Archaeologists continue to rewrite history of Kost Castle in Bohemian Paradise

Kost Castle, photo: Kateřina Kohoutová, Czech Radio

Archaeologists working to unearth a 13th century tower at Kost Castle are baffled how a structure of such size has remained so well preserved all these centuries. Another mystery is who built this particular mediaeval fortification in the first place.

Photo: Kateřina Kohoutová,  Czech Radio

Kost Castle, among the crown architectural jewels of the Český ráj (“Bohemian Paradise”) region, has revealed a number of treasures recently. Until just last year, it was believed that Count Beneš of Vartemberk had built the Gothic castle a full century later.

The discovery of the older tower came during an ongoing major restoration, came as a surprise in part due to its size, castellan Jan Macháček told Czech Radio, noting that there is still much literal and figurative digging to do to determine its origin.

Photo: Kateřina Kohoutová,  Czech Radio

“We suspected that there was a fortification here, but we thought it was perhaps a minor fortress or a small castle. This tower provides compelling evidence of a previous and rather massive castle since it would be unusual for a small one to have such a big tower. We hope to soon uncover the outer face so that we can pinpoint the floor plan.”

Popular legend has it that the castle which Count Beneš of Vartemberk built came to be known as Kost (which means “bone” in Czech) after the famed Hussite warrior Jan Žižka failed to take it by siege. He declared the castle to be solid as bone – adding that it was fit for a dog.

Count Beneš,  photo: Joker Island,  Wikimedia Commons,  CC0

The historical record shows that Count Beneš built a wooden fortress and stone tower on the site, a rocky bluff amidst three valleys, seven centuries ago. He signed the founding charter in 1349 using a Latinised version of his name, Benesius de Costa, and Czechs came to call him Beneš of Kost.

But the question remains, says archaeologist Vojtěch Beránek, who built the old castle before Count Beneš came along. And why was it not incorporated into the new one?

“We know that a relatively large castle stood on this site before Beneš’s son Petr of Vartenberk completed the current one. He seems to have demolished it and built a completely new castle in its place, which is rare.

“Usually, buildings are added to enlarge and modernise an earlier castle. So, it is hard to imagine why in this case someone demolished the original and started all over again.

Photo: Kateřina Kohoutová,  Czech Radio

"Judging by the colour of the mortar and type of construction, it might be connected to a gate found last year in the northern wall. Thanks to this, the appearance of the old castle before the Vartenberks came, at least in part, could appear to us.”

The years-long reconstruction of the historic Kost Castle, an estate returned to the noble Kinský family soon after the Velvet Revolution, is due to finish next summer.

Authors: Brian Kenety , Kateřina Kohoutová
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