnice.opava.cz/muzeum-osetrovatelstvi
Pathology Museum: http://nemocnice.opava.cz/muzeum-patologie
The Baroque palace was built in 1737 on the site of former noblemen houses. In 1800 Count Larisch-Mönnich bought the house. His daughter married G. Blücher. In the years 1932–1938 the building housed the Czechoslovak Agricultural Museum. Today the palace is a depository of the Silesian Museum.
Boží koutek (God’s Corner)
The house no. 53 called Boží koutek was formed by joinging two older houses, a late Gothic one in the north and a Rennaisance one in the south. On the ground and first floors great halls (maashauses) have been preserved including beam ceilings with paintings from the 17th century. Today there is a shop in the house.
Former Department Store Breda
The department store was built for the Breda-Weinstein company in the years 1927–1928. It was designed by the architect Leopold Bauer from Vienna. The five-storey corner building with a two-storey basement and a profiled facade was furnished with the latest technical equipment. In his design of the building Bauer found inspiration in the American architecture, especially the work of Henry Sullivan.
Spořitelna (Savings Bank)
The architectonically interesting building designed in the style of the German Neo-Renaissance was built by Karel Kern in the years 1900–1902. The facade is adorned with allegoric figures representing agriculture, crafts, and business made by the sculptor Franz Baumgartner from Vienna. In 2004 the building underwent an extensive reconstruction.
After a series of lost wars waged by Maria Theresa against Prussia in the mid-18th century most of Silesia was lost and the Habsburg Monarchy borders changed substantially. Since Opava became a border town, permanent garrison was set up in town to reinforce the imperial army, which was present in Opava since the end of the Thirty Years’ War.
From the end of the 1740s the military quarters in Rybí Market housed 180 infantrymen. In 1835 stables for 40 horses were added. At the end of the 19th centrury the barracks closed down. In 1778 the town was occupied by the Prussian army during the War of the Bavarian Succession (so called Potato War). The following year Emperor Joseph II visited Opava and he abandonded his original plan to turn the town into a fortress. The town fortifications were then torn down. In 1847–1849 Franz Joseph’s barracks were built close to the demolished Jaktařská Gate. The three-storey building, which stood next to the site where the department store Breda&Weinstein was to be built, housed almost seven hunderd soldiers. After the consitution of the Czechoslovak Republic, the building was known as Old Barracks. It was torn down in 1939. In Krnovská Street close to the power plant stood Archduke Albrecht’s Barracks (Small Barracks). Not far away the Archduke Reiner’s Barracks (New Barracks) were built at the end of the 19th century. The barracks housed the militiamen and later the 15th regiment of the Czechoslovak Army. In 1966 the barracks were turned into Jan Žižka of Trocnov Grammar School, then into Silesian Grammar School. Today the buildings house departments of the Municipal Authority. There were other premises for the army in Opava – a shooting range near Palhanec from 1839, storehouse for gunpowder in Kasárenská Street, army headquarters (later Army House, today the Silesian University Rectorate), army hospital in Republiky Square from 1846, or coachmen barracks in today’s Jaselská Street.
The Principality of Opava originally belonged to administration districts which provided recruits for various units. This chaned mid-19th century when Opava belonged to Franz Joseph’s First Infantry called Kaiser or Kaiserinfatry or Einser. This unit, whose soldiers wore dark red shoulder boards and yellow buttons, fought in the battle of Trutnov in the Austro-Prussian War in 1866. Towards the end of the 19th century, Conrad von Hötzendorf, later field marshal and chief of the general staff in the Austrian army in World War I, became the unit’s commander. After 1912 there was only the 3rd battalion in Opava, the first two battalions were relocated to the Polish Krakow and Bosnian Mostar. In 1914 there was the 15th Landwehr regiment in Opava. In October 1915 Heliodor Píka was conscripted into the regiment. In 1917 the regiment changed into the 15th rifle regiment (Schützenregiment). There was also a reserve company of the 16th hunting battalion in Opava. Before World War I, there were 2,000 soldiers, 100 army officers, and 250 horses in Opava.
By then the largest military quarters in Opava were Rudolph’s Artillery Barracks. The main part was built in the years 1887–1889 as a project of F. Puchner and E. Labitzký in cooperation with M. Hartel on the site behind today’s railway station Opava-západ. The entry into the premises is in the upper part of Horovo Square with a staircase and a terrace and two buildings with avant-corps on their corners that served as quarters for officers. Large closed space with a central yard is formed by three historicizing buildings for the men. The 10-hectare premises further included stables, prisson, utility buildings, riding hall, garden, and even tennis courts and a football pitch.
After the constitution of the Czechoslovak Republic the barracks were named Masaryk’s Barracks, and when some of the headquarters and units relocated to Hranice na Moravě, it housed the 8th artillery regiment and the 15th infantry. When the Czech border fortifications were under construction in 1936, the barracks housed Engineering Group Headquarters IV. In March 1938 IV. Hlučin battalion and 4th Hranice regimen were accommodated in the barracks. In 1938 the area around Opava was one of the best fortified places near the Nazi Germany borders. Following the Munich Agreement, the German army entered the town without fight and seized all the military quarters in Opava. None of the buildings were damaged during World War II. After the war had ended, the barracks were taken over by the Red Army, and in summer 1945 the Czechoslovak Army. Masaryk’s Barracks again housed artillery, first with horse-drawn cannons. Part of the barracks temporarily served as an internation camp for the German inhabitants before they were resettled. After the Czechoslovak coup d’état, the barracks were renamed Dukla Barraks and became the seat of various army units, e. g. the 5th geodetic detachment. Worth mentioning are the events of August 1968 when the Sovied Army was prevented from entering the barracks, which resulted in sanctions for those participating in the protest. Training later changed to logistics (rearward services), and the 53rd training logistics centre was set up, which from 1999 carried the name of the army general Heliodor Píka. The unit did an outstanding job in helping to eliminate the consequences of the catastrophic floods of 1997 and 2002. The state-mandated military service ended in 2004, and the unit dissolved in 2005. Two years later most of the premises passed on to the town of Opava.
U bílého koníčka (The White Horse) House
The townhouse from the end of the 16th century has a typical wide vaulted maashaus. Among others, Jan Zacpal, the editor of the newspaper Opavský deník, used to live there. Today the vaulted ceiling arches over a trendy tavern.
U mouřenína (The Blackamoor’s) House
U mouřenína House is one of the buildings in twon that survived bombing in spring 1945. It is situated in Mezi trhy Street, which connects Horní and Dolní Squares. The heart of the house is early Baroque, the facade dates to 1730; it is decorated with stucco and medallions with eagles and portraits of imperators. The attic is adorned with busts of two blackamoors and ancient Greek divinities, Palas Athena and Ares. There used to be a pharmacy in the house.
Dům umění (House of Arts) – Dominican Monastery
For half a millenium, the space between today’s Pekařská, Mnišská, and Solná Streets with its convent and adjacent Church of St. Wenceslaus belonged to the Dominican Order. This Order of Preachers dates its presence in town to 1291 when according to a no longer existing document Nicholas I founded a monastery near the fortifications in the northern part of town. The first surviving reference to the Dominican Order is the list of Dominican convents penned in 1303 by the inquistior Bernard Guy, who became notorious thanks to Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose.
The monastery was built close to the town fortifications, which strengthened their defensive function. The construction took several decades. The first permanent part of the monastery to replace the temporary convent was the east wing with a rectangular sacristy, and a chapter hall with refectory. A cloister with paradise garden was constructed in the 14th century. The ambulatory with a cross vault opened into a garden with broken arches. In the 15th century the monastery and church roof trussing got heavily damaged in three fires. In the years 1541–1542 the prior and all thirty monks succumbed to plague. Since there was a shortage of Dominicans in Bohemia, the King’s committee decided to incorporate the convent in Opava into the Polish Dominican Order and brought Polish monks to the monastery. In 1556 the monastery burned down and due to disputes with the Lutheran officers the reconstruction dragged on. In the last two decades of the 16th century the monastery was repeatedly raided and plundered by the Lutherans.
The following century started off with extensive construction changes when a Renaissance bell turret and a side entry from the church to the Gothic chapel of St. Mary Magdalene were built. In the course of the Thirty Years’ War and in the 1620s the monastery was twice occupied by the invading army, and it also burned down. In 1651 the monastery library was heavily damanged in one of the worst fires in the history of the place. The buildings underwent only a provisional reconstruction. After the monastery had returned into Czech hands, it underwent a general Baroque overhaul in the years 1723–1724. Overseen by the architects J. J. Hausrucker and J. Rieth, the monastery turned into a two-storey building, the east wing was extened and a west wing was added. The cloister and chapter hall got a new vaulted ceiling. In 1758, five years after the great fire, a dog-leg staircase was built.
The monastery dissolved during the Joseph’s reforms, which was not originally planned, but as the order was indebted, in 1786 it requested liquidation to settle its debts. The church then experienced 150 years of hardships. Two years after the convent had been dissolved, the buildings were taken over by the army. From the end of the 18th century, the east and north wings housed first elementary, then secondary schools. The west wing was sold into private hands and it was turned into a townhouse. In the 1820s the west portal and tower were torn down. The church underwent a minor reconstrucion at the beginning of the 20th century, and after World War II there were efforts to reinstate it. However, the monastery was gradually falling into disrepair, in the years 1948–1949 the west wing was torn down, and in the 1960s the town council was even considering demolishing the whole complex. This intent was not realised, and in the years 1967–1974 the former convent underwent a complete reconstrucition.
The monastery was turned into an elementary art school, wine bar U Přemka, and town gallery Dům umění (House of Arts). According to Leopold Plavec’s design, the renewed atrium and cloister were paved with marble tiles, fitted with iron forged bars and railing from Alfred Habermann, and lighting from the glassmaker František Vízner.
In 1976 the sculpture Utíkající dívka (Running Girl) by the Opava native Kurt Gebauer was placed outside the gallery. Although it was often presented as a pride of socialistic culture, even during the socialistic regime Dům umění offered a quality art non-conforming to the period political situation. The change of atmosphere after November 1989 brought new impulses reflected in the management of the gallery, but the technical conditions gradually failed to meet the standards. The building was completely reconstructed in the years 2010 and 2011. The atrium was roofed and is now a part of the cloister. Today the gallery is run by Opavská kulturní organizace (Opava Cultural Organization).
