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21. 5. 2018


Day temperatures 20/24°C, around 1000m 6°C.
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The Old Znojmo Town Hall, built as early as 1260, burned down during the great fire of 1444 and its tower, built on top of the building, also burned down and fell. That is why the tower was designed as a stand-alone building during the reconstruction of the town hall. It was built in the years 1445 - 1448 by master Mikuláš ze Sedlešovic in late Gothic style. Two Latin inscriptions, engraved in stone in the tower's masonry, give the date of its building. The first inscription in English translation says: In the year of the Lord 1445 on Monday after the holiday of Markéta (i.e. 19th of July) this work was begun by master Mikuláš, stonemason from Sedlešovice. The second inscription of a similar wording says that the tower's construction was completed in 1448. The tower along with the dome is 79,88 tall, the masonry reaches up to 68,60 m. The structure is built on rock and the foundations are 3 m deep. The town hall tower has a very interesting towering roof, originally covered by slates. The majority of the load-bearing beams under the tower roof are still original - more than 500 years old.

   After several repairs of the roof cover, in 1592 the slate was replaced by copper. Two years later, the masonry was repaired, the tower was given a plaster coating and painted white; the gallery (probably only erected that year) was painted dark. All four parts of the ruff were adorned with the town's coat of arms, held by lions. Their restoration and re-painting was undertaken by the painter Jan Jakob, who also painted the faces of the tower clock. After Swedes invaded Bohemia, further repairs of the tower took place in 1656. On this occasion, a Latin commemorative script was laid into the main tower dome. In the past, the town hall tower underwent repairs several times, as documented by various archive materials. In 1670, the tower clock was repaired and the tower freshly plastered. Back in those times (according to archive sources), in order to make mortar one needed to use 10 pails of wine and 5 pails of beer. Also worth noting, the repair of the main tower dome in 1833, during which they placed a manuscript summarising the events and life of the town from 1656 into a brass box in the dome. The job was assigned to the roof-tiling master Tomáš Janouschek from Jihlava. He did all the work without any scaffolding. We can read in an account that this event was also that of great festivities. When master Janouschek mounted the dome on top of the tower, he actually climbed on top of it and, without any supports, stood there holding a 54 pound (27 kg) flag, which he waved in all four cardinal directions and mounted it on the dome. He than slid down to the gallery, from where - to the great amusement of the gathered crowd - he threw down small cookies that he had baked for this purpose, afterwards he climbed down a rope to join the merry crowd, which gave the courageous master a standing ovation. This scene is depicted on the targets of Znojmo sharp-shooters, which are kept in the Znojmo Museum depository, dating back to a few years after the tower repairs.

    The tower underwent repairs again in 1854, when the wooden gallery was replaced for a cast iron one. The job was given to master carpenter Wallender from Retz; ironworks from Blansko supplied the cast railing.

    In the past centuries, when the tower underwent repairs, they always repaired the tower clock as well, although we do not know exactly when the clock was acquired. As the centuries passed, they became less and less reliable. Therefore, after a detailed inspection of the clockwork mechanism in 1898 the town council resolved to purchase a new tower clock. The clock was ordered from the Vienna company Schauer. After that, the clock worked without repairs for a quarter of a century. In 1923, when a flag fell off one of the smaller towers, it was resolved to give the clock a full makeover as well. The clock was completely disassembled, cleaned, a new spring mechanism was installed and the rusty hands were replaced. The clock by Schauer Co. was definitely past its working life in the fifties of the last century. Its heavy stone pendulum block got stuck down between the beams, and so a new clock was installed in 1959, made by the Vyškov factory manufacturing clock towers, which was functional up until 2001. At the very end of WWII, during a raid on April 20th 1945, the town hall tower was damaged on the lower side of the gallery. Extensive repairs started in the early fifties. The originally open-air gallery was enclosed by wood panelling with small windows. At the same time they took down the main tower dome and repaired it.

   The town hall tower served a practical purpose in the past. It was the site from which a watchman used to oversee the town and its environs, day and night. To ensure he would not procrastinate, he had to call the time at every full hour. This guard service certainly was of importance in the past, as the city of Znojmo and its castle formed part of a system of watch fortresses on the southern border of the Czech state. Later, the watches were limited to calling an alarm in case of fires. Originally, the tower had no gallery (it was only put up during the tower's extensive reconstruction in 1592 -1594) and the guard was overlooking the area from a small room, which is still there in the middle of the tower, enclosed by the covered gallery. In the 19th century the telephone was installed in the tower. Watch-guards served on the tower up until 1924.

   In the early 90ies of the 20th century, damage to the tower became apparent, even hazardous to passers by below. Due to this, the last extensive repairs up to now took place in mid 1993. Among the repairs was the copper roofing, exchange of domes and revolving vanes. On Thursday September 23rd 1993, the highest-placed town hall dome was taken down and subsequently 8 tubes of documents contained within were opened. The oldest box dated back to 1816 and contained, among else, samples of the coinage of the time, as well as two Hispanica crosses, dated September 26th 1656. The remaining tubes with contemporary documents mostly dated from the years of extensive repairs, i.e. 1890 and 1951. A new tube was put in the dome with current documents and the repaired dome was re-mounted on the tower.

    The town hall tower gallery offers a great view of the area far and wide - if the weather is clear - in the distance you can see the forefront of the Českomoravské mountains and on the north-west the Pálavské highlands, which are already part of the Carpathian range towards the south-east. When visibility is extremely good, one can see as far as the distant peaks of the Alps.

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