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The Benešov castle complex, the upper and lower chateaux, is among the most remarkable examples of northern Renaissance manorial architecture, still strongly influenced by late examples of the Gothic style. All the estate buildings date back to the 16th century — in 1515, the estate was bought by members of the Meissen Family, the Lords of Salhausen, originally a knightly order. Their name is connected with the time of Benešov´s greatest prosperity. For one whole century, the town of Benešov became the residence of the nobility and a center of an unprecedented construction boom.
Bedřich of Salhausen had a new residence built here between 1522 and 1524, the present-day upper chateau. He had the lower chateau built for his younger son Jan on the site of four burger houses between 1540 and 1544. Both chateaux were connected with a covered corridor that ran by the city walls which continued as far as the gentlemen’s oratory in the town church. The corridor was maintained until the 18th century and its remains are recognizable to this day. The upper chateau was altered in the second half of the 16th century, which can be seen in the north extension, in the steep volute gables richly broken up by sandstone cornices and pilasters, as well as in the interiors. By 1578 the lower chateau was extended by Jan’s descendants with the building of the so-called Wolf´s House. The date when the construction was completed, 1578, as well as the coat-of-arms and the names of the builders, are engraved above the portal leading onto the square. At that time, property disputes between individual members of the family had already begun and they resulted in the estate being divided up. Starting from the end of the 16th century, the Salhausen family gradually began to sell their property in Benešov.
The two parts of the estate have never since been united. They had several different owners. During the Thirty Years’ War, part of the estate belonging to the upper chateau was bought by Jan Zikmund, the Count of Thun. The Thun family held the upper chateau until 1926 when they sold it to the town. The lower chateau with the estate passed to the emperor in 1634 (the owner of the estate, Vilém Kinský was murdered in Cheb along with Albrecht of Valdštejn). He gave it as a present to his field marshal Jan, Count of Aidringen. The Aldringen family, later Clary-Aidringen, held the lower chateau until 1856. In the second half of the 19th century, the grounds of the lower chateau were altered by the new owners and a new building housing the current chateau administration was added (at the time of Countess Aloisie Cerninova). The last pre-war owners were the Grohmann family, large-scale textile industrialists.
The buildings on the Benešov estate were built thanks to the building activities of the Salhausen family. They kept their Renaissance appearance because neither of the chateaux was left untouched by alterations common elsewhere. The reason for this was that, following the Battle of White Mountain, they became the property of families who had their grander estates elsewhere and used them only occasionally as summer residences and later as the estate administration centers and flats for their clerical staff. Thus an indeed unique and, from the conservation point of view, extremely precious urbanistic whole has been preserved in Benešov, which is an example of the life of lesser Renaissance aristocracy in the town of their subjects.
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