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Brno Travel guide

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Brno is the second largest city of the Czech Republic.
Located in Southern Moravia along the confluence of the rivers Svratka and Svitava.
Population of approximately 400.000. The greater metropolitan area including other nearby cities has population of almost 1 million.
A major water reservoir, the Brno Dam Lake is located on the Svratka river in the close proximity to the city.
The city has been divided into 29 municipal districts. There are 6 universities with 26 faculties attended by some 32.000 students.
Great number of museums, galleries, theatres, zoological garden, botanical gardens and observatory. Large international trade fair grounds with many international exhibitions throughout the year. Industrial centre with many leading Czech companies.
Brno is a twin city with Nepean, Ontario (Canada)

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Travel Guide

Brno history

The City of Brno is a city with very long history. Many historical buildings can be found in the centre of the city as well as in its colourful surroundings.

Some interesting dates from the city's history:

30000 BC - bone relics of the pre-historical man found on the territory of the City

V. Century - arrival of Slavs and their settlement in Brno

XI. Century - the castle of Brno and the church of St. Michael built on the Petrov Hill

1091 - the first written record of the existence of Castle of Brno (in the Cosmas chronicle)

1243 - Brno proclaimed a royal town by the King Venceslav I. resulting in the city's fortification walls to be built

1277 - castle of Spilberk reported for the first time

1349 - the city became the permanent residence of Moravian Margraves

1428 - unsuccessful besiege of the city by Hussite troops

1645 - unsuccessful besiege of the city by Swedish troops

1763 - unsuccessful besiege of the city by Prussian troops

1763 - establishment of the first textile works

1814 - construction of the first steam engine

1839 - arrival of the first train from Vienna

1881 - electric lighting installed in the municipal theatre using Edison lamps

1899 - establishment of the Technical University of Brno

1919 - establishment of the Masaryk University

1928 - establishment of the Brno Exhibition Grounds

1958 - the Brno airport opened in Turany

1993 - the city's 750th anniversary

Man has lived in the Brno basin since prehistoric times, and there was a settlement on the site of today's city at the time of the Great Moravian Empire. In around 1000 a settlement was established on a ford across the River Svratka, now known as Staré Brno (Old Brno), and it was this that gave the city its name. From the 11th century, Břetislav's castle stood here, and was the seat of the non-ruling Premyslid Prince. Around the castle several Czech market villages grew up, both in Old Brno and around Horní trh (today Zelný trh/Vegetable Market). Foreign colonists started to arrive from the 13th century: Germans, Flemish and Walloons, who settled around the Lower Square (today's Náměstí Svobody). A Jewish quarter was also formed in the area that today forms the lower end of Masarykova Street. Legal support for the development of the city came with the large and small privileges that were conferred upon the city in 1243 by Václav I, King of Bohemia. The city was then surrounded by fortifications, which had five gates (Měnín, Židovská (Jews' Gate), Starobrněnská (Old Brno Gate), Veselá (Merry Gate), and Běhounská). There were two parish churches - St. Peter's and St. James', and several monasteries: Benedictine in Komárov, Premonstrate in Zábrdovice, monasteries for mendicant orders such as the Dominicans, Minorites, Heburgs, Johannites in Old Brno, and a convent for Cistercian nuns also in Old Brno, which was founded by Queen Eliška Rejčka. The Špilberk castle was rebuilt in a Gothic style in the 13th century. In the 14th century the city became the seat of the Moravian Margraves, and underwent a period of great expansion; at this time there about 1000 buildings and 11 000 inhabitants. Thanks to the right that the city possessed of holding annual markets, international trade grew. This meant that in-depth knowledge of legal regulations had to be gained, and so in 1355 Jan, the town hall scribe, compiled a book of regulations for the city aldermen, which became the legal norm for several other cities. A magistrate and a city council of twelve aldermen led the city. From the mid-14th century Brno became a centre for Moravian regional assemblies, which took place alternately in Brno and Olomouc. These regional authority organs made decisions on political, legal and financial questions and were responsible for the upkeep of regional records.

During the Hussite Wars the city remained faithful to King Zikmund, and the Hussites twice laid siege to the city, in 1428 and 1430, both times in vain. The first diplomatic talks were held in Brno, which led to the Treaty of Basle. In 1454 King Ladislav Pohrobek expelled the Jews from the city, and they resettled in the area that is now Křenová Street. During the reign of King Jiří of Poděbrady Brno supported his adversary Matthias Corvinus, who in Moravia was acknowledged as King of Bohemia. During both civil wars in the 15th century, the number of buildings fell and business dropped.

