Castle Mníšek pod Brdy, Czech Republic


Správa státního zámku Mníšku pod Brdy, Nám. F. X. Svobody 1, 252 01 Mníšek pod Brdy
Description of work:
Restoration of stucco ornamentation of the ceilings
Restoration of decorative patterns and cornices on the ceilings
Evaluation of dampness levels within the castle premises and proposal for the drainage of the walls
National Heritage Institute
Contractor: GEMA ART GROUP a.s.
Implementation: 2004



  • History
  • Restoration work
  • More information

The history of the town and the castle goes a long way back. Some experts place the beginnings of the original medieval keep as far back as the end of the 11th century, when the settlement of Mníšek pod Brdy was the property of the Benedictine monastery in Ostrov near Davle. This remains only a speculation lacking any relevant historical and archaeological proof. Archaeological research does not confirm the existence of any fortified building on the site before the turn of the 13th and 14th century. The first written word of the castle comes from Maiestas Carolina, the legal code of King Charles IV from 1452. The Mníšek pod Brdy fortress was in the personal holding of the king, who leased it to various tennants for ten years at a time. The estate thus often changed owners, most influential among whom were the future King Wenceslas IV and the Lithuanian Prince Henry. The Gothic fortress became the permanent hereditary property of the Mitrovice family in 1503 by decree of King Ladislaus Jagiellon. The building was subsequently extensively rebuilt in the Renaissance style. The work continued throughout the 16th century and at the turn of the 16th and 17th century the castle was extended on its east side and two polygonal towers and cellars were also added.
The Thirty Years War significantly affected the whole town. In 1639 the castle was devastated by the Swedish army under the command of General Johan Baner, who first plundered the building and then set fire to it.
The derelict Renaissance castle was purchased by Servatius Engel von Engelfluss, who decided to convert it into a fashionable aristocratic dwelling. As a result the whole building, with the exception of the east wing, was almost newly constructed in the Early Baroque style. The extensive building work lasted from 1656 till 1672 and was carried out according to plans by the architect Martin Ringer. Artistically most remarkable are the stucco ornamentation of the interior, best preserved in the Chapel of St Servatius, and the gate with a monumental portal, the work of Sebastian Bossart.
In the mid-18th century the castle was inherited by the von Unwerth family, who remodelled it in the Rococo style. Among other additions they built a wine cellar and a spa with an adjacent boiler room and also erected a sundial in the courtyard.
The death of the last member of the Unwerth family was followed by ten years (1827 1838) of arguments about the ownership of the castle, from which the family of Pacht from Rájov eventually emerged victorious. During their residency in the first half of the 19th century further building alterations in the Classicist style were carried out.
The last owners, the Kastl family, came to the castle in 1909. A year later a major modernization of the property commenced, led by the architect B. Bleha. Electricity was installed, as well as service lifts, bathrooms with hot water supply and other amenities. The interiors were also renovated: the ceilings were decorated in a pseudo-Baroque style and the walls in the style of Art Nouveau.
After the end of the World War II the castle was confiscated by the state and was to start with given to the Union of University Students as a recreational facility. But in 1946 the castle's administration was taken over by the Ministry of the Interior, who established there a depository of the materials from the State Central Archive. During the 1950s the premises were altered to suit better the purposes of the archive, which remained in situ until the end of the 1990s. In 2000 the administration of the castle became the responsibility of the National Heritage Institute and the building was subsequently comprehensively restored in the years between 2001 and 2004. The aim of the restoration was to return the castle to its original early 20th century appearance and to open the interior to the public. The official opening of the reconstructed monument took place on 1st July 2006.

The work concerned chiefly the stucco decorations in the interior. They were affected by past building alterations and also damaged by high levels of dampness. For these reasons it was in many cases necessary to resort to technically challenging manufacture of exact copies. These replicas were created by traditional craft techniques, using the fragments of the originals as guidance. Before the restoration of the stuccoes, the immediate causes of their deterioration had to be dealt with: namely the water seepage through damaged roof covering, which had to be newly reconstructed. Damp problems afflicting the monument, such as localized flooding of the basement and increasing levels of dampness in the east wing, nevertheless continued. Because of this it was necessary to carry out an expert evaluation which would form a basis for the most suitable remedial procedure.

Restoration of the ornamental stuccoes, the ceiling decorative patterns and the cornice:
Dampness caused by water seepage through the damaged roof played the biggest role in the deterioration of the stuccoes and the ceiling ornamental patterns within the interior. During the past roof repairs some stuccoes had been removed and the fragments archived. Thanks to these preserved parts the restorers were able to undertake a complete reconstruction of the interior decorative elements in the castle. Room number 308 was the most severely affected: the ceiling stucco patterning was entirely missing and had to be replaced by copies, based on the original decorative patterns of the adjacent room.
The stucco replicas were manufactured according to traditional methods and from the same ingredients as the originals: lime, sand, plaster and water. The surface of the surviving stuccoes and mouldings had first to be cleaned of soot and dirt and impressions then taken. The copies cast from these impressions were attached to surfaces, which were first coarsened and moistened, by means of modellers plaster. To conclude, all surfaces were visually colour harmonized.

Assessment of dampness and hydrogeological evaluation:
The main problem the building was facing was the extensive dampness in the walls and occasional flooding of the castle basements. The east wing was the worst affected. For this reason a hydrogeological evaluation was undertaken and a remedial blueprint drawn up. Within the framework of the surveys local geological and hydrogeological conditions data obtained from archive materials were evaluated, water samples from the foundations level of the basements and samples of masonry and plasters from the damp areas were taken; water absorption tests to establish the flow capacity of the mineral environment were also carried out. The experts also inspected the drainage system and test probed the construction of the surfaces in the courtyard.
The surveys established that the main culprit in the occurrence of water in the basement and dampness in the walls was the infiltration by rain and waste water, especially into the areas of rubble accumulations and land infills, which lay under the surface of the courtyard and underneath the east wing. The main reason for the infiltration was the seepage of the waste water in the area of the courtyard, loose connections in the guttering and faulty drainage pipes. Based on these findings the experts recommended a complete overhaul of the drainage system, treatment of all dampness areas and revision of the interior water drainage.

Proposal for the drainage of areas affected by damp:
Drainage of the masonry was most needed in the east wing of the castle. The examination of the ten masonry samples obtained by probing established the mixed composition of the masonry with a prevalence of compact slate, which due to its low water absorption did not play a part in the water transportation through the masonry. The bricks in the walls, on the contrary, contained as much as 18% water. The mortar and plasters were also damp but despite this the levels of salinity were found to be low. As a result the damage to the masonry was overall fairly minor.
After the masonry was dried out, use of condensing dehumidifiers together with microwave heating were recommended.