Filípkův dvůr (Filípek’s Yard)
Filípkův dvůr in Kateřinky is a quaint farmstead with a house and farm buildings arranged to form a square yard. The farmstead was built in the first half of the 18th century and was reconstructed in the 19th century. It bears evidence of the influence of offical art on the folk architecture. On the corners of the one-storey building with a gable roof there are two cylindrical turrets with cupolas. The rooms have tunnel and cross vaulted ceilings. A plastered wall with double gate and a little foot traffic gate enclose the yard. Next to the gate there is a Chapel of Corpus Christi.
St. Barbara’s Franciscan Church and Franciscan Monastery
The Franciscan Monastery with St. Barbara’s Church was founded by Count Š. Jindřich of Vrbno in 1665. After the monastery had dissolved, the buildings were used as storehouses and then until 1805 as a hospital. Today the complex is occupied by the Silesian Museum.
Feast of the Holy Cross Chapel
The chapel was built by the Sisters of Mercy of Virgin Mary of Jerusalem at the beginning of the 19th century in today’s Matiční Street. A doctor from Opava, Leopoled Heiderich, decided to rebuild the former Franciscan Monastery at the corner of Ostrožná and Beethovenova Streets (former Klášterní Street) and turn it into a hospital, which was later supported by the Sovereign Military Order of Malta. The town made an agreement with Ferdinad D’Este, the Grand Master of the order, that the hospital would be run by the Sisters of Mercy of Virgin Mary of Jerusalem. The female branch of the orders was thus restored in Opava. In the years 1841–1842 a new monastery building was added to the Hedrich’s Hospital. The construction was supervised by the order’s architect Anton Onderka. Today the simple three-storey two-wing Empire building houses the Church Convervatoire Opava. It is worth noting that before the hospital was relocated to the newly built complex in Olomoucká Street at the turn of the 20 century, the Order of Malta built their own hospital in the nearby Popská Street in 1883. The hospital provided free care for the poor. To this day the site is known as U rytířů (At the knights).
The original chapel was built presumably around 1864 in the monastery yard as a single-nave building with a flat presbytery adorned with a gold monstrance and a wing door panel from the 15th century by Jan Henneken van Wouvere. The surviving design by Josef Hruschka from 1902 documents the need to build a larger sanctuary. Five years later Ferdinand Zdralek nad Sigmund Kulka, who inherited Hruschka’s construction company, came up with a new design which was realised the following year. Archduke Eugen of Austria, the Grand Master of the order, was present at the opening ceremony. The Neo-Gothic single-nave building with a pentagonal presbytery is segmented by buttresses with arched windows. The south gable has a small octagonal turret with a pyramidal spire. The portal, which is in the east, has a tympanum adorned with a relief of the Grand Master’s emblem with tendrils of grapevine. The inside is rhytmized by pendant posts with capitals supporting a star vaulted ceiling. The presbytery, which is separated from the nave by a broken triumphal arch, has a simpler radial ribbed vault. There was an access to the church from the monastery via organ-loft. The upper part was then directly accessible to the nuns. The lower part was reserved for the public.
After February 1948 the nuns were evicted and the space was used by the Order of St. Borromeo. In the 1980s an order was issued to clear the chapel away. Fortunately, the chapel furnishing was salvaged and moved elsewhere. The altar was hidden in Melč. After 1989 the monastery property was returned to the Sisters of Mercy of Virgin Mary of Jerusalem. The reconstruction of the chapel and restoration of statues and altar were finished in 1994 when the chapel was consecrated and opened to public.
St. Elizabeth’s Chapel
This originally Gothic chapel-turned-church was built by the the Teutonic Order. The baroquized church with a preserved painting of St. Elizabeth of Hungary by F. I. Leicher was used as a funeral chapel. Today it belongs to the Orthodox Church and it occasionally hosts cultural events.
Chapel of the Holy Cross – Swedish Chapel
At the end of the 14th century Przemko I, Duke of Opava, decided to have a representative chantry chapel built on a hill by an important trade route on the way to Raciborz. The chapel was to represent the Duke’s position in town. Today the chapel is one of the few representatives of Silesian Brick Gothic in the area. The art-historical value of the chapel has increased with the discovery of a 15th century cycle of 15 wall paintings depicting the Apocalypse.
The chapel’s octagonal floor plan is reminiscent of a church in Karlov, Prague. The closest analogy to the building can be found in the Silesian Reichenbach. The chapel was presumably built by the same architect who was in charge of building the town church.
The central octagonal hall with seven buttresses had a rectangular sacristy with adjacent cylindrical turret. The spiral staircase led to a depository. The lower part of the chapel is made of quarry stone with a profiled ledge, the upper part is made of a decorative glazed gotic brick. There are two portals made of tuffite. The same material was used for no longer existing broken arch windows. The original star vaulted ceiling has likewise not been preserved.
In the course of the 15th century, presumably during Przemko’s lifetime, the chapel was adorned with wall paintings depicting the Day of Judgment legends. The paintings are embellished with ornaments and have German captions. The paintings were discovered at the turn of the 20th century and since then they have undergone several restorations. Most of the paintings have been irretrievably damaged, a torso of three successive paintings on five walls of the octagonal room has been preserved. Despite the damage the paintings represent one of the most valuable relics of the late style. When the chapel was passed on to the successive Dukes of the Poděbrad Family, the sons of George of Poděbrady had themselves immortalized in paintings of two half-figures around the portal.
In the second quarter of the 17th century Opava was not spared the hardships of the Thirty Years’ War. The town was occupied first by the Danes, and then the Swedish Army. The Swedes allegedly used the chapel for religious purposes, which gave the chapel its common name – the Swedish Chapel. As a matter of interest, in 1742 the building stood on the border between the Austrian and Prussian part of Silesia. In the 1780s during Joseph’s reforms, the chapel was deconsecrated, and it then served as a storehouse or contribution granary. In 1859 the chapel burned down and the owners considered tearing the it down. In an effort to save the building the Association for the Restoration of the Chapel of the Holy Cross was founded in 1897. The inauspicious fate was finally averted in 1907 when the Silesian Diet bought the chapel from private hands and began with gradual restoration. In 1912 during one stage of the reconstruction the frescos were discovered. So far the last part of the restoration took place in 1996 when the chapel was entered on the list of national cultural heritage and when it also opened to public.
Co-cathedral of the Assumption of Virgin Mary
The co-cathedral is the largest religious building in Opava and a dominant of Horní Square. Originally a parish church of the Assumption of Virgin Mary, it is one of the most significant representatives of the Silesian Brick Gothic. The church is closely connected with the Teutonic Order, which came to Opava in 1204. A document issued by King Wenceslaus I in 1237 says that “knights with a black cross” owned a parsonage in Opava. We can therefore conclude that there was a Romanesque religious building in the place of today’s co-cathedral.
At the end of the 13th century a solid prismatic tower was built, followed by a higher south tower in the beginning of the 14th century. It was presumably built as a city tower and only later it was passed on to church. The new parish church was built on the initiative of the town council. The council then competed with the order for power over the church. The oldest part of the church is the presbytery supported with massive pillar buttresses. The north pillar fell down after some time damaging the corner of the church, but the south pillar remains to this day. Nave and transept adjoining the towers were built in the mid-14th century. Towards the end of the century the order initiated the building of a vestibule before the west portal, which was situated opposite the commandry.
There was a rood screen in the church dividing the presbytery with the altar of Virgin Mary from the main nave where the public observed the Mass. After a fire in 1461 the screen was torn down and it was not built again. Once the building of the nave and transept were finished, the interior was furnished with altars mostly financed by rich townsmen. Further additions to the church were the sacristy built in the north part of the presbytery, and a chapel for the town council in the south transept. A rich patrician Rejnček financed a chapel in the south part of the presbytery. The chapel was later rebuilt by townsman Mikluláš Dreymandel and furnished with a panel painting of the Holy Trinity from 1452. The painting has survived to this day. In the second half of the 15th century the town council commissioned the church to build a vestibule in the north part of the presbytery. The vestibule then served as an entry to the church for the town councillors and their families. The monumental main altar, which was one of the biggest and most spectacular altars in Bohemia, was also finished in the second half of the 15th century. The construction of the church came to a symbolic end in 1540 when an alure and octagonal extension were built.
From the second half of the 16th century, Renaissance paintings and stone grave ledgers of the deceased were being painted. Some of the ledgers are now placed in the west and south halls. Renaissance panelling and window bars on the north wall of the presbytery leading to the old sacristy have been preserved. Unlike the outside of the church, the inside, which was heavily damaged by a fallen roof in the great fire of Opava in 1689, has not kept its medieval appearance. The necessary reconstruction was carried out by architects G. Hausrucker and J. Zeller, who removed the Gothic vaults and replaced them with Baroque ones. An extensive Baroque renovation followed another fire in 1758 when the town architect J. G. Werner changed the presbytery interior.
Renovations in the 18th century were carried out in the Classistic style. During this time the nave and transept were rebuilt, and in the north a semi-circle chapel of St. John of Nepomuk was built. The painting from the end of the 17th century, which is now on display in St. Anna’s Chapel, is the oldest image of the saint in Czech Silesia. In the presbytery there is an epitaph of Karl I, Prince of Liechtenstein, made by the sculptor J. G. Lehner from Opava. The main baldachin altar with six Corinthian columns carrying a crown with a cross, sculptures of the Assumption of Virgin Mary, St. Elizabeth, and St. George were made by Josef Schubert, who is also the author of six other altars in the side chapels. A marble font with a sculpture of the baptism of Jesus also made by Josef Schubert, and a Classistic pulpit have been preserved to this day. The transept is decorated with paintings by F. I. Leichner, and there is a collection of nine paintings depicting Virgin Mary’s life by Ignác Raab.
At the end of the 19the century it was proposed to restore the church to its previous medieval state. However, the design by architect von Hauberisser was not realized because of lack of finances as well disapproval of the incoming generation of preservationists. Only partial changes were realized at the beginning of the 20th century. Just like many other buildings in Opava, the church was damaged in World War II and underwent reconstruction in the following decades. An important milestone in the history of the church was the year 1996 when it became the second Episcopal church of the Ostrava-Opava diocese, and therefore a co-cathedral. In 1995 the co-cathedral was added on the list of national cultural heritage.
Holy Trinity Church
Holy Trinity Church in the former suburbs Jaktař was built outside Opava, just like St. Catherine’s Church, which was built a hundred years earlier. The church underwent an extensive reconstruction that substantially changed the building and wiped off the originally late medieval character.
