Baroque Magnate Johann Christian von Eggenberg

The portrait of Jan Kristian of Eggenberg, copy according to de Veerle, Červený Dvůr(?), 1706, oil painting on canvas, complex restoration done by Stojan Genčev, Prague, 1995 Johann Christian I. von Eggenberg was born on July 9, 1641 as the second child of Johann Anton I.von Eggenberg and Anna Marie Braniborská. In 1652, together with his younger brother Jan Seifried (born on December 8, 1644), he matriculated at the Jesuit university in Graz. Besides school, the brothers enjoyed rabbit-hunts, hunting with a falcon, bird-catching, shooting, not very successfully playing skittles, dancing and studying foreign languages. In June of 1660, they set out for an educational journey and within three years they visited Germany, Spain, the Netherlands, France, Switzerland and Italy - they didn't receive their mother's permission for a journey to England. In March of 1663, the Pope Alexander VII. granted them an audience in Rome and in June they returned to Graz. After their return, they had to solve feuds concerning their father's heritage, as Johann Anton didn't leave a will. In June, 1665, Johann Christian von Eggenberg agreed upon the just distribution of the property and shortly afterwards moved with his officials to Český Krumlov, which he chose to be his stable residence. His dissensions with his brother, especially concerning imperial manors and offices, were not solved until 1672. While working out the problems, Johann Christian was introduced to Marie Ernestine, the Countess of Schwarzenberg, a daughter of Jan Adolf zu Schwarzenberg, who happened to be one of those settling the matter of both of the antagonised Eggenberg brothers. On 21 February, 1661 Johann Christian married Marie Ernestine in Vienna. Together with the advent of Marie Ernestine, a well educated and art-loving lady, with whom Johann Christian got The portrait of Marie Arnoštka of Eggenberg, née of Schwarzenberg, copy according to de Veerle, Červený Dvůr (?), 1706, oil painting on canvas, state after restoration, complex restoration done by Stojan Genčev, Prague, 1995 along very well, a new period of prosperity began for Český Krumlov. A peculiar characteristic of both of the partners was generosity. They both were interested in art, which is evidenced by the rich cultural life of their court. Johann Christian did well as master of his property, although he was robbed by some of his officials during the first years of his reign. He improved a number of things in his dominions and he bought the hammer-mill at Dobrkovice (in 1660), Červený Újezd estate (1662), Dub u Tábora estate (1666), Chlum u Křemže estate (1668), Myslín estate (1679), court in Světlík (1680), Bartochov court (1688), Běleč estate (1688) and Kosmo estate (1696).

Their significant post in the cream of of society, riches, the necessity of an adequate social bearing, and particularly private interests led the couple to gradual constructional modifications of the Český Krumlov Castle in order to satisfy the demands of the furnishing of a baroque princely residence of the time. The main changes took place in the middle of the 17th century. The married couple, Johann Christian and Marie Ernestine von Eggenberg, decided in the 1680's to build an independent theatre building for their own dramatic group. This building has been preserved, after some reconstructions and adjustments to the scenic requirements in the 1760's, up to now. (see The Eggenberg Castle Theatre in the 17th century). Performances were held in the original building until the beginning of the 18th century. Shortly after, however, the owners' interest in the theatre began to decline for various reasons and the building slowly went to ruin. Only the Schwarzenbergs saw to its reconstruction. The first mention of an Eggenberg musician comes from the year 1664. The later established castle band consisted of trumpeters and, as time passed, of a tympanist. (see The Eggenberg Band). The band of trumpeters was complemented by other instruments. The best known member of the band was bandmaster Dominic Bernoulli.

The musicians used to play in the castle chapel, during banquets and parties, in balls, masquerade balls, and during hunts. The married couple was very fond of them and some of the trumpeters had Drahoslavice fortress near near Český Krumlov, alliance coat-of-arms of Johann Christian I. von Eggenberg and Marie Ernestine von Eggenberg, geb. von Schwarzenberg the exceptional confidence of the prince. They were the only ones entrusted to deliver various messages (e.g. the transportation and delivery of money to far foreign countries).

Artists came to Český Krumlov mostly from abroad, although some of them were of local origin. Although we usually do not speak of "great'' artists, whose pieces of art would have some significance in the art history, but rather those whose character of their production met the demands and requirements of the landlord. Less significant works lost their practical use and significance soon after and were removed. From the painters who were engaged in Český Krumlov then, it is necessary to name Jan Melichar Otto, Zachariáš Ignác Voják, Jindřich de Veerle, Domenico Rosetti or Johann Martin Schaumberger. Jan Worath excelled among sculptors and Jan Plansker among the stone-masons.

Johann Christian I. von Eggenberg was a pious man with an acceptable social feeling. He freely gave small presents and alms. He granted or improved the privileges of a number of towns and guilds. He founded several new settlements in Šumava and to a great extent made a contribution to the settlement of forest regions that had been entirely inaccessible until then. He died on 14 December, 1710 in his mansion in Prague, in Hradčany. His body was temporarily lain in the Rosenberg crypt at St. Vitus Church in Český Krumlov and ultimately was transferred to the Minorite Monastery of Virgin Mary in Graz. According to the testament from the year 1694, and its amendment from 1710, his wife Marie Ernestine was appointed as the universal heir of the property. The widow, in her testament from the year 1717, made the heir her nephew Adam František zu Schwarzenberg. She herself died in 1719.

Church of St. Vitus in Český Krumlov, detail of main altar with alliance coat-of-arms of Johann Christian I. von Eggenberg and his wife Marie Ernestine von Eggenberg, geb. von Schwarzenberg

The decline of the Eggenberg family, which disappeared from the scene of history unexpectedly quickly, set in. At the turn of the 17th and 18th century, heirless Johann Christian was the only male member of the older "Czech'' family branch, helplessly facing the end of his life, alone save his wife Marie Ernestine. The family branch from Graz was, according to the convictions of that time, sufficiently ensured. When Johann Christian died, Jan Seyfried was still alive as well as his son Jan Antonín II. and his grandson Jan Kristián II. In 1713, however, grandfather Jan Seyfried died, then after him in 1716 his son Jan Antonín II. and shortly afterwards, on 23 February, 1717, died the seventeen-year-old grandson Jan Kristián II. of appendix problems. Thus questions concerning his property were raised. This property was supposed to be in the interests of the family passed over to the Styrian branch after the death of Marie Ernestine. By the time she died in the year 1719, none of the male descendants of the Styrian branch were alive. Adam Franz zu Schwarzenberg, the nephew of the Princess Marie Ernestine, became the heir. Other possible heirs appealed against the Schwarzenberg. Eventually, the rights of succession of Adam Franz zu Schwarzenberg were recognised by the Czech Chancellery in Court. The entire heirloom after the older Eggenberg branch was passed in 1719 over to the proprietorship of the Schwarzenbergs.