The Happy Country of Albrecht of Valdštejn
If you connect Veliš hill with the Carthusian monastery in Valdice, the line would go through Jičín square, along the two-kilometre-long alley and right past the Baroque loggia in the Libosad game preserve. This geometric arrangement is not random. It is a remnant of an impressive urbanistic plan of one of the most important men in the Thirty Years’ War, Prince Albrecht Václav Eusebius of Valdštejn.
Only few men at that time stirred so many emotions as the generalissimo of the imperial army, for whom a horoscope prepared by Jan Kepler in 1608 predicted incredible power and wealth, as well as problems with love and relationships damaged by the aristocrat’s suspicious mind. In the difficult years of conflicts between the Catholics and the Protestants, Valdštejn had good prerequisites for his success – he excelled on the battlefield and was also a successful diplomat, a pragmatic businessman and had a sense for art and beauty. These ambitions and hard-to-read acting on all sides cost him his life – in 1634, he was allegedly murdered by imperial officers in Cheb.
The surroundings of Jičín was to become the centre of Valdštejn’s “terra felix”, a happy country, as he used to call his Frýdlant estate. The commander annexed Jičín to his estate shortly after the Battle of White Mountain, and he immediately started extensive construction works that at the time had no comparison in Europe north of the Alps. He invited the famous Italian architects Giovanni Battista Pieroni, Andrea Spezzo and Niccolo Sebregondi to help him, and together they managed to link the dominants of the countryside in a way that urbanists still admire today.
The personality of Albrecht of Valdštejn is commemorated by the regular Valdštejn festival that takes place in May, following the celebration of the 300th anniversary of his death in 1934. They take place as a biennale event, every even year in Jičín, and every odd year in Frýdlant. A similar event takes place annually in Cheb.
Start wandering through the Valdštejn landscape composition on Veliš hill. There are only ruins of the Gothic castle where Valdštejn used to live before he acquired Jičín. However, there is a magnificent view of the surroundings and the Krkonoše Mountains. The yellow tourist trail will take you directly to Jičín square, where the prince had the chateau construction completed after it was damaged by a large gunpowder explosion in 1620. In 1627, the Church of St. James the Greater started to be built – it is interesting because it does not have a steeple.
From the city centre, there is the Valdštejn’s linden alley, considered the oldest historic tree-lined avenue in the country, which leads northwest with more than a thousand trees in four rows. At its end, the commander had a scenic gazebo with loggia and terraced gardens built, although it was never completely finished during his life. The last element of the composition is the Carthusian monastery in Valdice, founded in 1628 as the place of Valdštejn’s eternal rest. However, visitors have not been allowed behind the tall wall, through which the Church of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary peeks, for more than 150 years. After the monastery was abolished by Joseph II, the complex was turned into a prison where the worst Czech criminals have served their sentences.
On the edge of the sandstone rock city, southeast of Turnov, Albrecht of Valdštejn acquired an ancient castle that he reconstructed significantly during the 18th century . At present, you can view the interiors of the classicist and romantic palace at Valdštejn Castle with rich period furnishings, or the Chapel of St. John of Nepomuk, and there is an interesting exposition on sandstone in the medieval cellar.