The history of the church dates back to 1463 when on the site of common pastures near a millrace by the road to Hlubočec an area was designated for a new church with an oval fenced cemetery. The construction did not take long, but owing to religious wars between the supporters of George of Poděbrady and Matthias Corvinus, furnishing and consecration of the church were delayed. In 1481 the main altar was decorated with a panel painting of the Holy Trinity. The painting, which was presumably authored by a local artist, survived to this day. Gold and silver devotional objects discovered in the church give evidence of its importance. The church was passed on to the Teutonic Order in 1782, and seven years later it was finally consecrated.
The one-nave church has a pentagonal presbytery with sequenced buttresses and ribbed vault. Until 1782 there was a hermitage next to the church, which was then replaced with a chaplain. The church underwent some changes – in 1732 a Baroque bell tower was built, and in the course of the 18th century the interior of the church was decorated with the painting of St. Urban by Ignác Raab, and the painting Immaculate by an unknown author. In 1854 the church got a new hipped slate roof and a late Empire octagonal wooden bell turret. At the turn of the 20th century when a tram line led from the town to the suburbs and a new park was established in the vicinity of the church, the cemetery and chaplain were closed. In the years 1905–1907 the original turret was replaced with a brick octagonal turret with a helmet and an open lantern. In 1997 the church was reconstructed after being heavily damaged by floods.
Erasmus Kreuzinger’s reports give us an idea about the events that took place in the church before mid-19th century: every morning masses were held in the church, and on the Holy Trinity Day, there was a procession attended not only by the locals, but also foreigners, especially from the Prussian part of Silesia. After renovation in 1856, Archduke Maxmillian, the Grand Master of the Teutonic Order visited the church. The Teutonic Order was in charge of the church until the end of World War II. As a matter of interest, in 1683 when King John Sobieski’s army marched past Opava to fight the Turks besieging Vienna, some of the army camped by the church.
Church of the Holy Spirit
Church of the Holy Spirit with the adjacent monastery has from the time it was built belonged to the Order of Friars Minor. The Franciscans presumably first came to Opava in 1234 or 1238, but the first evidence of the order’s presence in Opava dates to 1250 when at the provincial chapter the convent officially joined the Czech-Polish Province. The patron of the building was most likely Margrave of Moravia and later King Ottokar II, who gave the Franciscans the space between Dobytčí Market (Masarykova Street) and the town fortifications.
After 1250 the order started to build the presbytery, about which we have very little information. It possibly comprised of two rectangular fields with a polygonal closure opening into the nave with a broken triumphal arch. The construction was completed in 1269. The south part of the presbytery was adjacent to a brick convent. At the end of the century a tall brick nave was built. The core of the original nave has been preserved. At the beginning of the 14th century a monastery with a church for Order of Saint Clare, the female branch of the Franciscan Order, was built.
Before mid-14th century Nicholas II had the old presbytery removed and he funded a new 20 meters high stone choir. Despite the order’s ban, a massive prismatic tower was built next to the presbytery. Nicholas had a family tomb built under the presbytery. In 1365 he was buried there, later followed by his wife Jutta, sons Wenceslaus I and Przemko I and as the last of the Přemyslid family Ernest, Przemko’s son. The son of George of Poděbrady, Duke of Opava and Count of Kladsko, Victor, is also buried in the church, as well as many local nobles, such as a renowned Jagellonian warrior Bernard Bírka of Násile, or members of the House of Bruntálský or Tvorkovský. The crypt was filled with earth after a fire in 1790.
A fire in 1431 affected both the church and the Franciscan monastery. The most heavily damaged were the roofs of both buildings. During reconstruction the presbytery got a new vault and a new roof with rafters built notably higher than before. From the beginning of the 15th century the monastery was a meeting place for the Provincial Court. Unfortunately, the land register kept in the monastery was irrevocably damaged in the fire. After reconstruction, the monastery building was so presentable and impressive that in 1473 the meeting of King of Bohemia Vladislaus II, King of Poland Casimir IV, and King of Hungary Matthias Corvinus took place there.
The start of Protestantism in the 16th century brought along many troubles for the church and monastery. At the beginning of the 17th century Lutherans attacked the worshippers during mass. The church was plundered in the course the Thirty Years’ War first by the army of Duke of Krnov, Johan Georg, and then by the Danish army. The hardships culminated with a catastrophic fire of Opava in 1689. Six years after the fire, the church was rebuilt in the Baroque style in a reconstruction that took six years. The presbytery was lowered, the church got a new vault and Baroque windows. At the beginning of the 18th century six alcove chapels and central chapels of St. Anthony and St. Florian were built. The vault was decorated with frescos and in 1731 the church facade changed to include a multi-storey ornamental gable with numerous sculptures. In the topmost niche there is one of the most valuable sculptures in the church – Virgin Mary Immaculate. In the side niches there are 4 sculptures of martyrs and followers of St. Francis. On the attic in the middle there is a sculpture of St. Florian accompanied on the sides by St. Francis and St. Anthony, and four Baroque decorative vases. On the sides there are sculptures of St. Bonaventure and St. Ludwig. In the lateral left niche there is a sculpture of St. John of Nepomuk.
In the 1760s the west hall was rebuilt to include advanced side wings. In the mid-18th century two more wings of the monastery were built giving the complex its today appearance. The monastery was left untouched by the Joseph’s reforms during which many monasteries were dissolved, because in 1785 the second town parish was established there. Five years later the church was massively damaged in a fire. In the following reconstruction the church was painted by Ignác Günther from Opava. In 1827 the church tower was rebuilt – the storeys changed during the previous reconstruction in the beginning of the 17th century got a Neo-Gothic extension with a lantern and tower clock. The church was heavily damaged and it burned down at the end of World War II. The reconstruction ended in the 1950s. After February 1948 in the course of secularization and internment of the monks, the church was used by the Agro-forestry Archive. At the beginning of the 1990s most of the monastery buildings were returned to the order. Today the whole complex is in the hands of the order again.
St. Hedwig Church
When the town cemetery between Hany Kvapilové Street and Bochenkova Street was closed in 1891 after it had been in use for almost a hundred years when the old cemetery was moved from the area of today’s theatre in Horní Square, a debate arose how to utilize the space. Three years after the debate had started, the consistorial councillor and teacher Johann Eichler came with the idea to build a simple Gothic church dedicated to St. Hedwig, the patroness of Silesia. He set up a fund to finance the construction as well as operation of the church and donated securities in the value of five thousand guilders. However, the construction was realised thirty years later under different circumstances.
As many soliders from the West Silesia died in World War I, a decision was made to make the church a memorial of the fallen soldiers. In 1927 a competition was announced by a board representing outsanding personalities of Silesia for designs of a new church. One of the conditions of the competition was that the architect must either come from Silesia or have a permanent residence there. The winning design was a project submitted in 1932 by a native from Krnov, important Viennese architect, and one of the founders of Vienna Secession, Leopold Bauer, who had already designed prominent buildings in Opava, such as the Department Store Breda & Weinstein, or the building of the Chamber of Business and Commerce, today Petr Bezruč Culture House. The foundation stone was laid a year later and by the end of the same year a rough construction was finished. The interior took several years to complete, the building was finished in 1937. It is assumed that the construction delays were caused by troubles with finances.
The church has the floor design of a Latin cross with side chapels as the beams. The church has a 54 meters high tower with a baldachin and cross. Reinforced concerete pillars segment the tower as well as the facade, which is further decorated with a Latin quote from Missa Solemnis by Ludwig van Beethoven. Bauer’s “musical” concept of the building is reflected also in the colour scheme. The side chapel commemorating the fallen Silesian soldiers is painted in dark blue, purple and black, which is a direct reference to Beethoven’s funeral march. The metal bar separating the nave from the hall also carries a musical motive. Simple crosses on the bar made by Ludwig Blucha, a metalsmith from Opava, evoke a military cemetery. The interior was decorated by local artists in order to emphasise the local dimension of the building, and also to give the artists a job opportunity. The main altar, which carries ten reliefs from the life of St. Hedwig, was made by Helena Scholzová-Železná, a daughter of the writer Marie Stona. The triptych above the altar was painted by Paul Gebauer. The paintings depict the the Resurrection of Christ lined on both sides by the Twelve Apostles. The arch above the main altar is vaulted, unlike the side chapels, and it is decorated with a painting of the Holy Trinity with adoring angels by Gebauer. In the side chapels there are paintings of St. Hedwig and a fresco of Virgin Mary as the queen of heaven. In one of the chapels and on the walls by the entrance to the church there used to be paintings by another local artist, Adolf Zdrazila.
Ironically, this church devoted to the memory of World War I fallen soldiers was completed not long before World War II started. And so the building was not used as it was intended, but it turned into a military storehouse with Luftwaffe using the church tower as a lookout. There was a cross on top of the tower which was destroyed during air raids at the end of the war. After the war a reconstruction was commenced, but the church once again did not serve its original purpose. Instead it was used as a storehouse for medical equipment. Three wooden floors and a lift were incorporated in the construction to fit the new purpose. The long-awaited change came after November 1989 when the church underwent a series of reconstructions to make it fit for spiritual purposes. The church was consecrated in 1993 on the 750th anniversary of St. Hedwig’s death with a papal nuncio attending the ceremony. The church’s long journey to completion came to an end in 1999 when a replica of the destroyed cross was erected on top of the tower.
Church of St. John the Baptist
The Church of St. John the Baptist in Smetanovy Gardens near Janská Street carries only little evidence of its medieval origin. The history of the church is closely connected with the Order of St. John, also known as the Sovereign Military Order of Malta. This chivalric order, which was founded in the 12th century in Jerusalem, originally provided hospital care and later also sought to protect pilgrims. The order came to Bohemia in the mid-12th century. Half a century later “the knights with a white cross” spread faith in the Polish village Grobniki. In the 13th century the order moved their seat to a nearby Glubcyzce. In the 1330s Duke of Opava, Nicholas II, commissioned the building of a hospital and St. Nicholas’s Chapel in today’s Ratibořská Street near a millrace. Two decades later he entrusted the buildings to the Johannites from Glubczyce and Grobniki. Three years later the newly built church devoted to St. John the Baptist and St. John the Apostle was put into the order’s keeping. Although for a time the order was not in good graces of Nicholas’s successor, his son John I, in 1377 the Přemyslids funded the construction of a new commendam in Opava. The building was presumably situated south or south-east of the church.
The church had a nave and transept with three bays in each section. The narrow presbytery was octagonal with broken arch windows and tuffite traceries. Not long ago the remnants of ribbed vault were still preserved in the Baroque fence wall. The church founder’s widow commemorated her husband by comissioning a ducal altar for the church. Towards the end of the century the town fortifications were moved to accommodate the building of a castle. As a result of this change, the church became a part of the inner town circle. The nave and transept of the church had to be altered as the new town walls touched the south-east corner of the church. A gate in the walls and a prismatic tower were built next to the church.
