Rožmberk family tomb discovered in south Bohemian monastery

Photo: CTK

The house of the Rožmberks was once one of Bohemia’s richest and mightiest noble families which at times even challenged the power of the king. The family controlled a large estate in southern Bohemia, its seat being Český Krumlov castle. The last member of the family died 400 years ago and was buried in a local monastery. But the location of the legendary Rožmberk family tomb remained a mystery for centuries – until new research into the monastery tomb produced surprising results.

Photo: CTK
For about 300 years, the house of Rožmberk, known also by the German name of Rosenberg, had a tremendous influence on the affairs of the Bohemian kingdom. Members of the family often held high posts in the kingdom’s administration, and their family estate in southern Bohemia thrived under their rule.

The family’s decline came in the 16th century. The last male member of the house, Petr Vok, died in 1611, and was buried alongside his wife in the Vyšší Brod monastery. Soon afterwards, however, the Rožemberk clan was surrounded by legends. One of them said that family members were not buried in a regular tomb; instead, legend had it, they were buried around a table sitting on golden chairs.

Petr Vok’s grave in the Cistercian monastery in Vyšší Brod was deemed too small to be the final resting place for up to 40 members of the family – but last week, members of a local history association explored the tomb, and found that it was indeed the legendary Rožmberk family tomb. Jiří Šindelář is from the Naše historie association that carried out the research.

Vyšší Brod monastery,  photo: CTK
“The new important information is that, according to our finds, the tomb was originally much deeper than it looks, because some partitions were built within. We can therefore say that this is indeed the only single large family tomb of the Rožmberks where all the members of the family were laid to rest, as documented by historical records.”

A small probe lowered into the tomb ended centuries of speculation. Petr Vok’s grave was first opened in 1902; further research two years ago also failed to determine whether or not the tomb contained the remains of other family members. The prior of the monastery, Justin Jan Berka, explains the significance of the find.

“It confirms various historical records which said that the Rožmberks were buried in one tomb. At the same time, the discovery also throws more light on the research from 2009. We thought the tomb was small, but now we know the tomb is nearly three meters deep and wide, and that it holds the remains of those 40 members of the family, which is what the old chroniclers said.”

During the survey of the tomb, another remarkable discovery was made. The probe found a woman’s gold ring on the lid of Petr Vok’s coffin. It’s not clear whether the ring belonged to his wife, Kateřina of Ludanice, or if it somehow found its way into the tomb. Jiří Šindelář again.

“We suppose it might have rolled out from the wooden coffin of Kateřina of Ludanice. When the coffin began to decompose, we think the ring probably fell out. And to complete the symbolism, the ring was found where the right hand of the deceased Petr Vok was located.”

The 400th anniversary of Petr Vok’s death has been marked with a series of exhibitions in southern Bohemia and beyond. Researchers are now planning to display a replica of the ring at a Czech-Austrian exhibition in 2013.