Lets us set forth on a long pilgrimage through the centurie of history of this town. Of course, the first steps begin in the dim light of the Middle Ages in which the outlines of dominant features only energe in a step-by-step fashion.
This high-lying submontane zone with poor soils and coarse climate does not belong to those spots in which the first major settlements were founded and most ancient history of this country written. On the other hand, treasureseekers were lured to these places from time immemorial by particular geological composition of the local ground and especielly by the local deposits of silver and iron ores. Together with a situation of this site close to an ancient oveland trade route, these factors caught the attention of the bishops of Prague.
At the beginning of the 13th century, a holding referred to by a Czech personal name of Pøíbram, likely to have denoted its founder who remains completely unknown to us, belonged to a high-born magnate named Hroznata. However, his permanent interests were centered od N and NW Bohemia where most of his possessions were situated and where, at a place called Teplá, he established a chapter of Premonstratensian canons in 1193, accepting the dignity of prior of Teplá in the intention to dedicate his life to spiritual matters. Hroznata transferred all his possessions to his new foundation. Being situated too far from this centre, his holding at Pøíbram caught the eye of the bishop of Prague, the head of the Church of Bohemia. At that time, the bishop was busy creating a unified administration of ecclesiastical affairs and felt the need for resting stations at adequate distances from Prague which he could use in travelling all over his extensive domain. Pøíbram was situated halfway between the capital of Bohemia and the SW frontier. In 1216, Andrew, bishop od Prague, purchased "a holding called Pøíbram" from the Teplá canons ang initiated the buildup of one of his domains here. The episcopal residence was soon surrounded by a borouhg with a market privilege and with a church of St. James, functioning as a focal point of a domain with several villages.
In 1278, Pøemysl Otakar II, king of Bohemia, was killed in battle; in the following period of unrest, adversaries of the bishop fell on many ecclesiatical domains. In 1289, they invaded Pøíbram, plundering the town and killing or capturing its inhabitants. After this April indursion, another raid came at the beginning of June.
The catastrophe must have been of considerable dimensions as after the cessation
of hostilities in 1290 or 1291, the bishop had to convocate new settlers who
were introduced do Pøíbram by the "locator" named Pøemysl,
local leader to whom all the practical aspects of re-settlement of the town
were entrusted. As the bailiff of the renewed borough, Pøemysl is the
first representative of Pøíbram self - rule whom we know by name.
A long period of peace and prosperity followed. A new small castle of stone masonry was built here by the first archbishop of Prague, Arnot (Ernest) of Pardubice (1343 - 1364) who paid frequent visits to the town; he also established a hospital with a second church of St. John in the suburb. New and new villages sprang up on the archbishop´s estate, the town below the castle grew in importance and the local life became busier and busier. Ultimately, the number of municipal households rose is nearly eighty and there was a school here as early as the 14th century. The archbishop slolemnly confirmed the legal securities of the burghers by a special charter in 1406. Most of thle local inhabitants spoke Czech.
Of course, there was always a lot of Germans around, mining the local silver ores. However, the mining business went through ups and downs so that the miners came and went, constituting a community apart which never merged with the resident burghers.
In Czech speaking Pøíbram, the challenge of the Hussite reformation met a lively response.
The archiepiscopal throne was left vacant as a consequence of the religious revolution and the town remained without overlord. The Pøíbram inhabitants took the Hussite side and even sent troops to the war but without much success, as the town was heavily damaged by the incursions of a Catholic nobleman called Hanu of Kolovrat in 1421 - 1422. Sire Hanu even possessed the fortified castle of Pøíbram for some time.
In the absence of its ecclesiastical overlord, Pøíbram was administered by the king of Bohemia who, however, did not retain direct rule over the town, pledging it to his creditors who changed frequently. Their usual intention was to collect as much money from the estate which they held temporarily as was possible; they were not interested in its long - term prosperity. The consequences, of course, were disastrous; the burghers ultimately feared lest their community, deprived of its ancient privileges, decrease to the status of a simple village.
In consequence of all this, there was much hope in the silver - mining activities which assumed unheard - of speed and dimensions since 1500. Many German miners from the Kruné Hory/Erzgebirge mountains came to town and some of them even established an independent community on the Bøezová Hora mountain nearby. In 1525, Jindøich Peík, the local miners and it was expected that a major mining town would come into being soon.