Further changes followed in 1431 when a sacristy was built in the north part of the presbytery in reconstruction following a fire. The long chapel with a vault with tuffite buttresses had a brick section nn the first floor that was used as a treasury. The treasury was accessed via a spindle staircase that has been preserved to this day in an outer tower. The church underwent further reconstructions after fires in 1461 and 1689. The latter reconstruction, which took place at the beginning of the 18th century, was carried out in the Baroque style. The Gothic pillars were walled in, almost all the windows were altered, the front got a new facade and a turret, which replaced the former bell tower. A chamber was added on the side of the nave with a corridor connecting the church with a commendam built in the mid-17th century to the west of church. In 1713 the building was finished by Jordan Zeller in the Baroque style. The commendam was heavily damaged during the liberation of Opava in April 1945 and was torn down. The church underwent several renovations in the course of the 19th century. During one of the reconstructions the church got a Classicistic facade, and at the end of the 19th century a new turret designed by Julius Lundwall was built to replace the old turret damaged during the war. The last extensive changes took place after World War II. The newly built wooden turret is a historically implausible replica.
In the interior there is a stone ledger of a suffragan bishop Bernard Symbalsky from Wroclaw. On the ledger there is an engraving depicting the bishop and on the sides a late Gothic inscription made after 1453. The stone of the ledger is not local, it was presumbaly brought to Opava from Nysa or Wroclaw. In the presbytery there are two valuable ledges of knight commanders from the 16th century – Jiří Lesota of Stéblov and Jiří Adelsbach of Domsdorf. Another ledger was used as a head jamb in the entrance to the sacristy. In the church there is also a sculpture The Suffering of Christ from the 16th century. The main altar is adorned with a golden auricular ornament and paintings by Ignác Günther. In the outside niche there is a sculpture of St. John of Nepomuk, which until 1950s stood near a bridge across the river connecting Opava with Kateřinky. The damaged scultpture, which dates back to the first quarter of the 18th century, depitcts the saint with his typical attributes – there is a biretta on his head and he carries a crucifix in his right hand. The palm branch in his left hand has not survived.
St. Catherine’s Church
An uninitated observer would be hard pressed to identify St. Catherine’s Church as one of the oldest religious buildings in town. The medieval Gothic core remains, but the 19th century reconstruction significantly changed the face of the church. The patron of the church, Saint Catherine of Alexandria, gave name to the village Kateřinky (Dorf Kathreyn).
It is plausible that there was another sacral building on the site of today’s church, but an archeological survey would have to be conducted to provide a conclusive answer. The first reference to the church, which dates to 1369, describes the installation of an altar panel painting dedicated to St. Catherine in a church of the same name. However, it is possible that the text refers to another church. The first confirmed reference from 1417 suggests that the church had been in operation for some time before the text was written. Architectural survey dates the building to the 1360s or 1370s.
The church originally had one rectangular nave, octagonal presbytery with a sacristy on the north. To this day the perimeter wall and the south entrance except the west part of the nave have been preserved. The presbytery, which is separated from the nave with a broken triumphal arch, has an original elegant cross ribbed vault with sedile – places for important worshippers.
Until the beginning of the 19th century the church kept its original medieval appearance, as is evident from the first reconstruction report after a fire in 1764. The changes included a new flat wooden ceiling and a wooden turret. From an account from the turn of the 17th century we know that the catchment area of the church together with its cemetery were villages surrounding Opava – today’s Kateřinky, Malé Hoštice, and Kylešovice. The cemetery was in use until 1869 when a new cemetery opened by a nearby Chapel of the Holy Cross, the so called Swedish Chapel. The masses in the church, which presumably came under the parish of Virgin Mary’s Church in Opava, were in the mid-17th century held both in Czech and German.
In the course of the 19th and 20th century the church underwent several reconstructions and restorations. The reconstruction of 1806 significantly changed the appearance of the church. The west wall was torn down and the church was extended. The nave got a new vault and organ loft, and the facade got a prismatic turret with an onion-shaped dome, lantern, and hip knob. Today the church is newly cast, it has buttresses on the sides, and the front is segmented by pillars and adorned with a principal moulding.
There are 14 panel paintings depicting the stations of the cross painted by Jan Lukáš Kracker in 1761. The cycle is presumed to have been painted for St. Barbara’s Church in Ostrožná Street in Opava and it was moved to Kateřinky after the church had closed down in 1796. Incidentally, it was the same year when Countess Maria Anna Renard, a daughter of Freiherr Sobek of Kornice, died. Her stela is in the outer wall of the presbytery. The heavily damaged sandstone tombsotne features a relief of two coats of arms – her husband’s and Maria Anna’s, which has a crown of a count and a cross on top and is carried by two lions. Next to this tombstone there is another one, a little more recent and more damaged tomb of Vincenc Matyáš Rudzinský, the owner of a farmstead in Kateřinky. There is a sculpture of St. Florian in the church gadern. The patron of firefighters was moved there in 1923 from the crossroads of Ratibořská and Černá Street. The sculpture, an important Baroque relic, was made in 1721 by an unkown author, and it depicts the saint as a Roman soldier with a lance as he is pouring water from a bucket.
Church of St. Peter and Paul
The so called Kostelní kopec (Church Hill) is a dominant feature of today’s town part Jaktař, and an important location in Opava with a number of archaeological excavations dating to prehistory. Artefacts such as paleolithic flintstons, two mammoth molars, fragments of mammoth tusks, tens of settlement pits with fragments of linear pottery from Early Stone Age, or a bronze lance and an axe from the Bronze Age were found here. It is believed that at the beginning of the 20th century several Celtic coins were found in a sand pit by the church, but they were lost. After the arrival of the Slavonic tribes, the hill could have been used as a fortified settlement, although we have no definite evidence that there was a Slavonic castle by the roads leading to Bruntál and Krnov. From the beginning of the 13th century, the village Jaktař fell under the Olomouc diocese. Some time later it belonged to the so called Moravian Enclaves in Silesia, which until 1928 fell under Silesian administration, but observed Moravian regulation and paid taxes to Moravia. Jaktař was predominantly Czech. When in 1858 a Czech elementary school opened in Jaktař, it was attended by Czech children from Opava and neighbouring villages, because unlike in Opava, Jaktař was free to open a Czech school. The budding Czech culture in the 19th century is closely connected to the activities of Catholic priests. The Jaktař parish played an important role in the process. In the years 1817–1834 the writer Jan Alois Zábranský served a priest in Jaktař. Similarly Jan Vyhlídal, the author of ethnograpic books Slezská svatba or two volumes of Naše Slezsko, also served in Jaktař. In the second and last decade of the first Czechoslovak Republic, chaplain Alois Šebela was transferred from Kateřinky to Jaktař. He later died in Oswiecim. Today the road leading to the church carries his name. Jan Sarkander, who was later canonnized, also shortly served in Jaktař.
The Church of St. Peter and Paul is one of the oldest sacral buildings in today’s Opava Region. It is believed to have been founded before 1246, the construction took place between the years 1241 and 1246, that is before the Mongol Invasion and the first written reference to the church. The chuch is an example of a fortified sacral medieval building. It symbolized the importance of the bishop’s ownership in the area.. The Gothic walls of the almost square nave and the deep presbytery have been preserved. The original ceiling was flat, the nave was supported by five massive buttressess, and in the south it had two portals. The presbytery made of a square field with a pentagonal closing part had one cross and one radial vault. It was supported by three buttresses built on the outside and separated from the nave by a triumphal arch that was later barocized when the nave was vaulted. The sedile reserved for important worshippers and a Gothic sanctuary date back to the 14th century. The sacristy attached to the presbytery in the north has a ribbed vault. The robust pentagonal ribs are joined in the middle by a keystone adorned wit four lilies, which symbolize martyrs’ attributes, and the purity and virtue of Virgin Mary. The early Gotihic church, which is uncommonly large for the rural area, is an evidence of new ideas and artistic expressions in the region.
In the years 1760–1762 the church was barocized by J. G. Werner. The nave was elongated, and a new tower with rounded corners and two pillars with volutes and a helmet with lantern were built. In the interior there is a sculpture Ecce Homo from the first quaret of the 16th century depicting a sitting Christ with his head in his hands, and an altar painting of St. Peter and Paul in shackles presumably by Felix Ivo Leicher from Vienna. The church is surrounded by a cemetery with a marble sculpture of Christ on the Cross from the beginning of the 19th century, and enclosed by a wall.
St. Wenceslaus’ Church
One of the oldest sacral buildings in Opava was built near the north part of the town walls in today’s streets Pekařská, Mnišská, and Solná. The story of the building intertwined with the story of the town, and these often unsettled times left their marks on the building.
There is a hypothesis that dates the sacral use of the area by today’s church in the distant past. But the first written evidence comes from 1291 when Duke of Opava, Nicholas I, an illegitimate son of Ottokar II issued a creed that granted the Dominican Order the right to build both a church and monastery in the location. Construction of the church lasted several decadec and was finished under the reign of Nicholast II, on whose wish in 1336 the church devoted to St. Wenceslaus was consecrated by the Bishop of Olomouc. The church had a basilical form segmented by eight pillars in two rows. The long and high presbytery with an pentagonal closure and two side chapels have been partially preserved to this day. Apart from the tuffite traceried window frames with a cinquefoil, and three Romanesque windows in the outer wall of St. Dominic’s chapel in the south that were later walled in, there are also valuable frescos in the church. These are remains of a Gothic wall painting depicting two cycles of legends about St. John the Baptist and St. Stephen, and a unique portrait of the author himself with the caption Nicolaus pictor.
In the course of the 15th century the church was damaged in several fires. As a result the roof frame had to be rebuilt. At the same time the sacristy by the north side of the presbytery was turned into the Chapel of St. Cross, also knowns as the Moravian Chapel. Sermons in the chapel were held in Czech. In 1556 the church was damaged in another fire and soon after reconstruction, which took twenty years to finish, it was plundered by the Lutherans. At the end of the 16th century St. Dominic’s Chapel was renovated in the Renaissance style. A part of the reconstruction was building a wall to form a separate sacristy and Chapel of Mošnovský Family, who had their family tomb established in the church. Soon after a bell tower with a Renaissance attic was built by the north-west front. During the Thirty Years’ War the church was looted by the Duke of Krnov, Johan Georg’s army. The church was turned into stables. Several years later the history repeated itself when Opava was attacked by the Danish Army. When the town was being seized back by Albrecht of Valdštejn, the church and the monastery succumbed to a fire which destroyed the roofs and damaged the tower. The catastrophic events of the first half of the 17th century were topped by another fire in 1651, although the church was spared the great fire of 1689. In 1732 the church underwent a radical reconstruction in the Baroque style.
