Castle Račice near Vyškov, Czech Republic

 

Address:
Zámek 1, 683 05 Račice 
Description of work:
Restoration of the sculptural ornamentation of the Renaissance arcades
Restoration of the stone fountain in the courtyard
Restoration of the stone balcony
Restoration of the stone socle in the courtyard 
Investor:
Primary School, Apprentice Training Centre and Children Care Home, Račice, Zámek 
Contractor: GEMA ART GROUP a.s.
Implementation:
06 - 11/ 1999

 

 

 

  • History
  • Restoration work
  • More information

 The first reliable written mention of the castle site comes from the testament of the nobleman Kojata of Hněvín, written in 1227. Kojata bequeathed the villages of Račice and Drnovice to his nieces Euphemia and Svatochně who, according to the Račice Chronicle from the 18th century, founded the original castle. It was most probably built during the 13th century.
The medieval castle was a strategically important location within Moravia. At the beginning of the 14th century it was owned by the knight Friduš of Linava, a participant in the uprising against King John of Luxembourg. The king and his armies laid siege to the castle in 1312 and the building was seriously damaged during the attempts to capture it. The ruins came into the ownership of the noblemen family of Lipá, who restored it. The ownership of the castle changed hands many times during the following years. Its status increased during the years between 1480 and 1568, when it belonged to the Boskovice aristocratic family, who made it into an important centre of their power.
The castle was rebuilt in the Renaissance style during the era of Haugwitz of Biskupice family (1568 – 1622). The building had three wings arranged around a trapezoid-shaped courtyard and four towers. The Renaissance arcades with sculptural ornamentation of exceptional quality date back to the same time. Some art historians believe that the artist responsible was Jacob Strada, who also created the sculptural elements of the nearby Bučovice Castle. The stone fountain in the centre of the courtyard was also built during the 16th century.
In the aftermath of the Battle of Bíla Hora in 1620 the castle owners, mainly supporters of the victorious emperor, changed frequently. The Italian family of Braida de Ronsecco owned the castle for a long time, from 1670 until 1800. Changes in the architectural history of the castle took place between 1830 and 1872, when the castle belonged to the aristocratic Mundy family. One of the four towers was demolished, the windows and roofs were enlarged and both the façade and the interior underwent alterations in the style of Biedermeier.
The Scholler family were the last owners of the castle. During their residence between World Wars I and II electricity was installed and some restoration work undertaken. At the end of the 1930s part of the castle was converted into an anti-aircraft shelter. During the tense days preceding the Munich Agreement the castle became the venue for the secret meetings of the commanders of the Czechoslovak Army and the army Chief Commander General Ludvík Krejčí intended to mastermind the defence of Czechoslovakia against Germany from here. Nevertheless, once the Czechoslovak president Beneš and his government accepted the Munich Agreement, no military action could take place.
After 1945 the castle was confiscated by the state. Its premises were first used for recreational purposes by the workers employed in textile factories of the nearby town of Prostějov. In 1959 the castle was converted into a special-needs primary school, an apprentice training centre and a children's care home, which all still reside there at the present.

GEMA ART GROUP a.s. participated in the renovation of the 16th century Renaissance arcades from June to November 1999. The GEMA ART GROUP a.s. team took over from a previous contractor, whose unsuitable restoration activities were stopped on the impetus from the National Heritage Institute. The aim of the project was to restore the sculptural ornamentation of the arcades to their original appearance, despite the serious level of deterioration and in places fragmentation of the stone. The experts took the so-called "gallery" approach to the project. The leading restorer, academician sculptor Jan Bradna, referred to the project in his article in these words: "I am a pupil of Professor Lidický, who in turn was taught by the sculptor O. Španiel. As a sculptor, I have always gravitated towards the art of bas-reliefs and medallions. For this reason I write about these medallions so enthusiastically and at such length – the work was for me a real labour of love and gave me much pleasure. It was one of the reasons why I have agreed to accept it."
The project was divided into several phases. The area undisturbed by previous unsuitable interventions was restored first, followed by work on partly finished segment of the central wing. In the next stage a solution was found for the half-balusters, which had unfortunately been chipped off. The fountain, the socle and the stone balcony, which is a continuation of the arcade, were also all restored.
Restoration of the surface of the stone arcades:
The courtyard is surrounded on three sides by the three wings of the castle; its forth side is open. Restoration concerned the Renaissance arcades, dating back to 1598, on the ground and the first level of the castle building. The architecture of the arcades consists of columns with base and capitals and moulded archivolts and spandrels, which are ornamented with sculptural bas-reliefs and medallions of head portraiture. The parapet is formed by two stone tablets into which half-balusters ornamented with acanthus motifs had been carved. Part of the arcades had been recently subjected to unsuitable restoration, which had to be halted. GEMA ART GROUP a.s. was responsible for the restoration of the arcades of the north-west and the south-west wings.
The arcades were found to be in a derelict state, which contrasted sharply with newly reconstructed masonry infilling of the arches, added to the arcades during the 19th century. After an initial survey the work commenced. The arcades had been constructed from low quality argillaceous layered sandstone which contained mica and their surface was heavily degraded. Petrographic diagnosis had already been made during surveys undertaken in 1998. The stone had pulverised and blistered and parts of it had fallen off entirely. It was so soft that in one place a swarm of wild bees had managed to bite through it and establish a colony.
For these reasons it was impossible to use any wet cleaning methods, which would have resulted in total disintegration of the stone. The cleaning was carried out delicately using soft brushes and air. Secondary lime coatings were removed and the stone then consolidated using organosilicate resins. This strengthening process had to be repeated in several cycles to achieve an optimum result. It was carried out using two methods: a prolonged saturation of the porous stone structure with a consolidate and an insertion of fillers into the cracks. In the most severely damaged areas a 3-5% acrylic resin was applied as a consolidate. Due to the technical complexities and the time limits, specialist chemists were invited to cooperate in the task.
Larger cracks and cavities had to be infilled with a suitable material. After testing various fillers and bonding agents it was decided to use so-called micro-balloons, which are employed in repairs of parts under stability stress. Low-molecule epoxide resin was chosen as the bonding agent.
Once the structure of the stone was secured the artistically challenging restoration of the individual sculptural items could commence.

