Romantic ruins of Helfenburg castle, sometimes mentioned as Hrádek near Úštěk, are to be found in 3 kms distance of small town of Úštěk, in deep forests. The forests are becoming shine with gold, orange or red colours of trees.
The castle, the ruins of which led painters of last century for making always new pictures and sketches, and local people to various strange legends, belongs to those ruins, where even actual advanced era did not set free from romantic magic and secret power of attraction. Its story is closely connected with important names of Bohemian history, The building itself rebounds the development of Bohemian Gothic art of 14th and 15th century. Helfenburg is divided into its interior nucleus and outside fortification, so of two different parts. They differ not only from building point of view, but also with time period of its creation. Sandstone range, where castle nucleus is placed, was divided, in course of passed time periods, by gorge, into three parts, i.e. west, central and east. Ruin dominante is formed by four-edged tower with battlement.
However, there is not preserved many historical news about the castle with so unique atmosphere. Before 1375, the castle was probably in administration of Hanus of Helfenburg. As next, it was in possession of Jan Očko of Vlašim. After his death, the castle got, in 1380, Jan of Jenštejn, Archbishop, the nephew of Wenceslas IV. chancellor. He constructed outer fortification and inside nucleus let surrounded with a wall including battlement. So, the castle received a lot of building arrangements. Thanks to this fact, the castle became a seat with ingeniously worked fortification system. Jan of Jenštejn stayed here till his death in 1400. Later, till 1431, the castle obtained Prague Episcopate, when Konrad of Vechta, last Prague Archbishop, died. After his death, there were changed many owners of the castle. However, such continuous shiftings let soon to total castle-declay, so, at the end of 16th century, it was mentioned as deserted. After 30-years war, the destruction work was finished, the people even had forgotten its name. New German colonizers gave the ruin a name of Affenburg. Finally, during 1887-1889, the ruin was looked after German Excursions-Club. They made renovation in romantic way, the tower was open for public, including winding staircase with battlement. However, after 2nd World War, the castle fell again into destiny disfavour. The ruins were completely grown over in the middle of leafy forest. Later, since 1966, the hikers started to discover the ruins and made, under supervision of František Fišer, expert of Litoměřice museum, several conservation works, necessary for rescue. At present, the castle is in possession of the town of Úštěk, and a group of volunteers looks after. Thanks to them, the ruins are in relatively preserved stand, for the time being. The castle is free for access, the tower is open within weekends and holidays only.
If you travel by train, you reach the castle following yellow marked path from Úštěk. Those who arrive by car, can save considerable piece of way. Your can can be parked on free space, in left direction from the road Úštěk-Ostrá. Here, starts the circle signed with red colour sign, leading to ruins. The mounting is not difficult, and if you continue along next crossroad shorter yellow signs or longer red signs, you do not worry, for sure.
Text: Denisa Arvajová
Photo: Google Earth
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