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Lanškroun lies in the Lanškroun Basin under the southernmost foothills of the Eagle Mountains at 49°55‘ north latitude and 16°37‘ east longitude, 380 metres above sea level.
Origin of the Town (up to the 1300’s)
In 1246, Heřman and Oldřich of Drnholec, royal colonizers, founded the castle of Lanšperk and the town of Lanškroun. Obviously the town was founded to be a principal economical centre of the large demesne of Lanšperk. Later on the town passed over to the royal power, and in 1285, in the reign of Wenceslas II, into the possession of the mighty Záviš of Falkenstein. After the Falkenstein’s execution Wenceslas II gave the town of Lanškroun to the newly founded Cistercian monastery in Zbraslav near Prague (about 1292). However, the long distance did not allow the monastery to administrate the town well and in 1358 the monastery gave the town to the newly founded bishopric in Litomyšl in exchange for possessions near Prague.
Lanškroun at the time of the Kostka’s of Postupitz
In 1421 Jan Žižka captured the town of Litomyšl and shortly after Jan Městecký and Jeník of Nedanice occupied the town of Lanškroun. The inhabitants with only minor exceptions embraced Hussitism.
In 1433 the Kostka’s of Postupitz gained the demesne as a pledge for 4000 threescore of Bohemian groschens and 400 threescore annually. The dynasty held the demesne until 1507 when it passed over to the Pernstein’s.
Lanškroun was the only town with town walls in the region. The town then gained a series of important privileges, e.g. in 1464 the right to hold a fair on the day of St Urban and St Mathew, the right to collect toll at the gates, in 1507 burghers were given the right of survivorship (according to this privilege the villeins were allowed to leave their possessions freely to their heirs living in the same demesne), in 1514 the right to hold a fair was extended to 2 days in a week (Tuesday and Saturday), in 1568 the right to brew was granted to the town.
The mighty but extravagant dynasty of Pernstein did not hold the demesne all the time. During frequent financial straits they gave the demesne as a pledge or sold it, in order to buy it for a higher price later on. In this way also the dynasty of Černohorský of Boskovice was given a part of the Lanškroun demesne as a pledge for 8,000 threescore of Bohemian groschens.
In 1580 King Rudolf II gave Lanškroun the right to seal their documents with red wax – up to that time only royal towns had held the right. In 1588 the demesne was sold to the rich Adam Felix Hrzán of Harasov and Skalka for 45,300 threescore of Bohemian groschens; in this dynasty the demesne remained until 1622. The following villages belonged to Lanškroun at that time: Třebovice, Damníkov, Luková, Horní and Dolní Třešňovec, Albrechtice, Sázava, Žichlínek, Bystřec, Herbortice, Kozí Noha and Trpík.
The 1500’s brought development in trade and crafts. In the town fairs were held, various guilds were established, etc. Czech was the only written language at that time.
The Thirty Years’ War and its Reflection in Lanškroun at the Time of Liechtenstein’s
A change of circumstances took place after the Battle of the White Mountain. Zdislav Hrzán, who joined the resistance movement against Ferdinand II and made a great sum of money over to that movement, was forced, in order to escape the danger of possession and neck loss, to sell the demesne to the Prince of Liechtenstein, the Bohemian imperial governor and chairman of the confiscation committee, for 183,000 threescore of groschens. (The lowest estimated price of the demesne was 300,000 threescore of groschens).
Lanškroun was the Scene of the Tragedy after the Battle of the White Mountain.
Through the fault of Liechtenstein soldiers the town was damaged heavily by fire. Then Catholicization started. Both imperial soldiers and the Swedes drew through the town several times and plundered it. In 1639 the town was beleaguered by the Swedes to no effect, when the Swedes had run through the region several times before. Only in 1643 the Torstensson’s cavalry attacked the guarded town gates unexpectedly, broke into the town, plundered the château, the dean’s church, the town hall and burgher houses. After the cavalry a small Wrangel’s troop settled in Lanškroun. When the Swedes marched off on September 25, 1643, the imperial soldiers captured the town. The town was burned and plundered even in 1648. The result of all aforementioned events was that out of 245 homesteads existing in the town 72 were derelict in 1654.