The original Gothic vaults in the nave and presbytery were turned into barrel vaults. The arcades between the nave and aisles were walled to form rounded arches. The painter I. Depée from Wroclaw and his helper F. K. Sambach painted the nave and presbytery with frescos depicting St. Wenceslaus legends. Depée painted scenes from St. Dominic’s life and the history of the order on the side walls. The paintings were adorned with ornaments by M. Schwegel. The sculptor J. J. Lehner made a new altar and several side altars. The church roof with its frames and altars were heavily damaged in the fire of 1758 when the town was occupied by the Prussian army. The reconstruction that followed was an epilogue in the history of the church.
In 1786 the monastery dissolved and the church was turned into an army storehouse. A three-storey wooden construction was built in the church to adapt the space to its new purpose. In the following century some parts of the church were destroyed, such as the tower or Loreto Chapel by the west front made at the end of the 17th century. The main portal was turned into a wide gate to accommodate lorries. The presbytary polygonal closure was replaced with a straight wall. The army left the church at the turn of the 20th century. The subsequent reconstruction was interrupted by war and the building was alloted to the army and stayed in its possession until World War II when it was taken over by Wehrmacht. The after-war attempts to reinstate the church were thwarted by the events of February 1948 and the church was once again used as a storehouse, first by the theatre, then by the department store. When the adjacent monastery was turned into the House of Arts in the 1960s, ideas emerged to use the church as a concert or exhibition hall. The gradual reconstruction culminated in the years 1999–2001 when the church got a new facade. A reconstruction and conservation of the interior followed five years later. Today the church hosts a variety of cultural and social events, and it also serves as a document of the rich history and changes. Today the building is run by Opavská kulturní organizace (Opava Cultural Organization).
St. Adalbert’s Church
The Baroque church of St. Adalbert on the east side of Dolní Square replaced in the second half of the 17th century the original Gothic church. The oldest reference to St. Adalbert’s church dates back to 1429, but it is likely that the church was founded some time before 1350 as a branch church of the Assumption of Virgin Mary parish and it belonged to the Teutonic Order. There is little information available regarding its appearance and furnishings. We know a little more about its history during reformation in the 16the century, when the church was referred to as St. George’s Church. The church, which was designated for the Czech residents, was served by a Lutheran priest. At the beginning of the 17th century anti-reformation Catholics had the church closed down, but it was forcibly reopened by the Protestants. After the Protestant rebels had been suppressed in 1607, their position in Opava was weak, but they had the church returned two years later by Rudolf II’s Letter of Majesty granting religious tolerance.
However, the non-Catholics did not enjoy their religious freedom for long. After the first part of the Thirty Years’ War and the Bohemian Revolt in 1620, Opava was also affected by recatholizing restrictions enforced by Karl I, Prince of Liechtenstein. The Protestant priests were expelled and Jesuits were summoned to run St. George’s Church. Not long after they built a Jesuit Grammar School and College. The Jesuits finally got the church from the hands of a Teutonic Grand Master in 1655, an act which was confirmed by the following Grand Master 22 years later. The Jesuits with their new rector Tobias Gebler then tore down the no longer fitting Gothic church and in the years 1675–1681 built a new Baroque church and monastery.
Master builders and possibly also authors of the design were Italian brothers Mikuláš and Jakub Brasch. Inspired by a Roman church Il Gesú, the new church has one nave with three pairs of through chapels on the side and ended with a rectangular presbytery. There is a tower north of presbytery and a sacristy south of presbytery. The facade has graded avant-corps, it is horizontally segmented by solid ledgers and vertically segmented by pillars with Corinthian capitals that extend into the triangle gable. In the tympanum above the portal with pillars there are initials of the Jesuit motto Ad Maiorem Dei Gloriam (For the greater glory of God) with a sculpture of three Jesuit martyrs who died in Japan. Above a window on the second floor there is the coat of arms of Liechtensteins, the supporters of the Society of Jesus as well as the church itself. In six niches in the façade there are Baroque sculptures of important Jesuit saints, e.g. the founder of the order Ignatius of Loyola with a book in his hand.
In front of the church in Dolní Square there used to be a Marian column constructed at the same time as the old church. Fifty years later the column was damaged and in 1869 it was replaced by a new one, albeit with some original features. On a three-sided pedestal there is a sculpture of Virgin Mary Immaculate standing on a half-moon and globe twined with a snake, a symbol of inherited sin.
In the years 1725–1750 the church was newly decorated. The Baroque painter F. Ř. I. Eckstein painted the ceiling of the nave with scenes of St. George legend. When the church was bombed at the end of World War II, the paintings were irrevocably damaged, only the frescos in the side chapels have been preserved. The impressive two-storey main altar devoted to St. George with a painting of St. Adalbert was also destroyed. The main altar as well as all the other altars, scultpures, and the pulpit were made by the sculptor J. G. Lehner.
When the church was reconstructed after the war and paintings of contemporary Silesian artists were installed in the 1990s, a new main altar painted by F. I. Leicher was brought from the Capuchin monastery in Fulnek. The church, whose name changed to St. Adalbert’s Church in 1945, underwent a major reconstruction in 1995 with the intent to return the church to its original form.
Open-air Museum Malé Hoštice
In autumn 2014 a small open-air museum opened in Malé Hoštice. It is situated in a 150-years-old house in the centre of the village and it features the life and work of the village people in the distant past. There are several rooms furnished with period furniture. One section of the museum offers an exhibition of tools used to carry on crafts in Malé Hoštice.
In 1868, two years after the order of the Daughters of Divine Charity was founded in Vienna, sisters of the order came to Opava to provide education for girls and care for orphans. Opava was the first place in Bohemia where the order settled. The house in Rybí Market, where the order resided, underwent a major reconstruction in 1887. However, the new reclusion, marianum, elementary school, and chapel were soon too small. When the nuns had relocated, the building was used for different purposes, and after the war the Silesian Theatre got hold of it. Many may remember the Theatre Club in the building.
The order found a new residence in the Duke’s meadows and fileds in Kylešovský Hill in today’s Rooseveltova Street, where new buildings were under construction at that time. In the years 1907–1909 a monastery called Marianum was built by the master builder Alois Geldner and architect Adalbert Bartl. The monastery, which was run by the Mother Superior Stanislava Fuss, comprised of two parts. One section provided care for elderly people, the other helped young women looking for work in town. Apart from an orphange, the monastery also housed a boarding house for girls, which later turned into a school. During World War I the activities in the monastery were restircted, and the building turned into a military hospital, which treated approximately ten thousand soldiers. When the war was over, the nuns started to take care of mentally disabled children. During the occupation and World War II the monastery activities remained the same, albeit limited by the war especially at times of bombing. The greatest post-war change took place in the 1960s when the elderly people’s home was moved from Marianum, which freed the capacity of the building for mentally disabled children, and Marianum became the largest institute of social care in the country.
The monastery was build as two symetrical stand-alone three-storey buildings joined together by a recessed pseudo-Romanesque Basilical chapel. The front of the buildings is decorated with a bossage on the level of the first floor, arched frieze of the principal moulding, and is rhytmized by a shallow avant-corps that ends with a pediment with the sculpture of St. Joseph on the right and Madonna with Baby Jesus on the left in niches under the baldachin, both possibly made by Adolf Köhrer, a sculptor from Opava. The Sacred Heart of Jesus Chapel has a dome on a cylindrical tambour. There is a rose window in the front with a sculpture of Jesus Christ with a halo and open arms. The nave with two chapels ends with a half-cylindrical apse. There are arcades between the nave and the aisles that carry empire tribunes. The chapel has a coffered ceiling, originally whitewashed. Between the years 1923–1930 it was richly painted by a Benedictine monk Antonín Vrbík in the Beuronese style, which is inspired by the Byzantine art. It combines gold-painted areas and figuration with a typical colour scheme and distinct linearity. The chapel with its paintings is unique not only because it has been fully preserved, but also because this style is rare in the Czech lands.
The Building of Matice Opavská
The building of the former Matice opavská is situated in Rybí Market and Matiční Street, which was named after the foundation. The house, which originally beloned to Ludwig Wöllersdorf, was bought by Matice in 1880. The foundation played an important role in lives of the Czech inhabitants of Opava.
The history of the foundation started in 1877 when the teacher and historian Vincenc Prasek, Catholic priest Antonín Gruda, journalist Jan Zacpal, doctor Jan Kolofík, and other Czech patriots founded Matice opavská as a coordination headquarters of local national endeavours. Members and supporters of Matice were outstanding politicians F. L. Rieger, Eduard Grégr, T. G. Masaryk or Josef Kaizl, writer Jan Neruda, painter and author of the foundation logo Mikoláš Aleš, naturalist Ladislav Josef Čelakovský (son of writer František Ladislav Čelakovský), geographer Jan Palacký (son of František Palacký), ethnographer Čeněk Zíbrt and others. One of the first successful endeavours of Matice opavská, supported by Ústřední matice školská in Prague, was the foundadion of a private Czech grammar school in 1883 with Vincenc Prasek as the first headmaster. In 1883 the foundation published the first issue of a bulletin named Věstník Matice opavské. This originally educational magazine turned scientific during the interwar period. In 1948 the tradition was taken over by Slezský sborník. At the end of the 19th century the foundation established Matice opavská Museum. The foundation also ran its own printing company Slezská Grafie.
The foundation was temporarily dissolved during the World War II, then briefly reinstated to be dissolved again after February 1948. The property of the foundation was transferred to the Silesian Research Institute. In 1968 the foundation was reinstated again, it merged with Silesian Enlightenment Matice and changed its name to Matice slezská (Silesian Matice). In 1972 the foundation was forcibly dissolved for the third time. In December 1989 it was reinstated again and had its house returned as well. Today Matice slezská is fulfilling its mission to preserve cultural, historical and economic values, it publishes a periodical Vlastivědné listy Slezska a severní Moravy and runs its own publishing house.
In the course of its existence Matice opavská organized numerous social and cultural events for the Czech inhabitants of Opava. The building became not only the seat of the foundation, but it housed its museum and library, and it provided shelter for other 21 Czech clubs in town, such as Craftsman Club, Sokol, Amateur Theatre Association, Beseda, or Křížkovský’s Singing Society. On the ground floor of the building there was a pub, which hosted the first Czech theatre performances in Opava.