However, these hopeful expectations failed to materialize. After 1550, the mining lost its importance but the hopes lingered on and, probably as their consequence, the sovereign terminated the extorsions of pledge - keepers in 1579, elevating Pøíbram to the status of a royal mining town administered by a royal official - the mint master. This brought prosperity to the town but the small community at Bøezová Hora, gradually turning Czech, ceased growing and remained a tiny hamlet.
Profound changes were wrought by the Thirty years´war (1618 - 1648). Plundered several times by the armies of both belligerent parties, Pøíbram received a nearly fatal blow. More than half of the town´houses - 97 out of 168 - fell in ruins and the survivors of this disaster were reduced to the status of beggars.
The outcome of the war brought about forced re-Catholicization of Bohemia, mostly Utraquist by then. The Pøíbram situation was precipitated by the fact that the Svatá Hora chapel of Virgin Mary came to be renowned as the most famous pilgrimage centre of Bohemia to which not only crowds of common people but even nobility and the emperors congregated. The pilgrimage traffic became a main source of substitence for the pauperized burghers.
It took Pøíbram no less than fifty years to recover fully from the ravages of war. One of the auwiliary factors was iron - mining which brought not inconsiderable revenues to the municipal treasury around 1700. The silver mines operated with meagre results; in consequence of this, the town gradually ceded its positions both as to investments and as to profits to the state in the course of the 18th century, retaining no more than four shares in the mining enterprise. This was soon to be proved a fatal mistake.
At the end of the 18th century, the mining turned out to be an unprecedented success, thriving beyond all expectations. The town grew in size and population but not in beauty: the new housing consisted of ramshackle miners´cottages among which a maze of lanes departing from the central square hardly gave an orderly appearance. Pøíbram, world-famous as the richest silver mine of all the Habsburg monarchy, hosted the central mining institutions and, since 1849, even the mining academy; however, the immense profits that sprang forth from the local enterprise flowed mostly to Vienna. The municipality had to be content with the abovementioned four shares in the mining activities.
Nevertheless, even this income was sufficient in the most prosperous years to provide for the foundation of important school facilities - a techers´training college in 1874 and a gymnasium, or grammar school, in 1884. These were to become the only ones of their kind in the region.
The peak of the local mining prosperity lasted for a century. Since the 80´s of the 19th century, mining profits stagnated and ultimately started decreasing. A number of miners were discharged and since c. 1900, when the Pøíbram population surpassed the number of 14,000, even town diminished.
It was the irony of fate that precisely at this difficult moment, in 1897, the adjacent community of Bøezová Hora ultimately reached the goal of its long-term attempts, being raised to the status of a royal mining town, though this title represented hardly more than a high-sounding but hollow epithet in the modern time.
The promising perspectives of 19th century Pøíbram thus slowly but steadily turned into nostalgic remembrances of the glorious but inevitably gone past. Nevertheless, a number of features made the town remarkable even in times of an economic and population decline. The worldwide fame of the mines still attracted a number of visitors, religious procession still ascended the Svatá Hora shrine. Unlike other country boroughs, Pøíbram offewred great education opportunities in a number of school institutions up to the Mining academy, as well as ample chances for a thriving cultural life.
After 1945, the history of Pøíbram took another turn. The incipient uranium age, overshadowed by the cold war, brought about a neew epoch of the local mining - burgeoning of mining and the resulting growth of the town. Nevertheless, the Pøíbram prosperity seems to have been burdened by a spell. Profits from the local mines, reaped in the 19th century by the Viennese administration, now went to the eastern despotic superpower. The consequences of its rule over Czechoslovakia left their imprints in the character of the growing Pøíbram. It was surrounded by sprawling "Stalinistic" architecture with dreary barrack-life facades. Mining shafts and building sites were now enclosed by barriers of barbed wire with watchtowers from which armed guards supervised the toiling convicts.
Of course, not even public life beyond the barbedwire entanglements could not be left unsurveyed by the new masters. The cultural level of the town decreased. In 1950, the clergymen of Svatá Hora, belonging to the Redemptorist order, were dragged to captivity. Nine years after this event, a theatre was solemnly inaugurated at the opposite-lying slope; its building was supposed to provide a symbolic dominant feature confronting the Svatá Hora shrine.
