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2020-01-26

Helfenburk u Úštěka Castle

The castle was probably built by the Lords of Klinštejn, who came from Ronovce, in the first half of the 14th century. The founder was perhaps Jan of Klinštejn, who began to write after Helfenburk, but in 1375 the castle was bought by the Prague Archbishop Jan Očko of Vlašim. The Archbishop thus created a rural background in the forests to stay outside the nearby Roudnice nad Labem, where he performed his office. Helfenburk became the center of the estate, which also included the nearby castle Hřídelík. His successor, the third Archbishop of Prague, Jan of Jenštejn, also stayed here for a short time. The record of the Roudnice prior Petr Klarifikátor, personal chronicler of Archbishop Jan of Jenštejn, comes from 1395 about John's accident on the bridge leading from the new tower, in which he almost collapsed. Jan stayed here until about 1400, even at the time when he was deprived of his office.  In 1422 the castle was acquired by the burgrave Aleš of Malíkovice. 

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Vilém of Ilburk is a last mentioned owner in the castle, which at that time belonged to nearby Ronov.  After the extinction of his family in 1538 on the castle lived only servants and the castle fall into ruin.  In 1622, Helfenburk burned down after being plundered by imperial soldiers under Marshal Buquoy (catolique general).  After the Battle of White Mountain, the Jesuits from Liběšice acquired  the all territory and annexed it to the Úštěk estate.

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It was not until 1887 that the ruins of the castle were bought and modified by an industrialist and count Josef von Schroll. He, in the years 1887–1890, demolished third floor of the 30-meter-high tower, on which 143 steps lead today. The original medieval access to the tower could not be used, as it was directed to the inner part of the castle on a rock with the remains of masonry otherwise inaccessible palace. In the second half of the 20th century Helfenburk was taken over by the organizations of the Czech Union for Nature Conservation and started to be repaired and maintained under the supervision of the Litoměřice District Conservator mr. František Fišer. Later, a civic association  Hrádek was founded, which rented the building, maintains it and takes care of the guide service.

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The original castle on the rock plateau was mostly wooden. Only after its enlargement under the bishop Jan Očko of Vlašim, a stone palace, a chapel and a number of smaller operational buildings were built on the rock. A new 65 m deep watter well, equipped with a pedal wheel was excavated. Bishop Jan of Jenštejn had the palace expanded and, above all, he built a new fortification whose walls have been preserved to this day. A residential tower was built in the dominant position at the head of the castle. The entrance gates were protected by the drawbridges and a deep moat.

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