The seat of Matice was at first only the corner house in Rybí Market built before 1841. In 1894 the foundation bought the next door building and four years later a two-wing building was built under the supervision of Josef Hruschka. The remaining two buildings, which form the premises of Matice, were built by Eduard Labitzký in 1869, but they were added to the complex after World War II. In the years 1948–1989 when the house was nationalized, it served as a school canteen and after school club, an art school, a branch of the Czechoslovak Radio in Ostrava, and an archive of Building Construction Company. After 1989 the building was returned to the reinstated foundation, but today it still houses a school canteen, solicitor’s office, and in the vaulted cellar there is a restaurant. When the building was returned to Matice, it was in serious disrepair. The complex underwent an extensive reconstruction and was reopened in 1995. In 2009–2009 the facade of the building was restored to its original state.
One of the most remarkable technical places of interest in Opava is a converter station in Rybí Market behind the former Marianum. In 1990 the building, which has no match anywhere in the Czech Republic, was added to the list of protected historic buildings.
The need to provide electric voltage for the town public transport emerged in 1905 when the first tram connecting Horní Square to the cinema Alhambra in Kateřinky started to operate at a speed of 12 km per hour. The line was later extended connecting Krnovská Street with the City Gardens. Another line led from the railway station Opava východ via the streets Janská, Ostrožná and Olomoucká to the town hospital, and then later to the psychiatric hospital. There were eight trams operating on two lines with a metre-wide gauge. In 1912 a third line was added, which started at the theatre in Horní Square and led via Ostrožná and Otická Streets to the town cemetery. In 1948 the first line was extended to the Sweedish chapel on one end, and on the other end a new section was added, which led from the crossroad of Jaselská and Krnovská Streets to Jaktař, where it ended in the place of today’s restaurant Na točně. In 1950s the tracks as well as the roadbed fell into disrepair and the tram operation was gradually discontinued to be replaced by trolleybuses, which first drove out in 1952 and later became one of the symbols of public transport in Opava. The last tram went through Opava four years later. In commemoration of trams in Opava there are sections of tracks built in the paving in Hrnčířská Street and Dolní Square.
The first tram yard was built in Krnovská Street. In 1903–1904 an industrial building of a steam-electric power station that changed alternating current to direct current was built on the premises. As the public transport network grew, the converter station was moved closer to the town centre. In 1929 a simple funcionalist ferroconcrete building with brick panelling and brizolit plaster was built according to a project by Erich Geldner. The original fittings, voltage transformers, mercury rectifiers, and fast circuit brakers, which were made in 1905 by a Berlin company AEG and moved to the new converter station from Krnovská Street, have been preserved to this day.
In the converter station the 22 kV main was connected to buses and the main switch to the transformer that powered six anode mercury lamps AEG 600V/250A with a needle ignition and distributor. There were four lamps in two rows. The direct current 600 V was then distributed in individual sections, which is evidenced by names of streets on the preserved labels.
The converter station was in operation without any major repairs until 1985 when two new converter stations were built in the streets Čajkovského and Kylešovská. For the past thirty years the building has been decaying; its future remains unclear.
Outdoor Swimming Pool
The outdoor swimming pool was built in 1931 according to the winning project designed by the architect Otto Reichner from Opava. The swimming pool, which is situated in the pleasant area of the City Gardens, is on the list of historic sights for its functionalist style. Statues of a water sprite and frogs by the academic sculptor Josef Obeth give the paddling pool a fairytale character. The swimming pool has been reconstructed and modernized whilst keeping its original form.
Petr Bezruč Culture House
In the first half of the 19th century the Chamber of Business and Commerce was established in Opava with the objective to support merchants and traders in Silesia. In 1906 a decision was made to build a new representative building that would serve as the seat of the Chamber. As the best location was chosen the so called Glacis, a circular road with public buildings inspired by the Ringstrasse in Vienna and designed by the former town architect Eduard Labitzký.
Viennese architects Oskar Czep, Siegfried Kramer, Rudolf Sowa and Arnold Karplus entered the public tender. The winning project of a palace called Emma was submitted by a native from Krnov, Leopold Bauer, who later designed the department store Breda & Weinstein and St. Hedwig’s Church. The Viennese architect and student of Carl Hasenauer and Otto Wagner is also the author of the park surrounding the building, and the building interior including lights, ornamental grilles and fittings. The elegant neoclassical house was built in the years 1908–1910 by Alois Geldner’s construction company. The building was one of the most modern and utalitarian public buildings in the monarchy.
The two-wing building with a robust T ground plan and mansard roof measures 33 x 33 meters. The Classical facade facing the circular road has three tall windows and four Tuscan pillars with above life-size sculptures of men symbolizing crafts. The sculptures as well as sixteen sandstone reliefs on the facade depicting children allegorizing Silesian towns were made by Josef Obeth. There used to be captions with names of the towns under the reliefs, but they were removed during World War II. The front door of the building is covered in a metal sheet richly adorned with reliefs made by a prominent Viennese sculptor and architect Gustav Gurschner. The upper window panes of the three front windows feature stained glass designed by Adolf Zdrazila from Opava. They were made in a specialized workshop of Richard Schlein from Hrádek. The windows depict nine women symbolizing typical Silesian crafts.
The heart of the three-storey building is a central hall with a three-part staircase that provides access to all parts of the building. The hall is richly decorated with stucco by Adolf Kohler. In charge of the interior decorations were also blacksmiths Franz Pohl and Ludvík Blucha, and stonemason’s shop Kubitschek & Binder. The chandeliers were made by the company Melzer & Neuhardt from Vienna.
The Chamber of Business and Commerce had its seat in the building until it was dissolved in 1949. The house was then nationalized and turned into Petr Bezruč Culture House. At the beginning of the millenium the building underwent a trhee-part reconstruction. On the ground floor there are offices and the town central library with a reading room. Upstairs there is a reception hall and an anteroom to the organ hall, where cultural events as well as wedding ceremonies are held.
The central cemetery, which was built in 1891, is situated away from the town centre. The author of the project was the town architect Eduard Labitzký. The former town cemeteries were established near significant churches (Church of the Holy Spirit, St. Adalbert’s Church, or the former St. Linhard’s Church in today’s Hradecká Street). The largest and most important cemetery was near the parish church of Assumption of Virgin Mary in the place of today’s Silesian Theatre. Smaller cemeteries were situated by the suburban churches of St. Catherine and Holy Trinity. In 1789 Joseph II issued a decree that banned burials within the town walls. The largest cemetery in Opava was then relocated to the suburbs Jaktař between the streets Hany Kvapilové and Bochenkova in the place of today’s St. Hedwig’s Church where it stayed for about a hundred years before the current cemetery opened in Otická Street.
The new cemetery in Otická Street was built by the Municipal Building Authority led by the head engineer Emil Lubich von Milovan together with Opava construction companies (e.g. Kern & Blum) in the years 1890–1891. The project divided the cemetery into three separate parts: Evangelical on the left, Jewish on the right with a funeral parlour, and Catholic in the centre. The cemetery was segmented by a network of paths into rectangular fields with an oval square in the middle. There are two almost identical buildings on the opposite sides of a monumental entry built in the Transalpine Renaissance style with the motive of exposed brick wall. Behind the entry there are two more buildings with a simple colonnade. In the middle of the cemetery a quarter-circle Neo-Renaissance colonnade with Tuscan pillars serves as the last resting place for the most prominent townspeople, e.g. Emil Rochowanski, the mayor of Opava at the turn of the 20th century, or Jindřich Janotta, a sugar factory owner and politician. Originally there were supposed to be two colonnades, but the plans changed and in the place of the other colonnade stands the grave of the poet Petr Bezruč. The grave was made in 1965 by the sculptor Vladimír Navrátil according to a design by the architect František Novák.
Graves of other prominent persons are situated in various locations of the cemetery. These are often costly and opulent tombs, such as the grave of Carl Dorasil, the President of the Chamber of Business and Commerce, doctor Jan Kolofík, naturalist Emanuel Urban, architect Adalbert Bartl, mayor Walter Kudlich, or Austrian field marshal Eduard von Böhm-Ermoll. Worth mentioning is also the Grauers family mausoleum, which is a marble Gothic chapel with stained glass by Józef Mehoffer, or the gravestone of doctor Kalus with a relief portraying a doctor treating a child by the sculptor Jaroslava Lukešová.
One of the gravestones relocated from the former Opava cemetery is a memorial of the fallen in the Austro-Prussian War in 1866. The monument has not been preserved. The World War I memorial by the sculptor Josef Obeth in the symbolic form of a sword thrust into the ground can be seen in the rear part of the cemetery. There are also over three thousand soldiers of the Red Army buried in the cemetery with list of the soldiers’ names on a memorial. Wehrmacht soldiers as well as deserters from the German Army have also found their last resting place in the Opava cemetery.
In the first half of the 20th century the cemetery expanded several times. In the 1980s a meadow for scattering the ashes was established. In 2007 a new funeral parlour was built in the place of the former Evangelical section of the cemetery. In the following years the paths were reinforced and new greenery was planted in the cemetery.
Built in 1726, the castle caretaker’s house was originally a part of the premises of the former Liechtenstein castle. The smallish one-storey building has a hipped roof with dormer windows adorned with architraves. Today the house is owned by the Silesian Museum.
The Municipal House is a dominant building at the end of Ostrožná Street built in 1911 when the local branch of the Austro-Hungarian Bank, which had its seat in today’s Masarykova Avenue, bought a house that had belonged to a banker Konrád Krappe with the intent to build a new bank in the place of the old house.
The author of the project was the architect Rudolf Eisler from Vienna. The building was in concord with the urbanistic concept of the former town architect Eduard Labitzký, who designed a circular road around the town centre. The bank was another addition to a row of public buildings and schools in the area starting with the savings bank and finishing with the building of the Chamber of Business and Commerce. The building was meant to become a part of a new concept of Ostrožná Street. The plan was never realised, though. The new bank also symbolically emphasized the representative character of the Silesian capital. The construction, which started in 1914 and took four years due to war events, was realized by Alois Geldner’s construction company.
Eisler, who studied under Fridrich Ohmann at the academy in Vienna, designed the building in a Baroque-revival style with Neo-Classicist features influenced by Wagner’s modernism as well as Neo-Biedermeir style. The three-storey building has two perpendicular wings and a small yard in the north. The triaxial facade facing Ostrožná Street is segmented by an avant-corps and two ionic pillars. There are four more pillars in the south supporting a massive moulding between the second and third floor. Above the carved door there is a balcony with statues by an unknown author depicting the god of commerce Mercury and the goddess of bounty and fertility Ceres with two children on the side. There is one more statue of Ceres outside the main entrance to the building. The statue used to stand in the City Gardens. On the ground floor of the bank there used to be a flat. The central staircaise with a rectangular space led to the bank on the first loor. On the second floor there was a flat of the bank director.
