Vyšší Brod Monastery

The Cistercian monastery of Vyšší Brod is located about 30 km to the south of Český Krumlov, on the right bank of the Vltava river.

Vyšší Brod, historical layout map of the monastery

Origin of the Name:
The monastery got its name after the village near of which it was founded. First the German name Hohenfurt is mentioned. This name comes from the local destination "zu dem hohen Furt" which means "at a high ford". As the time went by the German name was translated into Latin - Altum Vodum, the Czech name appeared for the first time in 1394 but its form was not stabilised (for example Vyšebrod, Vyšší Brod, Vyšný Brod, Vyšní Brod - from this form came also Višňový Brod (Sour-cherry Ford) which was a completely wrong meaning) because of the inhabitants who were mostly German.

Description of the Place:

Vyšší Brod, aerial view

The extensive monastery area on a rise above the west bank of the Vltava river was preserved. The whole monastery was enclosed in by a stone wall with cylindrical towers. Only the north and also partly the east parts of this wall was preserved. In the middle of the north side the gate with a portal in the Renaissance style is situated. There are Gothic recesses with seats in its entrance. Out-buildings from different periods, starting by the Middle Ages are situated in the north part of the area, which has a very irregular ground plan. The most interesting one is the Gothic one floor mill-building in the south-west part of the monastery. The mill has narrow rectangular plastered windows (the 14th century) of a different size. In the central position on the Latin-cross plan the church was built. All of its naves and also the transept are decorated with groined vaults, the five-sided presbytery is vaulted with one part of groined vault. Couples of chapels are jointed to the east side of the transept. Between the transept and the convent placed next to the south side of the church the one floor sacristy is embodied. The portal of the sacristy is decorated with the relief tympanum. Three wings of the convent are around the so-called "Rajský dvůr" ("Paradise courtyard", a garden in the centre of the monastery) lining with cloister. Other buildings are quite nonsensically embodied to the convent. The most important of them is the prelature on the east side of the area. Between the prelature and convent a built-up area around so-called little yard. The two wings convent is embodied to it on the south side. On the north side a guest-wing is embodied to the prelature. Further on the north in the line of the east wall the court house is situated.

Architectural and Historical Development:
The monastery church with its adjacent buildings was constructed step-by-step from the sixties of the 13th century and it was finished in the eighties of the 14th century. It is considered that the oldest part is the one floor sacristy dated about 1270. It was used as the prelature chapel but firstly it was used as the first shrine of all monks. From sixties to eighties of the 13th century the east part of the church and the transept with adjacent chapels was built. In these chapels we can see penetration of the north French classic Gothic style with more dynamic late classic style and later period of the Czech architecture. To a production of the first building works of Vyšší Brod the Guardian Angel chapel situated in the former Cistercian Zlatá Koruna Monastery is very close. The specific expression of the style is the vault of the chapter hall (around 1285) made of four vaults that are going from one pillar in the middle of the hall.

Vyšší Brod monastery, overview

The building works, that was finishing the construction of the church, continued in a completely different way. Its work is the hall with three naves finished around 1385 when already the whole cloister was built. Except of the above mentioned buildings, other Middle Ages buildings were built within the area of the monastery. In 1379 was mentioned the chapel of Saint Máří Magdaléna situated in front of the monastery wicket and the Saint Alžběta's hospital that is located outside of the monastery walls. The out-buildings were placed in the north part of the monastery. Only the Gothic mill was preserved. The south, north and a part of the east wing of the convent are reconstructed in the Renaissance style, and the Baroque style in the upper floor. Between the convent and prelature situated on the east side, the so-called old convent was built in 1587. The wing of seniority, noviciate and hospital is going from this old convent to the south. In 1671 the first tower of the church was built. The prelature building swallowed up two smaller buildings from the late 14th century during its reconstruction in the 18th century. In 1757 the library hall decorated with fresco was founded. The last reconstruction and rebuilding were made in 1830 - 1862, then at the time of abbot Leopold Wackarž who essentially reconstructed the church in the Neo-Gothic style and added the thin tower to it. Other constructional change is dated 1904. Because the monastery is situated on a quite isolated place it was secured against the wars and so it remained basically untouched.

Monastery in Vyšší Brod, Rosenberg burial place, marble tablet with the Rosenberg Rider, 1622-1629 Significant Architectural Features :
The square-shaped space of the chapter hall is unique in the whole Europe. The wheel-window of the hall shows that from the beginning it was meant to build the unique vault. This vault expressed about 100 years earlier the basic principles of Parléř´s vault in the Saint Václav chapel in the Saint Vitus cathedral in Praha. The tracery window starts from the rose windows of the cathedral Gothic. The whole decoration of the hall expressed the Christian imagination of the space in the Middle Ages.

The wedge two-sided closure of the outer chapels that are adjacent to the east side of the transept is also unique in Europe.