Liechtenstein’s tried to eliminate the population decrease in Lanškroun (but also within the whole demesne) by supporting immigrants of German nationality from other demesnes (mainly from Silesia and Austria). In 1667 a gradual transition to the German office work started, the municipal authorities became Germanized finally in 1683.
In 1680 a vast plague epidemic broke out. There were many estates left without farmers and houses without owners.
The Way Up (the 1700’s – the first half of the 1800’s)
For the whole 1700’s Lanškroun remained a serf town of the Liechtenstein’s; the crafts did not differ from other vassal towns. The guilds of bakers, shoemakers, masons and stonecutters, locksmiths, potters, smiths, coopers, wheelwrights, saddlers, cloth makers, dyers and weavers worked in the town.
In 1701 the princely brewery was founded in the town. In 1791 Lanškroun was declared a free municipal town. Since that time an elected burgomaster led the town. However, the manorial nobility power over the town was not abolished yet at that time.
Significant changes, especially in the legal position of Lanškroun, were brought by the revolutionary events in 1848-49. With abolishing corvée and old nobility power authorities the legal dependence of the Lanškroun inhabitants on the large estate owners – the Liechtenstein’s – expired finally. At the same time Lanškroun became a seat of new state authorities – the District Office and the District Court. The authorities started their activities in January 1850, 60 villages in judicial districts of Lanškroun and Ústí nad Orlicí belonged to the District Office in Lanškroun.
In 1855 cholera broke out in the town and its neighbourhood. During three months 256 people died.
Industrial Development (since the second half of the 1800’s)
In 1870’s a fast economical development of the town started. In 1871 a state tobacco factory was established. In 1884 a cigarette paper factory was founded, in 1884-1885 the local railway from Rudoltice to Lanškroun was constructed. In 1890 a carpet and plush factory was opened. Among handicrafts the weaver’s trade was widespread significantly up to the second half of the 1800’s.
In 1872 two important German schools were founded: the Weaver’s School, existing until 1934, and the Grammar School. The town has had its water main since 1899. On November 8, 1903, the municipal gasworks was put into operation and on that day gas lights came on both in households and in the streets for the first time.
Origin of Czechoslovakia – was Lanškroun a German or a Czech town?
Since the second half of the 1800’s a considerable increase of German nationalism took place in Lanškroun and its surroundings. After October 28, 1918, the town and district representatives refused to recognize the Czechoslovak government, and in Lanškroun the German National Council was established which declares its support of the so called German Bohemia (Deutschböhmen). It was planned that this territory would be separated from Bohemia and joined to Austria.
Only after intervention of a military detachment from Vysoké Mýto in November 1918 the town of Lanškroun was forced to recognize sovereignty of the new state, but still in spring 1919 nationalistic meetings against the new state took place in the town. Gradually national emotions calmed down and in the course of the 1920’s the influence of Czech citizens grew in the town and even a Czech junior secondary school was founded.
On July 1, 1928, the District Authorities was established in Lanškroun. The rooms for the authorities were gained by a costly reconstruction and rebuilding of a whole bay of the former municipal brewery (what is now the building of the Alois Jirásek primary school in the lower part of the J. M. Marků Square).
After 1935 the Sudeten German Party got control of the political life of the town. After the Munich Agreement, in the early October 1938, Lanškroun was annexed to Germany. State authorities were evacuated from the town, more than 1,000 Czechs had to flee and series of arrests of German anti-fascists started. Lanškroun became the seat of the Provincial Council (Landrat). In the period when Lanškroun belonged to Germany also the character of industry changed there. Most of the factories were incorporated gradually into the German armaments industry. A Siemens subsidiary, located into the former tobacco factory buildings, was the most important factory focused on electric engineering production of armaments character.
