Mladá Boleslav

Mladá Boleslav

Mladá Boleslav (234 metres above sea level, over 46 000 inhabitants) can be found about 50 km northeast of Prague on the confluence of the Jizera and Klenice rivers. It has beautiful environs of the protected landscape area of the Bohemian Paradise (Český ráj), the area around the Kokořín Castle and Mácha’s Lake. Today Mladá Boleslav is renowned mainly for its car production. This town, however, has a rich history and a lot of monuments representing all major architectural styles.

In the first half of the 10th century Boleslav I, prince of Bohemia, founded a fort above the winding stream of the river Jizera which was turned into a royal castle in the middle of 13th century. Later it was owned by the noblemen of Michalovice. In 1334 a settlement below the castle became a vassal town which later joined the Hussite movement. In 1528 so-called New Town was added to the original Old Town. In the 16th century an important role in town history was played by the Unity of Brethren, supported by the house of Krajířs of Krajek. There was an episcopal seat, a school, printing house and the town soon became a center of culture. Rudolph II awarded Mladá Boleslav the status of a royal town. Its successful development, however, was interrupted by the Thirty Years’ War and affected by vast fires.

In the 19th century the town was revived also thanks to Václav Laurin and Václav Klement who started their bicycle production in 1895. In 1905 the first car was manufactured there, which meant the foundation of Mladá Boleslav car factory. Today Škoda cars are well-known all over the world. In 1991 the company became an important part of the Volkswagen Group.

Let us mention a few signigicant monuments. In the past, the castle of Mladá Boleslav was several times rebuilt, during the Thirty Years’ War demolished and from the times of Joseph II until 1938 it served as army barracks. Today it is a seat of a museum and town archives. The late Gothic Town Palace Templ dating back to the late 15th century is an excellent example of Vladislav Jagellon Gothic style. Today it is used as an exhibition hall. The Renaissance building of the Old Town Hall with rich graffiti decorations and two towers was designed by the Italian architect Matteo Borgorelli. He was also the author of the Renaissance three-nave building of the Unity of Brethren built between the years 1544–1554. This impressive building with valuable frescos only accentuates the significance of the Unity of Brethren at that time. It is the oldest Renaissance pseudo-Basilica outside Italy. In 1623 it was recatholicized and later used as a storage building. In the 20th century it seated a regional museum and today it is used as an exhibition and concert hall and a gallery. During recent excavations an invaluable archive of the Unity of Brethren was discovered there. The early 15th century Roman Catholic Gothic Church of the Assumption of Virgin Mary was later rebuilt in a Baroque style.

The Municipal Theatre, built between 1906 and 1909 by the Czech and Vienna architects as well as a sculptor Jan Štursa, is an example of clear Art Nouveau style. Several buildings by the well-known architect and representative of the Czech Constructivism Jiří Kroha, who worked in Mladá Boleslav between 1923 and 1927, are also worth seeing as well as the Jewish cemetery with gravestone of Jacob Bassevi von Treuenberg (Jakub Baševi), the financier of Albrecht of Wallenstein.

In Mladá Boleslav we can find apart from the Roman Catholic congregation also a congregation of the Brethren Church, the Czechoslovak Hussite Church and the Unity of Brethren. Historically, the local Protestants joined the preaching station of the Reformed congregation in Mělnické Vtelno since 1897. A congregation of the Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren (ECCB) was established in Mladá Boleslav in 1920 and three years later the Church bought a building in Husova Street, the ground floor of which was turned into a house of prayer with rooms for congregation activities. Due to the benevolence of the town authorities the Protestants could join the Brethren community for church services.

In 1993 they were granted a free lease of St. Havel’s Church, an originally late Gothic cemetery church which was later rebuilt in a Baroque style and a tower was added in 1735. In the cemetery around there are valuable gravestones. Renaissance and Baroque tombstones can be found also inside the church; such as the one of Jan Augusta, a bishop of the Unity of Brethren. Church services take place here in the summer months.