© Libor Sváček, archiv CzechTourism

Visiting the rotunda which inspired the Emperor

Brno - Znojmo

Length 73 km Duration 2 Days

Brno is situated about 200 km from Prague. The journey takes approximately two hours by car on the motorway, two and a half hours by bus and three hours by train. The tours suggested in cities include some walking, sometimes in combination with travelling on public transport or by car.

Day 1

Where better to start exploring South Moravia following in the footsteps of Charles IV than in Brno, the historic capital of the Margraviate of Moravia. Charles IV was Margrave of Moravia for sixteen years, and after his coronation as Czech King, the territory continued to be administered by the Luxembourgs.

The first stop is at Moravian Square to see the Church of St. Thomas, which belongs to the compound of the former Augustinian monastery. Charles IV co-funded its construction and it is also the burial site of his brother John Henry, who became Margrave of Moravia after Charles, and also of John Henry’s son Jobst of Luxembourg, the next Margrave of Moravia who was also elected King of the Romans, but died at Špilberk castle before the coronation. The Luxembourgs donated to the church the oldest and largest bell in Brno bearing the inscription in Latin: “To the honour of the Lord Almighty and his mother the Virgin Mary, Thomas the Apostle, the glorious Princes Jobst and Procopius … Margraves of Moravia, 1393. Jobst of Luxembourg is also commemorated by an equestrian statue symbolising courage, created by the sculptor Jaroslav Róna, which stands in the square right next to the Church of St. Thomas.

No visit to Brno would be complete without stopping off at Špilberk Castle. It was a favourite residence of Charles IV’s first wife, Blanche of Valois, and helped Brno resist the attacks of the Swedes during the Thirty Years’ War. Take a stroll around the park that surrounds the castle, it is home to the orthodox church of St. Wenceslas, and monuments commemorating significant personalities, such as the composer Pavel Křížkovský, teacher of composer Leoš Janáček, and Christian d'Elvert who was the Mayor of Brno and the founder of the park.

After a pleasant stroll, it will be time to have good lunch. In the vicinity of Špilberk, you can choose from several restaurants which are holders of the CzechSpecials label, offering a choice of South Moravian dishes and good quality wine.

The journey can be concluded with a visit to the monastery in Old Brno. Its major attraction is the painting of the Madonna of St. Thomas, originally a gift donated by Charles IV to the St. Thomas Church. Today, this precious work of art is kept here – on the main silver altar at the Basilica of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. Charles IV had the buckle on the bosom of the Madonna decorated with a relic taken from St. Mary’s veil, stained with the blood of Jesus.

And there is yet another reason for visiting the Augustinian Abbey in Old Brno – Mendel’s museum commemorating the times when the Abbey was led by Gregor Johann Mendel, who discovered the laws of genetics.

After a day of walking around the most beautiful sights in Brno, do not hesitate to choose from the wide offer cultural events or taste the delicious local wine – after all, don’t forget that you are in South Moravia.

Day 2:

Znojmo is situated less than 70 km south of Brno. Getting there will take you one hour by car or two hours by train. The itinerary covers a 2 kilometre walk through the town.

The second day of the journey sees a stopover at Znojmo. Charles IV loved this town mainly due to its excellent wine and granted the local wine producers the right to offer their products throughout the entire kingdom. Znojmo was also the place where Charles’ son Sigismund of Luxembourg died. The exhausted and severely ill Emperor is said to have fallen off his horse on what is now Masaryk Square in front of house No. 4, where you can see a memorial plaque in the pavement, commemorating his death.

The centre of the royal town of Znojmo, or more precisely its historical underground, a unique 27 km long system of corridors and cellars built on four different levels is the ideal starting point for the walk. The system spreads under the entire historical centre and used to serve as a hideaway for locals at times when the town was under threat. There is a choice of two tours – the standard tour or one for those who are a little more adventurous.

The next stop on the trip is Znojmo Castle which towers high above the valley of the river Dyje. The premises of the castle include one of the most precious historical buildings in the Czech territory, the Rotunda of St. Catherine, built in the second half of the 11th century. Its walls are decorated with paintings depicting the history of the Přemyslid dynasty and reflecting the ideology of the state, which makes them unique in the context of Romanesque art in the whole of Europe. They served as inspiration for Charles IV when he was deciding about the decoration of the Chapel of St. Cross at Karlštejn. As the rotunda can only accommodate a few visitors at a time, you may have to wait quite a while before being admitted. Therefore it is recommended to buy a ticket in advance for a specific hour.

From the rotunda, take a walk around the Town Hall Tower across Masaryk Square to Wolf’s Tower. Both of them offer a beautiful view of the surroundings and in the latter in the information centre you can also learn about certified local wines and perhaps do some wine tasting, enjoying the results of almost two thousand years of the wine growing tradition in South Moravia. The wine industry expanded significantly under the reign of Charles IV, who supported its development by introducing a series of measures to limit wine imports and by exempting new vineyards from paying taxes for twelve years.

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