The period of separation of Lanškroun from Czechoslovakia ended on May 9, 1945, when the town was occupied by the Red Army troops. At the same time also partisan troops operating in its neighbourhood entered the town. On May 17, 1945, the Czechoslovak army took the full control over the town. The bloodiest people’s trials over Nazi offenders – next to Prague - were held in Lanškroun in August 1945. Those who were sentenced were executed. The condemned people were shot to death by a firing squad at the west doorway of the town hall. Shooting was usual in the streets. After the evacuation of the Germans was completed on October 31, 1946, Lanškroun became an exclusively Czech town.
After 1945 Lanškroun went through a peculiar development as the district administrative centre. The District National Committee, which was formed in the revolutionary days of May 1945, was dissolved soon and the territory of the District of Lanškroun was subordinated to the newly established District National Committee in Ústí nad Orlicí. In January 1947 the District National Committee in Lanškroun was re-established and it existed until 1960. At the then reorganization of territorial structure the District of Lanškroun was dissolved again and the Region of Lanškroun was joined to the District of Ústí nad Orlicí. Only in 2003 the Municipal Authority in Lanškroun was designated an "accredited authority", a sort of small district for 22 municipalities of the Region of Lanškroun.
The Town of Lanškroun in the Second Half of the 1900’s
After 1948 the store network changed significantly. Many small shops were closed, also the product range and quantity were reduced, and queues in front of shops were a typical mark.
In 1948 communists took control of the whole country and liquidated the democratic social system. Most of the Czechoslovaks had never come to terms with that fact which became evident distinctly in 1968 when most of the nation expressed spontaneously their longing for change of the political regime. However, due to the attack of Soviet tanks, the life of the so called „real socialism“ was prolonged by other 21 years.
In the socialist era neighbouring villages were joined administratively to the town: Dolní Třešňovec on February 1, 1964. Albrechtice and Sázava on January 1, 1976. However, on request of the village inhabitants, Albrechtice was separated on November 24, 1990 and so was Sázava on January 1, 1992.
On June 29, 1976, the construction of "Glass Hill", new Tesla company precincts, was completed. In the Tesla company neighbourhood a boiler house was built with a stack 105.12 metre high.
Only mass protests of students in November 1989 brought about downfall of the communist hegemony.
In the 1990’s many historical buildings were reconstructed, e.g.:
Town Hall Reconstruction:
In July 1986 a licence was issued for the first phase of the town hall general reconstruction. At the beginning of work the expected cost of the project was CZK 16.5 million – a festive opening took place on September 1, 1996. The total cost of the town hall reconstruction represented an amount of CZK 43 million; out of it CZK 34.6 million was paid by the town of Lanškroun itself.
J. M. Marků Square Reconstruction
It started in July 1996 –the reconstructed square, château precincts and St Wenceslas’ Church were opened festively on September 27-28, 1997.
I May 1995 approval of the reconstruction took place and on June 3, 1995 the renovated hall of the Lanškroun château was opened festively, together with adjacent rooms.
In 1995 cooperation was established between the towns of Lanškroun and Castiglione (located about 100 km north of Rome, at the Florence-Rome highway).
On October 27, 1999, the contract of establishing partnership was concluded between the towns of Dzierzoniów and Lanškroun.
On July 1, 1995, the mechanical-biological section of the sewerage plant in Lanškroun was put into operation.
On Monday, July 7, 1997, the town of Lanškroun was flooded. Also neighbouring villages Albrechtice, Sázava and Žichlínek were flooded extensively. In a couple of hours Krátká, Polní, Lidická, Kollárova and Lorencova streets became impassable. Also houses in that area were flooded from where residents in danger were evacuated. Oil reservoirs at the Tesla Company in Krátká Street were flooded out too.