Restoration of the sculptural ornamentation of the arcades:
The sculptural ornamentation of the arcades represents an important illustration of the art of the Renaissance. It consists of a gallery of bas-relief medallions depicting larger than life sized heads in profile or three-quarter face view. Some faces had been re-modelled during the repairs in the 19th century. The plinths of the columns are decorated with bas-reliefs of allegorical figures and several familial heraldic shields supported by lions are also present.
The ornamentation was delicately prepared for retouching using scalpels, so that a layer of artificial stone could be applied during the restoration. Because of the instances of severe damage to large parts of the heads, cheeks and hair, a partial reconstruction of these fragmented areas – both remoulding and re-colouring – had to be undertaken. During this process the restorers attempted to revive the expressive subtext and at least give a suggestion of the original likenesses. This "gallery" approach to restoration represents the most demanding part of the work: the restorer has to glean and understand from the degraded residual shapes the original architectonic, compositional and creative intent to give the work back its aesthetic and artistic quality. The edging and the mouldings of the ledges were also remodelled.
The question of the colour palette was also important, as the colour hues were intended to enhance the three-dimensional effect of the individual parts. The restorers took as their starting point the colour tones of the original stone and endeavoured to adhere to it. In all 14 samples of stone were taken from the bas-reliefs, heraldic shields and balusters for microscopic analysis in order to establish the original colouration.

Reconstruction of the stone half-balusters:
Restoration of the parapet with the bas-relief of half-balusters decorated with acanthus motifs was a pivotal part of the project. Portions of these half-balusters were partially chiselled off during the recent intervention by restorers.
Several suggestions were made as to the best way of returning the damaged area to an acceptable state. The first possibility was to smooth down the surrounding flat areas and the lines of the chiselled off shanks and retouch the structural traces of the cuts but this would jar with the overall appearance. A second option was to take moulds from the fragments and manufacture copies. In the end the experts agreed on a third way and replaced the missing half-balusters with casts from moulds created from retouched half-balusters. Three half-balusters with different motifs were chosen and 60 casts from artificial sandstone were made. This method preserved the original character of the Renaissance arcades.

Restoration of the fountain in the castle courtyard:
The stone fountain constructed from coarse-grained sandstone is situated in the centre of the castle courtyard. The holding basin of the fountain has the shape of a stylized scallop with four mascarons from which the water flows. The fountain has already been repaired several times in the past. Its bottom had been filled with concrete and the inside of the basin was lined with a thick layer of cement grout. Vegetation covered the whole fountain. The stone was in many places degraded due to the low porosity of the cement cover. The condensed water froze and caused extensive cracks. The corrosion of the iron clamps had destroyed the surrounding stone.
The fountain was to start with cleaned with pressurized water and then treated with biocides. Additional localized cleaning was carried out using hydrogen peroxide and ammonia water. Unsuitable pointing was chiselled off or removed with a diamond grinding disc. The stone was strengthened by the application of organo-silica resin. In areas where increased surface corrosion was indicated and water seepage could occur a special Lukopren coating was used. Larger defects were sealed with mineral grout. To conclude, a complete hydrophobization was carried out.

Restoration of the stone balustrade of the balcony and the stone socle along the courtyard:
Restoration of the balcony, which forms a continuation of the first floor balustrade of the castle, and of the stone socle along the courtyard were also part of the project. Methods used in the work were the same as above, as the building material was identical. The stone surfaces were cleaned of any vegetation and in the case of the stone socle any building work detritus was removed. Defects were sealed with mineral grout and a hydrophobic treatment applied. All repairs to the balcony were colour harmonized with the surrounding architecture.