This last objective was not reached. The theatre failed to become Marxist competition to Svatá Hora, as the ideological strategists hoped. The theatre remained a theatre, the shrine remained a shrine and human beings remained human including the irrepressible streaming at liberty and spiritual riches. Old cultural traditions were ultimately revived at Pøíbram, chiefly on the initiative of individuals, especially in such spheres as music, science or regional cultural work and in spite of the frowning authorities.
The awakening of Czechoslovakia to freedom in November of 1989 caught Pøíbram at the threshold of another new era. Extensive mining enterprises, traditional silver and lead mines and modern uranium pits went out of operation. A town of forty thousand inhabitants is no longer a mining town. It has retained, however, its character of a pilgrimage centre and of a memorial of rich mining traditions. It is being turned into a centre of scientific research on the history of the uranium industry and on the third, anti-Communist resistance. It starts tapping the possibilities of its fascinating history and contemporary possibilities with the intention of providing a safe and culturally advanced home for its inhabitants, as well as favourable impressions to its visitors.
Little Castle - Ernestinum
During the rule of the Bohemian king and Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV, Archbishop Arnot of Pardubice, owner of the church estate, had the old wooden fort replaced by a small stone castle which later became the core of the present mansion where there is now a ceremonial hall and gallery. Between 1849 and 1945 it served as a training school for miners, then a mining academy and later a College of Mining. During the first great boom in mining, Emperor Rudolfp II raised Pøíbram in 1579 to a free royal mining town.
The Svatá-Hora (Holy Hill)
In 1665, Bohuslav Balbín, a historian of Bohemia, published a book on Svatá-Hora written in Latin. One of the illustrations of this book is an engraving by M. Küssel, representing the most ancient depiction of Pøíbram. It would be hard indeed to recognize in it the present town of forty thousand. A tiny chapel looms above a diminutive and ugly borough bearing the traces of devastations of the Thirty years´war. Though Svatá-Hora was renowned in Balbín´s time, it still awaited its grandiose rebuilding.
Bohuslav Balbín, who saw the chapel in its original form, assumed on grounds of the appearance of its bells and of paintings of miners on its walls that it was very old. The chapel is likely to have been built in the 14th century when Pøíbram belonged to the bishops of Prague who later became archbishops. Though the Pøíbram population embraced the Hussite causeù in the 15th century, the chapel suffered no adversities.
A major breakthrough in the destiny of Svatá-Hora, however, came about in the half of 17th century. On the emperor´s orders, the Jesuits, experts in propaganda efficiency, took over the chapel administration in 1647j. The Baroque appreciation of mystic excitement and miracles of every kind launched the shrine of Virgin Mary to the highest position among all the pilgrimage centres of Bohemia.
Most of the second half of the 17th century was occupied by a fundamental rebuilding of Svatá-Hora according to the plans of Italian architects. The original simple church completely changed its appearance, having been enclosed by a cloister with four corner chapels.
The present shape of Svatá-Hora dates from the beginning of the 18th century. A balustrade with statues of saints, four staircases descending from the terrace into a cloister, two impressive gates and a priceless stucco decoration of the ceilings. Svatá-Hora is by far the most beautiful architectural monument of Pøíbram.
This structure incorporates a unique component: a long and roofed staircase connecting it to the town. This staircase was built in 1658j with funds provided by a pious nobleman. Since then it fell into disrepair and was renewed several times.
On 22 June 1732, the third Sunday after the feast of the Holy Spirit, the Svatá-Hora statuette was solemnly coronated; this event has been commemorated annually ever since then. This is the greatest Svatá-Hora became a mere residence of secular provosts. A certain renewal was brought aout in 1861 when new regular administrators, the Redemptorists, were appointed. In the Communist dictature period of 1950 - 1989, the Redemptorists were exiled from here and normal life returned to Svatá-Hora only in 1990.
For practising Catholics, Svatá-Hora is the ultimate goal of joyous pilgrimages and a source of spiritual consolation; for connoisseurs and lovers of art and its beauty it represents an architectural treasure and an unusually impressive and harmonious dominant feature of the local landscape.
Steps to Svatá-Hora
These steps wind up like a coloured snake to a length of 450 metres, linking the town with Svatá Hora. They are first mentioned in records from 1685, they were roofed over later. The famous architect, K. I. Dienzenhofer shared in the final decoration of the steps in 1727 - 1728. Having reached the top, we enter the cloisters of the impressive Church of the Virgin Mary of Svatá-Hora.
