Send page by e-mail


About City Horní Slavkov

Horní Slavkov is located in the middle of the “spa triangle” between Karlovy Vary (Carlsbad), Mariánské Lázně (Marienbad) and Františkovy Lázně in the northern half of the Slavkov Forest Protected Landscape Area. The Slavkov Forest Mountain Range belongs to the Krušné hory (Ore Mountains) region of the Bohemian Massif. This region is of importance for its rich raw-material resources (tin, wolfram, silver, copper, zinc, lead, uranium, feldspar, peat, building stone and semi-precious stones such as jas­per, amethyst and serpentinite), with deposits of peat, sources of mineral water and extensive forest stands, which are the most important natural phe­nomena to affect the operation and significance of the broad Western Bohemian spa area. Although the protected landscape area lies in-between the spa towns, which have very high tourist traffic, its central section is very sparsely populated and so here too, there are invaluable natural elements, e.g. plant communities, preserved here, which create a suitable environment for rare flora both in the peat bogs and in the raised bogs in the mountains.

At the beginning of the 13th century, a new mining colony was establis­hed here not far from an older mining community. A small town developed from this after an influx of miners from Saxony around 1335. It acquires its name from its founders, the Slávkovs of Rýzmburk. The attribute “horní” stands for “hornický”, i.e. mining, and refers to the origins of the new set­tlement. The new owners, the Lords of Plavno, granted privileges such as the freedom of the town and under the rule of the powerful Pluh of Rabštejn family from 1494 to 1547, Horní Slavkov was one of the most re­nowned and important mining towns, thanks to its unprecedented deve­lopment primarily of tin mining, as well as that of silver ore, which was then in its infancy. There was a great deal of construction work at the beginning of the 16th century as a result of a further influx of inhabitants. The signi­ficance of the town is borne out by the construction and operation of a mint from 1525 to 1526. Under the rule of the Pluh family, the town had 4000 in­habitants and it was of equal importance to Kutná Hora and Jáchymov. Annual output came to approximately 10 000 centyrs (around 500 tons) of tin up to the end of the 16th century, mostly from the Huberův peň deposit. From 1547 it was granted the status of a royal mining town. From the be­ginning of the 17th century, a continual decline in mining set in and in 1618 the property of the town was confiscated, although sanctions were eased when the inhabitants converted to Catholicism in 1627. A temporary revival of mining took place at the beginning of the 18th century but the Supreme Mining Authority was closed down in 1772. Then in the igth century, the fa­me of the mining town passed on to porcelain production. The first Czech porcelain works were established here in 1792. Products which at that time included Empire painted china, coffee pots, cups, pipes and so forth were awarded prizes at industrial exhibitions in Prague in 1828-1829.

Horní Slavkov excelled as a centre of learning and culture and there was a Latin school here in the Middle Ages. A number of famous figures came from the town and many more have been active here over the years. The most celebrated without doubt include J. J. Agler—a porcelain painter,C. E. Bruschius—a humanist, C. G. Crinesius—a preacher and orientalist, W. Crispus—a miniaturist, E. Dollhopf—a painter, L. Ercker—a mining tech­nician, JJ- z Greiselu—a doctor, J. Hahn—a teacher and national historian, A. Hölperl—a painter, J. Hüttner—a porcelain painter, A. Kämpf—a doctor and politician, A. Kohl—a historian, J. Kohl—a sculptor and woodcarver, A. Korb—a porcelain painter, J. Labický—a musician, M. Merklein—a buil­der, C. Paulus—a porcelain painter, F. Schmied—a porcelain painter, F. Schreyer—a porclain painter, C. Stephani—a dramatist, Z. Theobaldus— a humanist, E. Wapka—a musician and others. We might also recall the vi­sits to the town of such celebrated figures as Emperor Ferdinand III, Emperor František I, Empress Marie Luisa, the poet J. W. Goethe, and later the philosopher and writer F. Kafka, the psychologist S. Freud and others.

