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The history of the Schrattenbach palace

The seat of KJM central library - Schrattenbach palace – is situated in the very center of the historical kernel of Brno city, at the main thoroughfare which connected Dolní Square (nowadays Liberty Square) with one of the city entries- first with so called Gate, later with New Gate- since the early Middle Age. Out of the medieval building situated at that place, only a smaller part of the basement floor have been preserved whereas the renaissance kernel is still extant in the part of the ground floor of the entrance palace wing. Yet at the beginning of 18th century, two houses stood at the place of the palace which bears nowadays a name of one of its constructors. The one that has been faced up upon today’s Poštovská Street became in the year 1653 an ownership of the famous Špilberk defender against Swedes of Jakub Ogilvy. The second one together with the neighboring house on Kobližná Street was purchased by the knight Tiburcius Říkovský from Dobrčice in the year 1691.

A fundamental turnover in history of the building place happened in the year 1703 when both houses were purchased by the countess Marie Elisabeth Breuner, a wife of the Moravian second chamberlain Filip Ignác Breuner the count, and at that place she assigned to build a palace according to a project of the representative of the architectonic Viennese modern style, the master builder Alexandr Christian Oedtl (1654 – 1731).

The Breuners were an old dynasty originally from the Netherlands whose Austrian stem gained a count title in the year 1693. Jan Kryštof, an imperial colonel who had fought at the head of his regiment in the battle of White Mountain, subjugated Břežany in the year 1623 in South Moravia where his descendants built a baroque castle and a church in the second half of the 17th century. Jan Josef was in the years 1671-1694 the suffragan of Olomouc and in the years 1695 up to 1710 the Prague archbishop. The Breuners owned a house in Brno at the corner of Poštovská and Jánská Street already in the course of the 17th century. In 90s they bought a small philistine house on Jánská 2 Street.

The new house became one of the most monumental aristocratic mansions of Brno at that time. Inside it there was a porcelain cabinet with 600 pieces of the interior equipment, a picture gallery with more than 50 paintings, and a collection of oriental objects. A division of the representative part of the palace into separate apartments of the house-owners - those always divided into parlor, saloon, and a cabinet - has been documented as well.

In the year 1725 the bishop of Olomouc, the cardinal Wolfgang Hannibal the count of Schrattenbach became a new owner of the house. During his ownership a next reconstruction took place. Mořic Grimm (1669 – 1757) who was then the most prominent builder, worked in Brno over 50 years, and influenced its architectonic appearance, became a performer of that reconstruction. He scaled up the Grimm palace by one floor and gave it more or less its final exterior appearance. Among the qualities of the reconstructed palace whose builder is to be put in remembrance by coats-of-arms above the entrance porch are above all two audience halls on the first floor with rich decorated ceilings. Its implementation was ordered by a cardinal Schrattenbach by the artists performing in a nearby minority monastery which he financially supported. As a plasterer, Giovanni Michele Fontana is mentioned and as a painter it is František Řehoř Ignác Eckstein who moreover decorated also the dome above the stairs of the state house.

The Schrattenbach dynasty came from Štýrsko where it moved from Frank in the 2nd half of the 15th century. The single Lord Felix Schrattenbach who excelled in battles against Turks belonged to one of its stems. His two sons founded two main count stems. After Jan Friedrich, it was the Moravian stem and after Maxmilián, the Styrian stem that died off in the year 1785. In the 18th century the dynasty raised itself on a social peak and a number of clergies and dignities evolved out of it.

The Moravian stem was connected to Brno for a period of three generations. A builder of our palace Wolfgang Hannibal Schrattenbach the count (1660 – 1738) was born at the castle Lamberg in Styria in a big, however not a wealthy family of an imperial chamberlain. He studied a theology in Rome at a German college and was subsequently a canon in Olomouc and Salzburg and a dean of the Salzburg canonry. In the year 1711 he became a bishop of Olomouc, a year later a cardinal of Olomouc. In the years 1714-1719 he stayed as a privileged delegate of the emperor in Rome. In Naples where he worked as a viceroy and a general captain, he totally got into a flush of music. A founder of the so called Naples school, Alessandro Scarlatti, was at the head of his local band at that time. He wrote himself into history of diocese as a builder – at the time of his career the church of Virgin Mary in Kroměříž and the Capuchin monastery with the church in Vyškov were built, in Brno he ordered to build a palace on Kobližná Street and he took care of stucco statuary of the bishop court. He belonged mainly to those who managed the most to introduce an opera into Moravia in the thirties of the 18th century. At the castles in Kroměříž and Vyškov he built theatres in which Naples operas and orchestral pieces took place. Brno experienced also a spectacular growth of one of the main genres of the baroque music during his stay– namely the Italian oratorio. At the end of his life he stayed mainly in Brno. Before the palace on Kobližná Street was built, he leased out a palace of the Liechtensteins on Jánská Street.

