In the early Middle Ages, rich deposits of silver were discovered in Kutna Hora, a fairytale Czech town about 65 km. east of Prague..
If you thought gypsies and violins were the essence of Bohemia, think again. In the early Middle Ages, it was silver mining that made Kutna Hora famous. On December 8, 1995, the “historic town centre, Church of Santa Barbara and Cathedral of Our Lady of Sedlac” which are found in a “preserved medieval urban setting remarkable for the wealth of its private houses.” was inscribed on the UNESCO list of cultural sites.
Arriving by Train Not Advised
The first thing that caught my eye as we got off the train from Prague was the hill. In fact, it seems that Kutna Hora, which sits atop a mountain, is miles from nowhere. Although the silver is long gone, the richness of the town’s architecture made it a natural choice when UNESCO was listing cultural treasures in the Czech Republic.
I went with my former husband, a Czech writer, to see this once royal city one bright fall day. The hour-long train trip from Prague’s Central Station left us in a field. We had to transfer to a shuttle train that took us to the foot of the “silver mountain”, then we walked up a rather steep hill to the town itself. As we wound our way through the narrow streets of Kutna Hora, we began to see various spires and turrets.We also saw dense smoke billowing from one street corner and when we investigated, came across a family celebration that included spit-roasting a pig in the backyard. As we ventured into the centre of town, the sight of our camera frightened a young gypsy girl. She was leaning on the windowsill of a dilapidated building across from the town’s Gothic fountain.
Founding of Kutna Hora
Kutna Hora was founded at the end of the 13th century after the discovery of silver ore deposits – once one of the richest in all Europe. Extensive mining of this metal made the Bohemian kings the wealthiest monarchs in Europe. After Prague, Kutna Hora became the most important site in the kingdom. It was here, during the reign of Vaclav II (Wenceslaus II) that the city’s mint started to make the Prague “groschen”, for centuries one of the most valuable currencies in Central Europe.
Sights to Top Your List
Kutna Hora’s famous melding of spires and turrets includes the Gothic Cathedral of Santa Barbara, which, according to our guide, was built with silver riches accumulated by miners and consecrated to Santa Barbara, the patron saint of miners. It also includes the Baroque Cathedral of Our Lady of Sedlec, founded by the Cistercians in 1142 and famous for its rather grotesque ossuary. The other remarkable buildings to visit are the castle known in Czech as Vlassky Dur and in English as the Italian Court. Dvur dates from the 13th century. It was one of the castles on the trade route leading from Bohemia to Moravia and actually pre-dates the founding of Kutna Hora. This castle is where silver was stored before shipping it to Prague. Note must be made of the excellent Mining Museum which has a replica pit mine.
Getting There on a Tour
If you do not speak Czech, the best way to get to Kutna Hora is on a half-day tour. My suggestion would be to take the one offered by Best Tour, a firm that offers various half-day and day trips from Prague, including a five-hour outing to Kutna Hora. This excursion leaves in summer at 1 p.m. and in winter at 12:30 p.m. from Vaclavske namesti 27 in central Prague. Mutl-lingual guides are provided.
- UNESCO list of cultural sites
- A Czech guide