Smiřice

This town of three thousand people is situated in the lowlands along the upper reaches of the River Elbe some  ten kilometres north-east of Hradec Králové towards Jaroměř. The name of the town was most likely derived from the family of Smír, who used to live here as early as the 9th century according to the putative chronicle of the Záruba clan. However, the first written records of the small town on the River Elbe are of a much later date, originating in the 14 century, specifically 1361, when they clearly document the existence of Eliška of Smiřice.
The family of Smiřický was important not only for the town itself, because in time they became some of the richest lords in Bohemia. During their rule, a stronghold was built in the area of today’s Smiřice. In the 15 century when the estate was in the hands of the family of Trčka of Lípa the stronghold was rebuilt into a castle. A settlement grew up around the castle and in September 1659 it was granted the status of a town with the right to use its own coat of arms. In the 17 century the Šternberks came to the town and erected Smiřice’s landmark - the baroque Castle Chapel of the Epiphany.
Apart from the chapel, the Smiřice railway station, built in the 19 century, is also an interesting structure, as it is the only station in the Czech Republic that was constructed in the style of a hunting lodge with a so-called “animal ditch”. 

Castle Chapel of the Epiphany

The Castle Chapel of the Epiphany  was built on the orders of Jan Josef, Count of Šternberk  in 1699 –1711, mostly likely by the architect Christoph Dientzenhofer, although some sources ascribe it to Jan Blažej Santini.
The chapel is considered to be a valued Baroque structure. Its complicated ground plan of concave-convex design has a shape of a slightly elongated octagon. The chapel is valued not only for its architectonic qualities, but also for its unique, compact and style integrated interior which has not undergone any major changes since the chapel completion. The fresco decoration in the chapel is the work of Jan Jakub Steinfels of Steinfels. It depicts biblical tales thematically relating to the prophecy foretelling the Birth of Jesus. The vault shows Moses and Old Testament prophets, with sibyls painted in the panaches and lunettes above the windows. The dome of the presbytery depicts the World’s Creation and the dome above the oratory portrays God the Father among Christ’s forebears. The frescoes on the walls show the Arrival of the Magi and Herod among the Pharisees. The chapel painting decoration is dominated by the Baroque artist Petr Brandl’s masterpiece “Adoration of the Magi” placed on the main altar (in 2006 listed as national cultural heritage). The painting is accompanied by larger than life-size statues of the Virgin Mary’s parents St. Joachim and St. Anna, produced by F. J. Pacák (M.B. Braun’s disciple), who is also the creator of other statues on the main altar. A smaller painting of Saint Blaise placed on the patronal altar is another example of Brandl’s work. Side altars are decorated with stucco statues of Czech saints and paintings inset between these.The first one is the painting of the Glorification of John of Nepomuk by the Italian painter C. Carlone and the second is the painting of the Madonna Passing the Rosary to St. Dominic by a Hradec Králové painter named O. Maywald. The main altar also bears a panel painting of the Madonna with Baby Jesus by an unknown painter from the 16 century. The wooden benches, the pulpit with the relief of Moses on the ambo and the symbol of God’s eye, the minor altar of the Baby Jesus and the lower part of the main altar come from the workshop of the woodcarver K. Devoty. For its remarkable architectonic qualities, the Castle Chapel of the Epiphany was declared national cultural heritage in 1996.
Thanks to its excellent acoustic properties it is used mainly for concert purposes, attracting outstanding musicians such as violin virtuoso Jaroslav Svěcený, who co-organises the “Smiřice Music Festival” here every Easter - http://www.festival.smirice.cz/.

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