Queen Anne’s Summer Palace

Photo taken by xana.antunes

Queen Anne’s Summer Palace is located just north of Prague Castle through a small wooded area and the Brusnice Creek. Construction started in 1538 as a gift from King Ferdinand I to his wife Anne of Jagiellon. Ferdinand I was born in 1503 and was part of the Habsburg dynasty in Spain. The Ottoman Empire was gaining strength and western and eastern Europe felt the need to build closer alliances in case there was a war. This fear led to the First Congress of Vienna in 1515 and it was decided that Ferdinand and Anne would marry to strengthen the alliance between Bohemia and Hungary and Spain. Over ten years after the two were married, Ferdinand became King of Bohemia and Hungary in 1526. A year later he also became king of Croatia and about thirty years later he was named the Holy Roman Emperor. Over this time Anne produced fifteen children and died shortly after giving birth the fifteenth child.

A few years before her death, Ferdinand established a royal garden that was to later be part of the summer palace he had in mind for his wife. He originally had the palace designed by Paolo della Stella and built by Giovanni Spatio. Both of these men did not see the end of the project due to their respective deaths. In 1547, Anne died, and Ferdinand left and never saw the completion of the palace due to his heartbreak of losing his wife.

Closer view of the entrance to the gardens
Photo taken by Javier Pedreira

Work still continued on building the summer palace to still honor the love between Ferdinand and Anne. After completion, there was no real use of the palace until when Rudolf II used it as an astronomical observatory, but only on the first floor. During this time many notable Czechs stayed as guests in this palace, but after the death of the royal emperor in 1612 the palace was abandoned for over thirty years. Swedish soldiers plundered the building and grounds and remained it the Belvedere for its beautiful views. They also called it Ferdinandeum and Observatorium. For over 100 years, an artillery laboratory was based on the grounds until governor count Karel Chotek evicted the artillery.

Once it was not a military base anymore, Bernard Grueber and Petr Nobile renewed the building by added a picture gallery and a Classicist staircase. Bohemian history was added to the first floor walls. This was the final renewal of the building in the 1860s. In the 1950s, Pavel Janák restored the summer palace and used it as an exhibition hall until It became a National Cultural Monument in 1962.

Relief of King Ferdinand I and Anne of Bohemia and Hungary, before 1550
Photo taken by Packare

Jumping back a little, it’s time to break down the elements of this masterpiece. During the 16th century, the chosen style of most buildings was that of Renaissance and Queen Anne’s Summer Palace was no exception. Renaissance architecture replaced the Gothic style and went back towards the classical culture of Greeks and Romans. Specific features of this type of style include columns, round arches, tunnel vaults, and domes. Many Renaissance architects focused on ancient ruins found in Florence, Italy and brought these old-world styles back. Renaissance focuses on the harmony of the human form with buildings. Proportion and space were key, unlike the Gothic style which was more complex.

Renaissance style arches on the outside of the palace
Photo taken by Malenka

Breaking down the structure, Stella created the bottom portion of the palace. The bottom portion includes the ground floor and the arcade gallery. The grounds floor had residential areas, a dance hall, and a gallery. This portion had some damaged from a fire in 1541 and needed some reconstruction. During construction Stella and Spatio, both died for unknown reasons and the design and construction were taken over by Bonifác Wohlmut. Wohlmut added the first floor and a copper roof that is shaped as a turned keel. The roof was also had red and white stripes and painted Bohemian symbols. Most of the outdoor paintings have been lost to time, but one marvel still remains; the singing fountain. The singing fountain was drafted by painter Francesco Terzio and was built using a cast of a Renaissance fountain in 1564 by Tomáš Jaroš. Terzio designed the Greek god Pan and a shepherd to be added to the fountain. Jaroš chose to use a bell-metal and bronze to form the fountain. The reason it is called the singing fountain is that when the water droplets fall onto the rim of the lower bowl if you listen closely, different tones are emitted. This fountain is still in its original location and remains the same as it did back in the mid-1500s, except for the top figure of a little piper that was copied because the other was destroyed.

Singing Fountain
Photo taken by Prazak

Today the Summer Palace stands tall and is open to the public as a museum. We will most likely be visiting this location on May 29 or whenever there is free time in Prague.

Prague Castle to the Summer Palace via a walking path
Photo taken by Google, route drawn by me

Works Cited

Prague City Tourism. (2019). Prague Castle – Queen Anne’s Summer Palace (Letohrádek královny Anny). Retrieved February 20, 2019, from https://www.prague.eu/en/object/places/880/prague-castle-queen-anne-s-summer-palace-letohradek-kralovny-anny

PTI. (2019). Royal Garden and Queen Anne’s Summer Palace. Retrieved February 21, 2019, from https://praguecastle.com/location/prague-castle-gardens/royal-garden-queen-annes-summer-palace/