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History of the Plasy Monastery
The large complex was and is a monastery, castle and historical monument which has dominated the landscape north of Pilsen for centuries. Although the monastery belonged historically to the Rakovník Region, it mainly influenced and determined events in the northern part of the present Pilsen Region.
History of the Monastery
The Plasy Monastery was founded in a picturesque landscape 25 kilometres north of Pilsen in 1144 by the then Prince Vladislav II as the ruler’s first foundation among Cistercian monasteries. The property of the monastery was expanded thanks to gifts and the monks’ own activities. In addition to the serf levies, the monastery made its living (among other activities) via a network of farmsteads which the Cistercians worked on or managed. The building activity on the monastery premises was also promising, as temporary wooden structures were gradually replaced by stone ones.
The development of Plasy and the expansion of the monastic property culminated in the destruction of abbeys during the Hussite Wars. In 1421, the monastery was burnt down, the community was dispersed, and the economic domain broken up; the gradual confiscation of estates reduced the Plasy domain to a minimum.
Stabilisation of the monastery's economy came only after the Thirty Years' War, triggering a wave of rebuilding that lasted until the abolition of the monastery in 1785. Between 1661 and 1666, the original church was rebuilt under the abbot Tengler in the early Baroque style. At the end of the 17th century another abbot Ondřej Trojer commissioned the architect Jean Baptist Mathey to build four-storey granaries with a clock tower, a new prelature north of the granaries, adapt the monastery farm in front of it, and completely rebuild the cemetery church of St. Wenceslas outside the monastery enclosure.
Trojer's follower, abbot Evžen Tyttl, hired the prominent architect Jan Blažej Santini Aichel in the early 18th century, with whom he constructed the magnificent new convent building (1711-1740), which surpassed all the ideas of the time. The monumental architecture of the convent was complemented by an even more elaborate underground water system that was important in light of the swampy soil in the meanders of the Střela River.
Apart from Santini, abbot Tyttl and his successors commissioned other renowned artists to work for the monastery. Frescoes and paintings were created by Jakub Antonín Pink, František Antonín Müller and Josef Kramolín. Matyáš Bernard Braun was the author of the sculpture for the Charles Bridge in Prague and the works of Peter Brandl can still be found in the local church today. After the death of Santini, the convent building was finished by Kilián Ignác Dientzenhoffer. The monastery complex, however, was not the only object of the abbots’ attention – in line with the economic habits of the order, farmsteads began to be restored, securing an independent and viable economy.
History of the Castle
On the 9th of November 1785, the monastery was abolished as part of Emperor Joseph II’s reforms. The property of the now former monastery was newly administered by the State Religious Fund and was intended to finance the transformation of the church administration. The monks were allowed to go to another convent in the Czech lands or abroad or serve as pastors in parishes.
In 1826, the Austrian Empire Chancellor Klement Václav Lothar Metternich decided to buy the former monastery, mainly because of the land that amounted to 10,000 hectares. In addition to his existing estate, Kynžvart, he thus substantially expanded his property in the Czech lands. It was Plasy that he chose as his final resting place and is still buried here in his family’s tomb.
At the time of the Chancellor and his descendants, Plasy became once again not only an administrative but also a cultural and industrial centre. A cast iron foundry was built, production of beer was restored, and music and theatre activities became common. When in Plasy, the Chancellor and his family stayed in the prelature building, which was adapted for these purposes and dubbed a chateau since. The building of the former convent itself was less appropriately used as flats for staff, a school or storage facilities. In 1894 it suffered heavily in a fire that destroyed the second floor. Only thanks to high fire insurance, the storey and roofs were quickly repaired.
History of the Monument
The Plasy Monastery wasn’t spared the events of war, as the Red Army was quartered here at the end of the Second World War. The Metternichs never returned because their property had been nationalised based on the Decree of the President of the Republic. After the army left, the buildings and land were allotted to a variety of institutions and its furniture was taken away, sold and stolen. The former convent and granary was occupied by state authorities and parts were rented. The library was moved from the convent to the prelature (chateau). The worst blow to the site was the construction of a civil defence shelter under the building itself in 1963.
Starting in the 1970s, building surveys for individual buildings began along with the reconstruction of the Hospital Wing and other convent areas. In 1993, the restoration of the water system, which is largely completed today, began and the water system under the convent works more or less the way it is supposed to.
In 1995, the Government of the Czech Republic declared the site a National Cultural Monument. Today, most of the representative monastery buildings are managed by the National Heritage Institute.