Thanks to a stable patronage of the cardinal Schrattenbach and the other local aristocracy, the theatre scene in Brno prospered in the 1st half of the 18th century as well. In the year 1733 a new theatre building grew up at Horní market. The new opera Theatre in tavern was rented by an Italian impresario Angelo Mingotti whose opera ensemble represented a peak of the public opera production in the whole middle Europe at that time and he employed the best choral vocalists of the Italian origin. Not surprisingly the cardinal Schrattenbach was amongst personalities of Brno to whom librettos of the introduced operas were dedicated.

Also many other members of the Schrattenbach dynasty were famous for being patrons and supporters of art. Above all a nephew of the cardinal Schrattenbach, Zikmund Kryštof (1698–1771) who took up a function of the Salzburg prince-archbishop in the year 1753, entered into history of music. In his court band, he employed Leopold Mozart and he became the first patron of his ingenious son. His younger brother, František Antonín Schrattenbach (1712-1783), held an office of the chief in Moravia in the years 1763-1770: he was a provincial marshal and a president of the Moravian governorate. It was he who enabled to organize a Brno music performance of the 11-year-old Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. For reminding the stay of the Mozart’s family in the palace, there is a memorial plaque from J. T. Fischer, revealed in the year 1956 during the celebration of the 200th anniversary of the composer’s birthday.

In the year 1786 a son of the previous owner, Vincenc Josef Schrattenbach (1744–1816) who was established to be the third bishop of Brno in the year 1799, became an owner of the palace. He was popular especially during the Napoleonic Wars when he succeeded to negotiate better conditions for Brno citizens concerning the compulsory supply of the French army after the Battle of Austerlitz.

His older brother Otto Wolfgang (1739 -1820) was the last of the bloodline descendant of the dynasty (+ 1820) because he survived his son. /Štýrská line died off already in 1785 by František Ferdinand, the real chamber counsel and the vice-regent in Dolní Rakousy. His granddaughter Antonie Žerotínová the countess got married to the famous Brno enlightener count Mitrovský and their son Vilém became later on coincidentally also an owner of the Schrattenbach palace – the one who built up the last half-floor in the year 1847/.

A grandson of Otto Wolfgang Schrattenbach, Josef Matyáš Thun-Hohenstein, an economist and politician, was by the formation of many patriotic enterprises, among others the establishment of “Czech savings bank” (Česká spořitelna), was an admirer of the Czech language and literature and he translated the manuscript of Dvůr Králové into German. Fans of literature could be also interested in the fact that e.g. Lev Thun, an Austrian minister of education and a writer, Maxmilián Thun, a husband of the Rilkov muse Sidonie Nádherná, and/or Rosina Františka Thunová, a sister-in-law of the writer Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach, were his direct descendants.

Otto’s granddaughter Alžběta (Isabela) Schrattenbach the countess (1809-1875) got married to the count Gustav Josef Kálnoky, a descendant of the old Transylvania’s aristocracy and the owner of the Letovice manor, in the year 1827. Out of his children Gustav Zikmund (1832-1898) who became an Austrian minister of foreign affairs accomplished the most. Alžběta was the last bearer of the Schrattenbach name, however the Schrattenbach’s blood circulates henceforth of course in its numerous offspring, to whom e.g. also the Belcredi dynasty with their seat in Brno belongs.

After members of the Schrattenbach family, several next owners- state executives and entrepreneurs- changed in the 18th century. One of them was the already mentioned Vilém Mitrovský the count who carried out the annex of the half-floor and rented out the palace to a married couple from the imperial dynasty in 1847: to the archduke and field-marshal Ferdinand Karel Viktor d´Este and his wife Alžběta.

In the year 1851 the wholesaler Theodor Bauer purchased a building. Various companies, business premises, and institutions gradually were inside of the building. Miscellaneous utilization of the property entailed manifold devaluing adjustments. Court baroque frontispiece was covered by an enclosed corridor, in interiors bars were installed, admission parts were stroked through, and flat roofs were put down.

In the years 1893-1912 the building was owned by the Accident insurance Company for Moravia and Silesia and afterwards, it came into an ownership of the city and after the establishment of the republic, Municipal Military Command had a seat there. After a brutal decontamination of the city kernel at the turn of 19th and 20th centuries, the palace resisted to stay one of the few extant top baroque monuments, built for a private owner.

In the year 1927 a restoration of a facade took place. During that restoration, the early baroque sandstone polychromous statuette of Madonna, dated to 1637 at the pedestal with a poorly legible date, was rediscovered under a thick dabbed painting. In the year 1940 another general repair and an adjustment of the street facade is documented. However its results fell into ruins because of the war incidents from spring in 1945 when the building was destroyed in such a manner that even a demolition came into consideration.

A new chapter in the history of the palace was dated into the year of 1950 when Public library of the Brno city moved there. However it took almost half of the century before the palace that was devastated by improper adjustments lived to see a general restoration; it had slightly changed the inside lay-out but enabled to express itself in a grace manner of the monumental property.

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