St. James´s Church
The old core of the town arose approximately on the site of the present T. G. Masaryk Square and was dominated by the Church of St. James with Gothic foundations dating back most probably to the mid-13th century. A few metres north-west of the square we can see the neo-Romantis turrets of the originally Gothic deanery.
St. Vojtìch´s Church
The Mining Museum
It was exactly in th 19th century that ore mining here reached its zenith.
In 1875 the Vojtìch mine achieved world primacy when it reached a depth
of 1000 metres. But the work underground brought also tragedy when, in May 1892,
Bøezové Hory was the scene of the worst mining disaster in the
world of that time in which 319 miners died. After that silver mining continued
with various degrees of success into the 20th century. In 1948 a new branch
of mining began in Pøíbram district with the discovery of an extremely
rich deposit of uranium.
But today mining in this district is a thing of the past. Man´s hard struggle with Nature is governed by economic considerations - whether or not it is profitable. And so the once famous local mining industry is recalled today in Pøíbram The Mining Museum at Bøezové Hory, the biggest of its kind in the Czech Republic, situated ùin the grounds of the historical Vojtìch, Anna and evèin mines. The unique evèin shaft built in the style of the so-called 19th century industrial architecture and rising up on the site of the mediaeval mine, was even nominated for inclusion in the UNESCO list of technical wonders. The museum displays rare documents on the history of the local mining and metallurgical industries, ancient steam-driven winding machines, and other objects relating to the old mining methods, superb mineralogical - geological collections as well as exhibits on mining. folklore connected with the history of the town and region.
The once independent royal mining town of Bøezové Hory which has been part of Pøíbram since 1953 has preserved other interesting ancient objects. They include the Marie shaft with a mining exhibition in the underground 532-metre-long Marian gallery, run by the Prokop company, the old mining office, original miners´pub Na Vríèku and St. Prokop Chapel, built in 1733 on the site of a former belfry. The more splendid building opposite, the parish church from 1889 consecrated to another patron of miners, St. Adalbert, dominates Jan Antonín Alis Square in Bøezové Hory.
Institution name: Okresní muzeum Pøíbram - Hornické muzeum (Pøíbram District Museum - Mining Museum)
Comment: Tower of evèinský mine from 1879 - Boring technology in course of times - Development of vertical underground transport in the Pøíbramsko region - Panoramatic view of the area of Bøezová Hora; Machine room of evèinská shaft - World primacy 1000 m of vertical depth in the mine of Bøezové Hory, Vojtìch in 1875; Building of chutes - Crafts and industry in Pøíbramsko to 1918 - Mining-metallurgicall constructions of Pøíbramsko in historical photographs; From the history of mining in Pøíbramsko; Administration building of evèinský mine from 1885 - Mineralogically-geological samples of the area of Bøezová Hora - Uranium deposit of Pøíbram - From the palaeontology of Pøíbramsko - Metallurgy of iron in Podbrdsko; Dump of evèinská shaft - Mining technology of Ore and Uranium Mines Pøíbram in the 2nd half of the 20th cent.; Miner's cottage - Household of miner's family of Bøezová Hora from the turn of the 19th and 20th cent. - Folk toy-making and puppeteering of Pøíbram - Folk furniture of Pøíbramsko of the 19th century - Agricultural tools and implements of the turn of the 19th and 20th cent.; Grounds of historical shaft Anna from 1789 - Machine room with steam winding engine from 1914 - Steam machines in ore mining - Prokopská adit from 1832 with the deepest pit of the area (1600 m), going by mine train in the underground, pickup of minerals from dumped dump of the mine Lill from 1857; Grounds of Vojtìch mine from 1779 - From the history of the mine Vojtìch - Gallery of Karel Hojden; Mining whim-gin; Mint Nový Knín from the 15th century - From the history of production and processing of gold in Novoknínsko.
Institution name: Muzeum Tøetího odboje Konfederace politických
vìzòù ÈR (Museum of Anticommunist Revolt - Confederation
of Political Prisoners)
Comment: All expositions inform about the character of the third resistence movement (1948-1968) and the following persecutions of communist dictatorship. Pøíbram: Political prisoners of uranium mines 1948-1968 - Women in The Third Resistance Movement and in prisons 1948-1968 - From Bohemia to Siberian concentration camps. Jáchymov (building of Royal Mint - see the branch of the Local Museum in Karlovy Vary): Concentration camps by uranium mines in the Jáchymovsko region 1949-1961.