Royal Garden and Queen Anne’s Summer Palace

Founded by Ferdinand I, Holy Roman Emperor and Bohemian king in 1534, the Royal Garden saw the gradual erection of significant buildings, particularly Queen Anne’s Summer Palace and Ball Games Hall. The combination of the works of art and various plants creates a fascinating unit.

The garden was abundantly used under the reign of Rudolph II. Rudolph not only kept a living lion in the Lion Court, but he also initiated the construction of an orangery to grow citrus trees, and the garden boasted various plants that were exotic at the time, such as tulips – curiously, these tulips were the first ones ever grown in Europe.

Queen Anne’s Summer Palace is by far the most beautiful building of the garden. Dating back to the 1538 – 1563 period, its construction was ordered by Ferdinand I for his wife Anne of Bohemia and Hungary, though she did not live to see it completed. Constructed in Renaissance-style, it was designed by Paolo della Stella, and after his death it was taken over by Bonifác Wolmut.

Paolo della Stella created the bottom part of the Palace, i.e. the ground floor and arcade gallery, while Bonifác Wolmut made the upper floor after 1550. We can see Tuscany capitals as well as reliefs, mostly with antiquity motives, one of them depicting King Ferdinand I and his wife Anne.

Throughout its history, the Summer Palace served various purposes: originally a dancing hall and gallery, under Rudolph II it was an astronomical observatory. Today it is a venue for fine art and artistic crafts exhibitions.

The Singing Fountain, situated in front of the Palace, comes from the 1560s. Cast of bell metal and bronze, it attributes its name “Singing” to the fact that water drops falling on the bottom basin produce melodious tones. The name is also associated with the fountain decoration displaying Greek God Pan – protector of woods and springs. Legend has it that Pan fell in love with a beautiful nymph called Syrinx. She turned him down, and wishing to escape, she transformed herself into reed. The unhappy god picked the reed, tied it and made a Pan flute to play it in the woods.

The Garden also features the Renaissance-style Ball Games Hall designed by Bonifác Wolmut. It is richly decorated with sgraffiti and it depicts the Allegory of Virtues and seven liberal arts. Today, it serves as a venue for exhibitions and cultural and official events.

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