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History of České Budějovice to 17 century

Slavonic tribes probably inhabited this area as early as the 6th century. There is evidence of a minor settlement on the right bank of the river, approximately 1 km north of the confluence, dating to the beginning of the 13th century. The settlement was called Budivojovice after its owners, who were an important noble family called Budivoj.

Establishment of České Budějovice

Establishment of České Budějovice - a strategically convenient place, protected from two sides by the Vltava and Malše rivers, was chosen., photo by: Archiv Vydavatelství MCU s.r.o.In 1265 King Přemysl Otakar II (probably 1233 - 1278) established a new royal town here as part of his efforts to strengthen his power in the southern part of Bohemia. As this happened almost “on the green meadow“, the architects could design the town centre and adjacent streets in a very magnanimous way. The large square and the right-angled network of wide streets are still a perfect example of a modern medieval town of the north-Italian type. A strategically convenient place, protected from two sides by the Vltava and Malše rivers, was chosen. A water channel called Mlýnská stoka (the Mill Channel), which was partly manmade, protected the town in the north and east. Construction of the town fortification was underway at the same time. A Dominican convent with the Church of the Sacrifice of Our Lady was founded along with the town. It is the oldest structure in České Budějovice.

České Budějovice was established in order to support the royal power in South Bohemia, especially against the family of Vítek (and later Rožmberk), who controlled a major part of South Bohemia in the 13th century. In later years the town had to face repeated attacks by the family of Vítek. The town was damaged several times due to the attempts to conquer it.

České Budějovice during the reign of Charles IV

In the 14th century direct royal influence on the town‘s affairs began to weaken and power gradually went into the hands of burghers. In about the middle of the 14th century, King Charles IV granted several important privileges to České Budějovice. It was forbidden to brew beer in a circumference of one mile around the town and no craftsmen could settle there. All merchants were obliged to stop in České Budějovice on their way from Austria and to offer their goods for sale there. It was also thanks to these privileges that the town began to flourish.

During the Hussite storms České Budějovice stood on the side of the Hussite‘s enemies, but Jan Žižka did not attack the town with his army. The massive belt of town walls with bastions completed at the beginning of the 14th century was probably the reason why this feared commander respected the town.

České Budějovice - The Square of Přemysl Otakar II viewed from the Black Tower., photo by: Archiv Vydavatelství MCU s.r.o.The town prospered in the 15th and 16th centuries due to profitable trade with salt, brewing, trading in pond management and fishing, and thanks to silver mines in the surroundings of today‘s Rudolfov (a mint operated in České Budějovice from 1569 to 1611). This prosperity was reflected especially in building development of the town - the burghers rebuilt their dwellings into grand Renaissance houses and the Black Tower, which is 72 m high, was built.

České Budějovice vs. family of Rožmberk

The history of relations between royal České Budějovice and the powerful family of Rožmberk includes numerous examples of how both parties caused harm to each other. It was the last ruler of Rožmberk, Petr Vok (+1611), who became an exception. In spite of his own financial troubles he had the legendary silver treasure of the family of Rožmberk turned into coins, making it possible to pay and disband the army of Passau. This army looted South Bohemia after they failed to conquer Prague. Thus, Generous Petr Vok thus rid Česke Budějovice of ruthless soldiers of fortune who were garrisoned in the town, and he did not hesitate to make the Black Tower a target of their artillery training.

The economic boom of České Budějovice was slowed by dramatic events in the first half of the 17th century: the invasion of the armies of Passau in 1611 and the Thirty Years‘ War from 1618 to 1648. Česke Budějovice twice became a hiding place of the Czech crown jewels during the Thirty Years‘ War. The jewels were stored and carefully guarded in the Church of St. Nicholas. The first time was in 1633 to 1634, when Prague was not „safe“, and the second time was between 1634 and 1635.

The Thirty Years‘ War had a major economic impact on České Budějovice, but the real wound was caused by a huge fire in 1641 that destroyed more than half of the houses in the town. However, this disaster initiated new construction, among others the first purely Baroque structure in České Budějovice, the Capuchin convent with the Church of St. Anne.