One of the most prominent features of Brno
119-metre deep well in the large courtyard
A ‘jail of nations’ in the Habsburg monarchy
This vast complex is situated atop a hill of the same name
Špilberk Castle was established in the 13th century by Přemysl Otakar II to protect both the Czech lands and the town of Brno. An occasional residence of Moravian margraves, the castle became a huge military fortress in the 17th and 18th centuries. In 1783, as decreed by Emperor Joseph II, it was transformed into a jail for serious criminals and soon also for political prisoners from countries throughout the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Špilberk was known as the harshest jail in Europe. Its famous prisoners included Italian Carbonari, notably poet Silvio Pellico, and Václav Babinský, the famous Czech bandit.
After 1855, the castle served as military barracks. During both world wars, the castle again functioned as a jail, as first opponents of the Austrian regime and later Czech patriots during the Nazi occupation were imprisoned there. In 1962, Špilberk was added to the National Cultural Heritage list.
The castle walls offer an amazing view of Brno. The castle also serves as a cultural centre, housing Muzeum města Brna (the Brno City Museum). Concerts, theatrical performances, and festivals are often held there.
The castle’s large interior courtyard holds a fifteen-bell carillon, a lookout in the corner tower, and the Baroque Holy Trinity chapel.
The Špilberk casemates are a popular place for tourists. Their vaulted passages are rich with romantic as well as terrifying legends.
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