History of the Monastery's Residents :
The monastery was founded by Wok von Rosenberg in 1259. He called the Cistercians from Wilhering in Austria to there. On a wish of the founder the monastery became the monastery of the family. Together ten generations of the family were buried there. The Vyšší Brod monastery represents the most significant Czech family mausoleum with continuity from the 13th to the 17th century. Záviš of Falkenštejn who was executed was the first person buried in the chapter hall. He was at the time of king Přemysl Otakar II the representative of the revolting family of Witigonen and a supporter of the monastery. One of the most significant supporters of the monastery in the 14th century was Peter I. von Rosenberg (he died in 1347) who is called the second founder of the abbey. He provided the monastery church with the panel altar, remarkable cycle of paintings so-called Master of the Altar in Vyšší Brod. With help of the founder of the family the Cistercians could built quite large estates that fortunately were not seriously demolished during the Hussite war thought the Hussites captured the monastery by force in 1422.

In the 16th century the Protestantism was spread among the serfs within the Vyšší Brod abbey. Abbot Kroll in 1588 took steps against this but unfortunately he did not avoid violence.

After the Thirty Years´ War in the middle of the 17th century when the monastery was in debts, the ordinal priests took care of their incorporated vicarages and it ensured living to a number of friars. In the end of the 17th century the monastery had to defend an occupation of these vicarages because at that time the number of the secular priests increased. Also quite a high number of members (58 monks) lived in the monastery.

Vyšší Brod Madonna, around 1420 One of the most significant abbots was Quirin Mickl (1747 - 1767) who built a new library, furnished it with cases and many of books. Today the library contains about 70,000 books, 1,200 manuscripts and 400 incunabula. ( Monastic Library in Vyšší Brod).

During the reforms of emperor Josef II the abbot of that time was discharged from the service in 1786, it was forbidden to take the novices and the monastery was meant to die out. In 1789 the abbot was installed and the monastery went on again though with high loses of the members of the monastery and also estates.

In the 19th century the monastery went through the high scientific prosperity. A number of works from theology and history were written by Maxmilian Millann who taught also at the university in Praha, and many other educated men lived in the monastery during the times of the most significant abbot of the Vyšší Brod monastery, Leopold Wackarž (1867 - 1901). He was a very active and wide-minded man who in 1891 - 1900 held the post of the general abbot of the religious order. Then only Father Matthus Quatember was elected to this post in 1950 - 1953.

Tecelin Jaksch was a significant abbot in 1925 - 1954, who positively cleared the land reform. The monastery lost part of its estates in this reform but it deployed new building activity in the monastery and on the vicarages and during the depression it offered work and bread for many people, so the local people felt to be connected with their monastery. In consideration of the high number of the new members he though about to restore the Zlatá Koruna monastery to life.

In consequence of an occupation of the border part of Czechoslovakia called the Sudeten by the Reich, the German part of South Bohemia was annexed to the district of Oberdonau and in 1939 the commissar of government took over the control of the monastery. As other monasteries in this district also the Vyšší Brod monastery, at that time one of the largest monasteries with 69 members of its religious order, was closed down in 1941. The most of the monks left for the vicarages . When the war ended they came back again but they were evacuated very soon because most of them had German nationality. They went to the Cistercian monasteries in abroad. The most of the friars were accepted by the Rein monastery because it had not enough its own members. At that time this monastery did not have the abbot. In 1949 Father Jaksch, who still was together with other brothers in Vyšší Brod, was appointed as the apostolic administrator of Rein. After the communist attack and when the monastery was abolished in 1950 he also went to Rein where he died in 1954. In 1959 both of monasteries were united and the Rein monastery changed its name to Rein - Hohenfurt and undertook responsibility in the case of possibility to settle the Vyšší Brod monastery again. It happened in 1990 when the monastery was restored to life again. Only two monks of Vyšší Brod lived through the whole time of total regime.

Vyšší Brod, Cisterian monastery with reflection of water-level

Tales and legends:
An old legend says that Wok von Rosenberg came one day to the Vyšší Brod monastery and he wanted to meditate by the chapel where the Saint Anna's church is situated today. When he wanted to cross the Vltava river he fell into water and was near drowning. He promised to build a monastery on the place of the chapel if somebody saves his life. But there does not exist any historical proof of this story.

Present use:
The Cistercian community lives in the monastery today. They slowly reconstruct the whole building. It is possible to visit the church, the chapter hall, the library and the picture gallery within the historical sightseeing. The Post museum is situated in the monastery.

Further information:
Music in Vyšší Brod Monastery
Ecclesiastical History in the Český Krumlov Region
History of the Vyšší Brod Region
The capitular hall in monastery in Vyšší Brod
Monasterial pharmacy in Vyšší Brod
The Manual of Joan Staicz in Vyšší Brod monasterial library
The Oldest manuscripts in Vyšší Brod cloister
The necropolis of the Rožmberk family in Vyšší Brod monastery
The first prints in monasterial library in Vyšší Brod
Foundation of the monastery in Vyšší Brod
Záviš's cross in monastery in Vyšší Brod
Life in monastery in Vyšší Brod
Parish church of St. Bartoloměj in Vyšší Brod
The settlement of Hruštice called "Václavova Lhota"