Archaeologists unearth massive Moravian castle walls under historic Přerov square

Photo: Lenka Kratochvílová / Czech Radio

Archaeologists are busy excavating massive walls of a Moravian castle dating back to the early Slavonic Age of nearly a millennium ago. The extraordinary find, made near the Comenius Museum in the town of Přerov, sheds lights on how royals sought to guard a medieval trade route in the Moravian Gate valley.

Photo: Lenka Kratochvílová / Czech Radio

The oldest written reference to Přerov dates to 1141, when Bishop Jindřich Zdík noted that the town’s Church of St. George was among the most important in Moravia. A little over a century later, in 1256, King Přemysl Ottokar II of Bohemia decreed Přerov a royal town.

The newly discovered castle walls date back to that period, if not even earlier, Zdeněk Schenk, who heads the archaeological research team, told Czech Radio on a recent tour of the site.

“The wall itself is quite unique. It was erected in the early Slavonic Age, sometime in the 10th to 12th centuries. The wall is massive and at points is as wide as 190 centimetres.

“We can see that the stones came from huge blocks of Devonian limestone and were bonded with high-quality lime mortar. Here, we can see the remains of the original Přerov castellany, which guarded the then strategic ford across the Bečva River.”

Photo: Lenka Kratochvílová / Czech Radio
The Bečva River of the Danube basin runs through the valley of the Moravian Gate, which was an important trade route in medieval times and remained so for centuries. The new find proves that the original castle for centuries protected travelling merchants.

The newly exposed stretch of the castellany wall is just steps away from the Přerov Chateau, which houses the Museum of Jan Amos Komenský – or “Comenius” – on the town’s cobbled Upper Square, atop a good-sized hill.

The discovery came during the controversial partial demolition – or restoration work, in the view of the owner – on one of two dozen burgher houses lining the square, all built at the turn of 15th and 16th centuries.

Despite objections from the National Heritage Institute (NPÚ), the guts of the “dilapidated” building have been torn down and the burgher house will become a private kindergarten. The owner has pledged to preserve the cellar now being excavated, but has no plans to open it to the public.

Historians knew that the nearby Comenius Museum had been built on the ruins of a former castle. But until now, archaeologists hadn’t had a chance to explore the site. Research team leader Zdeněk Schenk says that aside from the wall, coins and artefacts spanning centuries keep turning up.

Photo: Lenka Kratochvílová / Czech Radio
“So far, we’ve found a total of eight silver coins from various periods. The oldest is an Albrecht of Austria silver pfennig, from the 13th century. We’ve also found coins of Ladislaus Jagiello, King of Bohemia, from the 15th century. And a couple horseshoes from the 12th century and quite a few iron knives.”

The wall is actually the second recent interesting find on the Upper Square. Last April, archaeologists uncovered a 14-metre well some 600 years old between a pair of linden trees likely planted when the well was dug to serve the wealthy burghers.

Přerov plans to restore the well to full working order, and install a replica gazebo above ground, providing a shady oasis for visitors to the Comenius Museum.