In the mid-16th century Brno began to lean towards Protestantism, whose representatives had a majority on the city council. In an attempt to re-Catholicise the city, new Catholic orders came to Brno, of whom the Jesuits and the Capuchins were to gain a great influence. The number of inhabitants in the pre-White Mountain period remained at a similar level as it had been two hundred years previously. In 1619 the city contributed to the Estates Rebellion, for which it was punished. In 1643 and 1645 Brno was the only city to successfully defend the Swedish besiegements, thereby allowing the Austrian Empire to reform their armies and to repel the Swedish pressure. During the defence of the city, the military leader Radoit de Souches and the Jesuit Rector, Father Martin Středa, both played important roles. In recognition of its services the city was rewarded with a renewal of its city privileges, which included a new symbol. During the Thirty Years' War Brno became the only capital of Moravia, and from 1641 the regional Moravian records were held in Brno. Following the Thirty Years' War the city became an impregnable baroque fortress. In 1742 the Prussians vainly attempted to conquer the city, and the position of Brno was confirmed with the establishment of a bishopric in 1777.

In the 18th century development of industry and trade began to take place, which continued into the next century. In Brno there was a concentration of textile and engineering industries, which rapidly adopted the most modern technology. In 1839 the first train arrived in Brno. Together with the development of industry came the growth of the suburbs, and the city lost its fortress characteristics, as did the Špilberk castle, which became a notorious prison to where not only criminals were sent, but also political opponents of the Austrian Empire. The fortifications were gradually demolished; these were replaced in the Viennese style by green areas and buildings, which formed the city ring road. In 1850, 32 neighbouring communities were added to the city, and the population reached 46 000. Gas lighting was introduced to the city in 1847 and a tram system in 1869. Grammar schools, secondary schools and higher education establishments were also built. (German Technology School est. 1873, Czech Technology School est. 1899). At the turn of the 20th century the problem of nationalism reached its height between the Czech and the German inhabitants; the majority German representation in the city administration ended in 1919.

During the First Republic Brno was the second city after Prague - both in terms of its population (1921: 210 000, 1937: 300 000), and also in importance, as it was the capital city of the Moravia/Silesia Province. It was during this period that the Masaryk University was established (1919), and the Brno Fairgrounds were opened in 1928 with an exhibition of contemporary culture. The city was not only a centre of industry and commerce, but also of education and culture. Famous personages who have worked in the city include Leoš Janáček, Viktor Kaplan, Jiří Mahen and Bohuslav Fuchs.

The Second World War caused serious damage to Brno. During the Nazi occupation many Czech citizens were executed in the city at the Kounicové Koleje (a student residence); the result of these atrocities was the evacuation of the German inhabitants in 1945. The subsequent period of Communist rule brought the city economic and political stagnation, the consequences of which we are still finding difficult to overcome.

Augustinians in Brno:

The Augustinian monastic order has been present in Brno since 1356. The Moravian Margrave Jan Heinrich of Luxemburg issued the foundation charter of the Brno monastery. The Pope confirmed this in 1356 and, because Brno fell under the Olomouc diocese, the Bishop of Olomouc also had to give permission for the monastery to be established in the city by the elected Moravian Margrave. The monastery was built outside the city fortifications in the vicinity of the Rhine Gate (at the entrance of today's Běhounská Street), and is now known as the Mistodržitelský (Governor's) Palace. During the Josephine reforms in 1782 the monastery was removed to the former Cistercian Convent in Old Brno.

Augustinian Thurn foundation:

In 1653, when the Augustinians were still based at their monastery on what is now Moravské Náměstí (Moravian Square), a foundation known as the Augustinian Thurn foundation was set up by the Brno noblewoman Sibylla Poyxena Francesca von Montani, née Countess von Thurn und Walsassin, for the support of musical development. The main contribution of this foundation was the significant enrichment of the contemporary musical and musical education scene in Brno. The activities of this foundation were so wide-ranging and important, that one could say that the Augustinians gave the city a truly specialist musical school. In 1865 it was one of the sources of funding for the young Leoš Janáček, who was to later act as director of the Old Brno choir at the Augustinian church.

City of Brno Palladium:

The Old Brno Madonna - PANNA MARIA SVATOTOMSKÁ. According to tradition St. Luke painted this picture. The Bishop of Milan Eustorgius brought it to Constantinople by St. Helen, and then via Genoa to Milan. Emperor Friedrich gave the picture to Vladislav, King of Bohemia, who brought it to Prague. According to chronicles the picture's journey continued when Charles IV gave it to his brother, Margrave Jan, in 1356. He probably donated the picture to the Brno Augustinians in 1373. At present the picture is situated above the "Silver" altar in the Old Brno basilica.


Augustinian Abbey:

Pope Benedict XIV in 1752 promoted the Augustinian convent, founded in the mid-14th century, to the position of Abbey, thereby creating an integral part of the Order of St. Augustine. The sixth Abbot was the world-famous researcher Johann Gregor Mendel; the present Abbot, Lukáš Evžen Martinec, is the eleventh since the foundation of the Abbey. An abbacy was needed because, amongst other reasons, the Brno bishopric was established in 1777. As the Abbot had the right to use pontifical regalia (crosier, mitre, pectoral), he had to represent the church not only in Brno, but also in Moravia as a whole. It should also be mentioned that for practically the entire existence of the Augustinians in Brno, their priors have had the privilege of wearing pontifical regalia.