The bank was heavily damaged at the end of World War II and had to undergo reconstruction. The historical value of the building was diminished due to insensitive construction interventions in the 1960s and 1980s. In the 1960s the building housed Státní banka československá, and from 1990 a branch of Komerční banka. In 2005 the Statutory Town of Opava bought the building to use it for cultural purposes. In 2008–2009 the building underwent a complete reconstruction with respect to its original state. The facade and its ornamental features were renovated, glazed ceramic roofing replaced the metal roofing and the area around the building was upgraded. The interior of the building was reconstructed in accord with the conservation regulations. The staircase and the hall were restored to its original state. Today the Municipal House is the seat of Opava Cultural Organization. In the basement there is Klub Art, on the first floor there are Sál purkmistrů (Mayors’ Hall) and a café, on the second floor there is a permanent exhibition of the history of Opava, and on the third floor there is a gallery and Schösslerův salónek (Schössler’s Lounge).
Parks Surrounding the Town Centre
At the beginning of the 19th century the town fortifications were seen as obsolete and hindering the urbanistic planning. The walls were torn down and the moats were covered up with soil, which opened a large area surrounding the centre of Opava. Thanks to the mayor of Opava, Johann Joseph Schössler, the area was not built over. Instead, green belts were established in the area between Jaktařská and Ratibořská Gates. The parks were called kiosks.
The first part of the green belt stretches from west to east between the area of the savings bank and the building of today’s Municipal House. Until the end of World War II this part of the park was named after the founder of the first hospital in Opava, Leopold Heidrich. Today it is called Dvořák’s Gardens. In 1856 an alley of trees was planted that connected the upper parts of today’s streets Ostrožná and Matiční. At the end of the 1960s the promenade was extended to Čapkova Street. Opposite the Secondary Nursing School there is a meteorological station from 1913, which was moved there after World War II from Republiky Square where it was originally unveiled on the occasion of the 65th anniversary of the Emperor’s Franz Joseph I reign. On the Art Nouveau station there are a thermometer and barometer; the cupola is decorated with a leaf relief and a frog on top. Another monument in Dvořák’s Gardens is a statue of Petr Bezruč, which was installed in the park in 1967 on the 100th anniversary of the poet’s birth. The memorial was created by the architect Jan Benetka and spouses Vladimír Kýn, who is the author of seven granite blocks with inscriptions from Slezské písně (Silesian Songs), and Jaroslava Lukešová, who made the bronze statue. Until 1945 there was also a sculpture of Ludvík Jahn, the founder of German gymnastics clubs, the so called Turnvereine.
In the area between today’s Municipal House and Ptačí vrch (Birds’ Hill) there are Svobody Gardens. In 1834 a memorial dedicated to mayor Schössler was built in the opening into Masarykova Avenue. The memorial, which was built soon after Schössler’s death, resembled an antique temple. In 1890 the memorial was replaced by a statue of Joseph II unveiled on the occasion of the 100 years’ anniversary of the emperor’s death. In 1922 Joseph II’s statue was replaced by a statue of the poet Friedrich Schiller. In the 1950s the statue was replaced by a fountain with a sandstone statue of Reborn Opava by Vincenc Havel. The allegorical statue of a female with the town emblem at her feet faces Masarykova Avenue.
Ptačí vrch, which separates Svobody Gardens from Křížkovského Gardens, is the only remnant of the original bastion fortifications. The so called Lüttermann’s Chance, which was build in the second half of the 17th century, was supposed to be levelled to the ground, but eventually it was brought down by a half and integrated into the park. At the end of the 18th century a music pavilion was built on top of the hill. The hill got its name in reference to the practice of bird-catching in the area in the 19th century and aviaries installed on the hill until the 1980s. In 2007 three bronze statues of birds with movable heads and luminous eyes by the sculptor and native from Hradec nad Moravicí, Kurt Gebauer, were installed there.
Křižíkovského Gardens, which stretch from the eastern part of Ptačí vrch, are named after Pavel Křížkovský, a musical composer from nearby Holasovice. His bronze portrait by the sculptor Jaroslava Lukešová is set in the hillside by the staircase. Originally there was a statue of the composer E. S. Engelsberg, and the park used to be named after him. At the turn of the 20th century an alpinum with a recently renovated bronze medallion of the naturalist Emanuel Urban was created. The alpinum imitates the natural Alpine scenery; it is made of limestone boulders and is planted with herbs typical for the Alps. In 1964 the memorial plaque of Urban’s colleague Tomáš Svěrák was added.
The ring of parks surrounding the town ends with Smetanovy Gardens in the area between John the Baptist’s Church and the Silesian Museum. The park was finished in 1876 when Friedrich Schiller’s statue was installed in Smetanovy Gardens. The statue was replaced in the 1920s by a statue of the musical composer Bedřich Smetana made by Otokar Španiel. In the park there are remnants of the town fortifications by the Johannite Church.
Town Hall Hláska
The best-known symbol and a dominant feature of Opava is its town hall called Hláska, which is situated in the eastern part of Horní Square. The complicated history of this focal city building is reflected in the diverse and not always comprehensible names given to the tower and the town hall itself. In the past the German names varied from Turm, Stadtturm or Stadthausturm, the building adjoining the tower was called Schmetterhaus. The Czech names were Hláska, city tower or clock tower, but there was no name for the house.
In the first half of the 14th century the town council transferred the south tower of the parish church Assumption of the Virgin Mary to the church. The available documents suggest that a new tower was built in the square where there had been or was planned to be built the so called Schmetterhaus – a one-storey building, in which merchandise was stored. The plan was also to add one more floor that would house the town hall. The tower was used as a watchtower from which events such as the start of the market or fire were announced. By the tower there were scales, on which the merchandise was weighed. In the 16th century the tower was destroyed in a storm and it took fifty years to rebuild it. Schmetterhaus underwent a reconstructing following the fire in 1561. In 1580 the town council decided to buy a house in the south part of the square (in the space of today’s Slezanka); the town hall had its seat there until the end of World War II when the buildings in the area were torn down.
In 1614–1618 a new Reneissance tower with a clock was added to the old town hall. The tower was designed by Kryštof Prochhuber. The two-storey Schmetterhaus was presumably rectangular with an attic on top. The tower was either incorporated in the front facade or stood in front of the building. Apart from small shops located in the town hall in the second half of the 18th century, the building provided space for theatre performances. In 1803 a police station was added to Schmetterhaus as one of several adaptations of the building. Until mid-19th century there were flats on the first floor, which later housed building or business authorities, and a small gaol. Later on a calibration office, military office, chamber of business and commerce, and a museum of decorative arts were situated on this floor. The police station on the ground floor was replaced by shops. At the end of the century the chamber of business and commerce together with the museum relocated and various offices took their place.
The town wished to have a new house that would suitably represent it and would go well with the Rennaisance tower, and so at the beginning of the 20th century the council invited projects for a new Schmetterhaus. The winning project by Rudolf Srntz was chosen from 82 applications. The old town hall was torn down in 1902 to be replaced by a historicizing building in the Renaissance style. The three-storey building comprises three perpendicular two-section wings with oriel turrets on the corners. The main facade with a line of windows and two balconies is adorned with reliefs of the town crest carried by two lions, coats of arms with jewels above the main entrance, eagles on the sides, and lions on the corners. There are lions and two medallion portraits on the attic triangle gables. The prismatic tower, which has kept is 17th century appearance, ends with an octagonal extension with an alure and a three-storey dome with two lanterns. On the ground floor in the north there was Café Niedermeyer, in the south there was a branch bank. The first floor was residential, on the second floor there was a museum.
The building remained largely unchanged in the following years, including the period of occupation when a project was prepared to change the interior of the building. It was never realized, though. Unlike many other houses in town Hláska was not destroyed during liberation. The only damaged parts were the roof in the north and several burnt-out rooms, including Café Niedermeyer. After February 1948 the town hall housed the town national committee. In the folowing years both the exterior and interior of the building underwent only minimal reconstructions. A general overhaul came in 2006 when the decorative and exterior features from 1902 were restored and Hláska returned to its original state. Today Hláska is the seat of the Municipal Authority of Opava.
Rector’s Office of the Silesian University
Built in the Empire style in 1914 according to the design by Alfred von Stutterheim, for almost 90 years the building served as a military headquarters, casino, and army club. The building was reconstructed in the years 2001–2003. Today it is the seat of the rector of the Silesian University in Opava.
The foundation stone of the first theatre in Opava was laid in 1804 in the place a former cemetery in Horní Square. However, the theatre tradition dates back to the 17th century when public performances were occassionaly held in the Jesuit College. In the 18th century the town alloted a space on the first floor of the city tower (today’s Hláska – the so called Schmetterhaus) where travelling theatre companies could perform. In the 19th century the ever increasing interest in theatrical performances resulted in the construction of a theatre building.
The Classistic theatre building was built in the years 1804–1805 according to a project by Josef Dewez. The simplicity of the building was balanced by the grandness of the interor designed by Lorenzo Sacchetti, a scene-painter from Vienna. The first piece, Karl der Kühne, was performed on 1 October 1805. In the 1840s the building underwent several reconstructions, but in the upcoming decades various technical defects started to emerge, be it lack of capacity, problems with heating, or safety. Projects for reconstruction were put forward in the 1850s, such as the one by the Viennese architect Eduard Kuschee. The project was never realized. In reaction to tragic fires in Nice and Vienna in 1881 it was decided that the building would undergo a general overhaul. The author of the project was the town architect Eduard Labitzký, who had originally suggested that a new theatre should be built elsewhere. Eventually, a substantial part of the old theatre was torn down and a new Neo-Renaissance theatre was built in the years 1882–1883. Labitzký’s harmonic building was realized by the contstruction companies of Josef and Huberta Kmentt, Ferdinand Zdralka and Sigmund Kulka. The front facade was segmented by a triaxial avant-corps with a balcony and a gable with a clock overtopping the roof. The north facade was adorned with allegoric figures, in the foyer there were medallions with important representatives of the German cultural life (Goethe, Grillparzer, Schiller, von Weber, Beethoven, Mozart, Wagner) made by the sculptor Julius Kellner. A local painter Rudolf Templer painted the ceiling with allegoric scenes.
