A tour of the Schwarzenberg tomb in Trebon
In an extended special edition of Czechs in History we visit the town of Trebon, some 150 kilometres south of Prague. This is where the Schwarzenberg nobility resided until the Second World War. A dominant building in Trebon is the Schwarzenberg tomb. Join me as I take a tour with my guide Paul Stasek.
PS: "Welcome to the sepulchre building of the Schwarzenberg family in Trebon. My name is Paul Stasek. This building was constructed in 1877. It was built at the initiative of Lady Eleonora Schwarzenberg. Why was it built in this year? Before, all dead members of the family were deposited in the near village church, which is about half a kilometre from here. When the underground space was full, this new building had to be constructed. Well, it was finished in the year 1877, after four years. As to the architecture, you can see it's in neo gothic style, which was imported from England."
RP: Tell us a little bit about the Schwarzenberg family here. Why do they have a crypt here in this place?
RP: And until when was the family here in Trebon?
RP: We are standing in front of the stately neo-gothic building. Can you tell us what we can find inside it today?
PS: "There are two compartments. The first floor is the compartment dedicated to the chapel, which is used for sacral purposes. In the underground space, there is a depository for 26 coffins. On the first floor, which has an octagonal shape, we can see the imitation of stone. The whole building is constructed of hard burned bricks and covered with very durable plaster. On this plaster, the shapes of stone give the impression that it is all made from stone. This plaster is very nicely decorated with stucco.
"Until now, the interior never underwent reparation work because the plaster was made with a special method which is very durable. The space is dominated by the very modest altar. It is made from white sand stone, fine alabaster, and Istrian marble. In the centre stands a sculpture of Jesus Christ but not as a symbol of suffering and being crucified but as a symbol of hope. He was resurrected on the third day after crucifixion and that is why the sculpture features him this way."
RP: Did the sculpture of Jesus Christ stay intact during the communist period here?
PS: "Yes, The sculpture of Christ was left here during the Communist time. During communism the space of the chapel was regularly used as a space for classical music concerts.
"We have entered the underground where there are 26 coffins deposited. The eldest nobleman is Johann Nepomuk I. On the very top is the bust of Johann Nepomuk and on the left is the statue of love and to the right is the symbol of justice."
RP: So in front of me, this coffin in front of me, there is a body inside it now?
PS: "Yes there is an embalmed body in the coffin and there are double metal plates: the inner from copper and the outer from zinc."
RP: Now I wonder whether there have been any legends or myths about ghosts down here...
RP: This looks like a very small coffin.
PS: "The first coffin in this row is that of Lady Eleonora Schwarzenberg, who gave birth to this baby - Prince Walter Prosper, who died just two days after birth. His coffin is deposited here, out of the row, because he was an illegitimate child. When Lady Eleonora stayed in Great Britain she fell in love with an English nobleman and this child was born from this love. In this small vessel is the heart of this baby."
RP: And why is it kept separately?
PS: "It is interesting that in the main crypt of the bodies of the Hapsburg family in Vienna, all the bodies are kept in one church and the hearts of the bodies are in another special church. We don't know why but it's true, it is so. And here are the original funeral bands from the time of the funeral."
RP: Different colours, black, green, red...
PS: "The bands decorated the wreaths used by the funeral and on this wall is the text of the telegrams which were sent by Emperor Franz Josef to the members of the family."
PS: "This coffin bears a special shape because it was made in China. The son of Adolf Josef was a diplomat who was engaged in Asia and died in Shanghai of diphtheria. He was put in a Chinese coffin and sent by ship over the ocean and therefore the shape of the coffin is quite different from the European ones."
RP: Yes, it's looking very simple.
PS: "His name was Karl Laurence Schwarzenberg. One intimate story from the Scwarzenbergs: Edmund Chernov was originally a member of the Schwarzenberg family but because he married a lady who was not from the nobility, a normal town lady, and he was involved in a Prague bank where he stole some big amount of money, he put the Schwarzenbergs to shame and they told him to go away. He went away from the family and accepted this name."
RP: So he was disowned and is now Edmund Chernov.
PS: "He travelled to Africa and on the way back...
RP: He died on board the ship?
PS: "...He died on the Maria and his coffin was thrown into the ocean. I will show you the last coffin that was buried here in 1939 and that was of the father of Dr. Adolf Schwarzenberg, Johann Nepomuk II. He died in 1938 in Vienna. But in the meantime, Adolf Hitler made the so-called Anschluss occupation of Austria; therefore the coffin was sent half a year later in 1939, and that was the last funeral Dr. Adolf participated in. Now I can tell you maybe one legend also: we are told that the German Gestapo wanted to erase Dr. Adolf very soon after the funeral. But he was warned and escaped across the border to Bavaria and into Switzerland and then to the United States of America."
RP: What about the Schwarzenberg family today?
PS: "Today, there are still 36 members of this family and they are managed by the Schwarzenberg Family Foundation. The president of the foundation is Karel, or Charles, Prince of Schwarzenberg, who gained some property back in restitution and now owns the castle Orlik, which is 60 kilometres south of Prague, and the small castle Chimelice. He was the advisor of president Havel for two years, 1990-1992, and now he is a senator.