Brno Sights, sightseeing, culture:

Travel Guide

Špilberk Castle and fortifications:

Founded in the first half of the 13th century as a royal castle for the defence of Brno. After the 17th century it served as a provincial fortress, and in the 18th and 19th centuries was a prison for political inmates, called the "prison of nations" of the Habsburg monarchy. In 1939-1940 it was used as a prison by the Brno Gestapo, and afterwards served as a military building. Since 1960 it has been the headquarters of the Brno City Museum. There is a permanent exhibit in the castle`s casemates; a new exhibition entitled "Špilberk - Prison of Nations", displays on Brno history and the City Museum gallery are currently being prepared in the northern wing.
Petrov:

The Cathedral of St. Peter and St. Paul is located on the top of this hill, known as Petrov, on the presumed site of the former Brno castle (including a chapel) that dates from the 11th and 12th centuries. After the castle`s demise the free-standing Romanesque basilica was rebuilt as a Gothic cathedral in the 13th century, further modified in the 15th and 16th centuries, and converted to the Baroque style in the 18th century. Its current neo-Gothic form dates from the turn of this century. Since 1777 the cathedral has been the seat of the Brno bishopric. The original church crypt from the 12th century is now accessible to visitors.
Dietrichstein Palace:

The Dietrichstein palace was built in the years 1613-16 by G.G.Tencalla, and was rebuilt in circa 1720. Part of the building complex is the "bishop's courtyard" built in 1352. Today the building is used as the Moravian Regional Museum.
Parnassus Fountain:

The Baroque "Parnassus" fountain was built to replace an earlier, Renaissance fountain that dated from the year 1597. The version that we can see today is the work of Johann Bernard Fischer von Erlach and was built in the years 1690-97.

Old Town Hall:

Originally a town house with a tower in which the city documents and valuables were stored, this building later served as the centre of municipal administration from the first half of the 13th century until 1935. The premises were enlarged in the 16th and 17th centuries by the addition of the buildings in the courtyard, and the tower was modified at the beginning of the 20th century. Today it is the home of the Brno Culture and Information Centre, and the site of such social events as the Brno Summer of Culture.
Portal of the Old Town Hall:

The richly decorated portal of the Old Town Hall is an extraordinary example of late Gothic sculpture, the work of Anton Pilgram in 1510.
New Town Hall:

The seat of the city mayor and the highest city administrative bodies. The historical core of the site took form in the 1680s, as the place where provincial diets and assemblies of the Moravian nobility were held. The area was expanded in the 17th and 18th centuries to include additional buildings situated around its two courtyards. The present appearance of the building dates from 1934 - 1935.

Augustinian Monastery:
and Basilica of the Assumption of Our Lady

The Basilica of the Assumption of Our Lady is a true jewel amongst Gothic architecture in Moravia. The widow Queen, Eliška Rejčka, established the Cistercian convent in 1323 next to the old parish church of Our Lady. This became known as Aula Sanctae Mariae, or the Queen's Convent. In 1782 the Augustinian monks moved here from their original site next to the church of St. Thomas, which is today on Moravské Náměstí (Moravian Square).

From this year onwards the Old Brno convent became their new home, and also the seat of an abbot.

The Gothic Church of the Assumption of Our Lady differs from other monuments of its period not only by its complicated and unique ground plan composition, but also by the building techniques used in the construction of its unrendered brickwork alternating with carved masonry, which is unusual in this country. In the XVIII century the interior was baroquized; the baroque buildings of the Abbey were also completed at this time.

In 1686 Johann Gregor Mendel was elected Augustinian abbot, and it was in this monastery that he discovered and formulated his theory of genetics.

In 1987 Pope John Paul II elevated the Old Brno church in status, and from that time it has carried the title "Basilica minor".

Many famous people have worked at the monastery:

Abbot Cyril František Napp (1782-1867)

Antonín Thaller ( 1796-1843 )

František Matouš Klácel (1808-1882),

František Tomáš Bratránek (1815-1884)

Tomáš Eduard Šilinger (1866-1913),

Abbot Jan (Johann) Gregor Mendel (1822-1884),

Pavel Křížkovský (1820-1885),

Leoš Janáček (1854-1928) recipient of funds from the Thurn Foundation, later to become director of the Old Brno choir.

Mahen Theatre:

T. Friedl built the Mahen theatre from July 1881 to October 1882 according to the design of the Viennese architects F. Fellner and H. Hellmer with sculptures. It was the first theatre in Central Europe to be illuminated with Edison's light bulbs.
Mitrovský Summer House:

The Mitrovský Summer House was built in the classical style, and was originally surrounded by a garden, an orangerie and a greenhouse. Antonín Mitrovský and subsequently changed hands built the house often, until it ended up in the ownership of the city.

During restoration work in 1962-1965 the original wall paintings were also restored. Today the Summer House is used for exhibition purposes.

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