In 1909 the theatre was reconstructed following a great fire. The reconstruction was realized by Ferdinand Fellner, a theatre architect from Vienna. The Neo-Renaissance style was replaced by a Neo-Baroque style with Art Noveau and Classicistic features characteristic of Louis XVI. The reconstruction of the interior was realized in the same spirit by the painter Ferdinand Mosler. The appearance of the building did not change between the wars, but the theatre still underwent major changes. The originally German theatre was obliged to react to a change of circumstances after the Czechoslovak Republic was founded. It was contractually stipulated that the theatre would determine days when Czech plays would be performed there. This agreement came to an end in 1938 during occupation. At that time it was also considered that a new theatre would be built.
The modern history of the theatre began in 1945 after the war had ended. With the exception of the facade the building was not damaged during the final battles, and in October 1945 the theatre reopened under the name Silesian National Theatre. There were three ensembles in the theatre – drama, opera, and operetta. In 1948 the exterior of the building underwent reconstruction that changed its historicizing and “German” character that was not in accord with the new times of Socialist Realism. The architect Jaroslav Pelan kept the original size of windows and doors, but simplified the facade and adorned it with constructive reliefs by Vincenc Havel. Although the reconstruction was meant to be only temporary, the interior of the theatre remained unchanged for the next forty years. The only change was an annex that housed the administrative department in the rear part of the building. The 1990s brought a debate to restore the theatre to its original historicizing state. Architect Klimeš returned the building its Neo-Renaissance look.
The Silesian Museum
In 2014 it was 200 years since the first public museum in the Czech Republic was founded in the grammar school situated in a former Jesuit college. The tradition continued in 1882 when the Silesian Museum for Art and Industry (later Franz Joseph Museum for Art and Trade) was founded on the initiative of the Chamber of Business and Commerce. The museum was sponsored by businessmen as well as the Duke of Opava John II of Liechtenstein, who donated a plot for a new exhibition building.
The museum was built in the years 1893–1895 in the place of the city castle. The Neo-Renaissance building was financed by the Chamber of Business and Commerce. Winners of the public tender were brothers Drexler and Joseph Maria Olbrich, but the constructions was realized by architects from Vienna Johann Scheringer and Franz Kachler.
The two-storey Neo-Renaissance building found inspiration in the Museum of Decorative Arts in Vienna. The richly decorated front facade is segmented by a prominent avant-corps with a protruding straircase, and two enclosed balconies. The roof ends with a dome on a polygonal tambour. The dome carries a sculpture of a genius with a torch and laurel wreath designed by Theodor Friedel, who is also the author of Pegases on the sides of the dome. The winged horse is accompanied by Muses of Music and Art. The original sculptures were heavily damaged and they had to be replaced by replicas. The building also features four terracotta sculptures allegorizing Art, Science, Trade and Craft.
The interior is dominated by a square vestibule with a pillared archade. On the ground floor there were seven exhibition rooms and an art room, on the first floor there were two picture galleries for short-term exhibitions, and also the seat of the Chamber of Business and Commerce. There was also a conference room with three tall windows and a balcony. After the chamber had relocated to a new representative bulding, today’s Petr Bezruč Culture House, the museum aqcuired more exhibition area. There was a project to add another building that would serve as a grammar school museum and library. The new building should have been adjacent to the back facade and should have mirrored the old museum building. The project was never realized, though.
After the foundation of the Czechoslovak Republic, the museum was passed over to the provincial administration, which resulted in a change of name as well as purpose. The key focus of the museum changed to national history, which was reflected in interest in ethnography and archeology. The museum also took over the collections of Matice Museum. At the end of World War II the museum building was damaged when Opava was bombed by the American Army. In 1947 a reconstruction designed by architect Zdeněk Alexa from Brno returned the interiors to their original state. The general overhaul was finished in 1955, when the museum reopened with new exhibitions on natural science, archeology, and evolution of the society. Further exhibitions were added more than ten years later in 1981. The dome, which was completely destroyed during the war, was rebuilt in 1986.
The exhibitions were updated after the revolution in 1989, but their presentation did not live up to the tradition and potential of the museum, which lacked organization. The building itself was falling into disrepair. In the years 2010–2012 the building underwent a major reconstruction and today it offers new exhibition areas, including the cellar. The permanent exhibition Expozice Slezsko introduces in four sections the nature, history, culture, and people of Silesia.
The Baroque palace was built in 1733 by Karel Josef Rogojský of Rohožník in the place of three houses. The palace was reconstructed in 1758 after it had burned down. The front facade features a pillar portal with sculptural work. Above the portal there is a balcony with a Rococo trellis. On the ground floor of the palace Baroque vaults have been preserved. At the end of the 19th century the palace was owned by Count Sternberg. Today the building is owned a private company.
Soví hrádek (Owl Castle)
Designed by the architect Adalbert Bartel and built in the years 1904–1906 by the constructor Viktor Bartel for his private use, the house is an example of romantic architecture. The house combines Art-Noveau elements with modern progressive architecture that stands above the average. The half-timbered attic and main entrance are adorned with owl reliefs, which gave the house its name Owl Castle. After World War II the house was the seat of a Boy Scout branch for a few years.
The vast complex of buildings surrounding St. Adalbert’s Church in Dolní Square is the seat of the Provincial Archive, the third oldest and the third largest archive in today’s Czech Republic. In its 300-year-old history the buildings served as the seat of several institutions.
The complex of buildings used to belong to the Jesuit Order, which came to Opava in the 1620s at the invitation of Karl, Prince of Liechtenstein. In the 1670s the order built the Baroque St. George’s Church (later renamed St. Adalbert’s Church) in the place of the former Gothic church. In the years 1711–1713 the Jesuits rebuilt and expanded the original grammar school and college attended among others by the musical composer Josef Vejvanovský and Bohuslav Balbín. The new complex of buildings with a large garden adjacent to the church was designed by Hans Georg Hausrucker and Josef Reid. The north wing with the grammar school was completed in 1730. The facade of the compact building was segmented by pilasters and rectangular windows. A corridor with windows facing the yard connected the buildings. The Baroque barrel vaults ended with lunettes. The east wing with a triaxial avant-corps originally ended with a low triangle gable.
When the Jesuit Order dissolved in 1773, the buildings were vacated with the exception of the grammar school, where some of the Jesuit teachers worked until 1821. In the first half of the 19th century outstanding personalities studied at the grammar school, such as the founder of genetics Johan Gregor Mendel, musical composer Pavel Křížkovský, or doctor and politician Hans Kudlich. Although the school was German, in the second half of the 19th century Czech teachers, such as Antonín Vašek, Jan Lepař, or Vincenc Prasek taught there as well. From 1814 the building served as the oldest museum in the Czech lands. A library was also housed in the building.
The changes in occupancy of the building required adaptation and reorganization of the space. In the years 1813–1815 the complex was rebuilt in the Classicistic style according to the project by Anton Englisch. The reconstruction included also the construction of a new imposing staircase that led to the conference hall of the Silesian Convent of the Estates, which held meetings in the building at the beginning of the 19th century. Until World War II the buildings were also used by the provincial archive. Franz Joseph I, the Emperor of Austria stayed in the building during the Congress of Opava in 1820.
When Silesia separated from Moravia in 1850 and became an independent and autonomous unit, the Provincial Government as well as the Provincial Diet with 31 members were formed in 1861. A reminder of this fact is the adjacent Sněmovní (Parliamentary) Street. The building underwent further reconstruction at the end of the 19th century, durich which a new staircase, portico at the main entrance, and an attic storey were built. The north wing was shortened to make space for the newly built tram tracks. The facade facing the square was newly constructed.
Between the wars the building housed the library of Matice opavská. During World War II the German occupation authority had its seat there. In 1950 the building turned once again into archive, which at first shared the space with the museum.
When the west wing of the archive collapsed, which resulted in loss of some of the archived items, the building underwent a reconstruction which lasted more than ten years. Today the Provincial Archive in Opava and its branch in Olomouc administer documents related to Silesia, as well as documents related to the area of former North-Moravian Region. The Moravian-Silesian and Olomouc Region archives fall under the administration of the archive in Opava.
The only reminder of the Jewish community in Opava is the Jewish cemetery in the compound of the Town Cemetery in Otická Street. One of the incentives to build a new Jewish cemetery in 1890 was the insufficient capacity of the cemetery between the streets Na Rybníčku and Veleslavínova, which was established in 1854. The remains buried there were not relocated to the new cemetery, and the Jewish cemetery remained there until World War II, when it was completely destroyed by the Nazis. The only remaining part is a fragment of the cemetery wall. Before the old cemetery was built, the Jews buried their dead by the house called Nový svět (New World) near the streets Alšova and Olomoucká. They were made to move the cemetery four years later due to plans to build riding barracks in the area. These plans were never realized and the plot was later used to build the train station Opava západ. The oldest Jewish cemetery in town was until the beginning of the 16th century located outside Hradecká Gate between today’s streets Skřivánčí and Rooseveltova.
The town cemetery comprises three parts – the main Catholic section in the middle, Evangelic section on the left, and the Jewish section on the right outside the main gate. The 120 x 100 metres rectangular area is is fenced off. Apart from the main wrought-iron double gate there are sveral more entrances to the Jewish cemetery. There is a one-storey rectangular funeral parlour with a semi-circular ending. The Neo-Empire building from 1893 was built for the Jewish community only, but until 2007 it was used by all the confessions of faith. There are around 600 graves in the area, which is randomly planted with trees. The rear part of the cemetery reserved for future generations remains empty. The gravestones, made mostly of black granite, are covered with Hebrew-German and Hebrew-Czech inscriptions. Many are also covered in ivy, a plant characteristic of Jewish cemeteries.
Among outstanding persons buried in the cemetery are the businessmen Max Breda and Moritz Weinstein, rabbi Abraham Blüh, lawyers Moritz Ernst and Alois Eisler, factory owners Alois Lichwitz, Eduard Abeles, or Ferdinand Quittner. A complete list of all the graves was compiled in 1996 and it is kept in the seat the Jewish Community in Ostrava. In the cemetery there is also a memorial of the Jewish soldiers who were killed in World War I. In the course of World War II the Nazis closed the cemetery, and they destroyed or removed the most valuable gravestones. After the war a memorial of twenty-five victims of deatch march who died near Hněvošice and Arnošt’s yard in January 1945 was erected. Inscriptions commemorating the Jews who died in concentration and extermination camps are also installed in the cemetery, which was reconstructed after the war. The last burial in the cemetery took place in 1983.