Another example of the town’s rich legacy from its heyday is its architec­ture. Until the mid-20th century it retained its quite unique character as a purely Renaissance town, practically untouched by later architectural sty­les. Unfortunately, today the town’s period architecture is in a pitiful state and the bulk of it has disappeared for ever. The construction of a housing estate resulted in the total neglect of an extremely valuable historical site, which led to the gradual dilapidation and the eventual destruction of the town’s heritage area. The total devastation of the old town was completed by the demolition of the Renaissance town hall in 1977. Only a few indivi­dual buildings of any importance have been preserved to this day.

The single-aisle St. George’s church with its joisted eight-sided tower is a late Gothic construction from around 1520. It retains its groined tracery vault, its Renaissance choir and font, its late Gothic Mount of Olives sculp­tural group and 14 tomb epitaphs from the 16th century. Originally it was fortified, as witnessed by its preserved embrasures. It was given its Baroque styling in the 18th century. By the church there is also a late Gothic campa­nile from 1540 which was rebuilt in 1686. Opposite there is a preserved late Gothic candle-holder with a spiral shaft which is often mistakenly designa­ted as a wayside column.

On the square there is a Holy Trinity Column from around 1700. On the north-western edge of the town there is the Baroque St. Anne’s hospice church from 1728 built on older foundations. There are also several late Gothic and Renaissance burghers’ houses preserved, for example, No. 4 with the portal dated 1519, No. 6 with an oriel and portal, No. 214 from around 1500 and the most valuable heritage site in the town, House No. 497 called the Pluh House from 1510-1512. The old mill, called Seidelhaus, is al­so of interest.

A circular stone scaffold from the 16th century is preserved to this day on the gallows hill with the town arms dated 1598 relocated here as part of Romantic period activities.

Unfortunately, the housing estate with complete civic facilities built in socialist realist style in the 1950s also deserves a special mention. It repre­sents an example of the entire construction of a mining town unit through- out this period of time.

The development of the town was primarily influenced by mining. Ore deposits containing tin had already been found in late antiquity and their mining and processing brought about the Bronze Age. In Bohemia, tin was acquired through panning the alluvia of streams at the foot of the Krušné hory Mountains and in the Slavkov Forest. More concentrated exploitati­on of tin deposits, just secondary ones to begin with, took place in the 9th and 10th centuries. In the ioth-igth centuries, the Slavkov region assumed a significant role in the export of tin to markets in Western and Eastern Europe. In the 13th century the working of secondary tin deposits develo­ped in the Slavkov Forest, panning gradually extended to Dalovice near Karlovy Vary and the interest of miners shifted more to the extraction of the primary deposits between Horní Slavkov and Krásno.

In the 14th century, work on these deposits intensified to such an extent that the two mining settlements became towns: Krásno sometime before 1355 and Horní Slavkov around 1355-1356. This development approached its peak in the 16th century. On 18. 10. 1507 the establishment of a Mining Authority for the Slavkov Silver Mines was announced by the owner of the Bečov estate, Kašpar Pluh of Rabštejn, and in 1509, this same nobleman an­nounced the establishment of a Tin Mining Authority for the region. After these two proclamations, there was further rapid development of mining ac­tivity in the Slavkov mining region. Whereas before active mining activity started in 1516, Horní Slavkov had around 500-600 inhabitants, in the 1530s and 1540s, the number of inhabitants had grown to 7000-8000. Hence it is no surprise that in the mid-i6th century, Horní Slavkov was con­sidered to be one of the largest European mining towns and in terms of its signficance it was ranked together with Kutná Hora, Jáchymov and Freiburg in Saxony. Even in 1594 when mining was on the wane, 481 hou­ses in the town were occupied. From 1. 9. 1547, Horní Slavkov was elevated by King Ferdinand I to the status of a free royal mining town and so ranked from the outset among the most famous and important mining towns in the Czech lands.

Mining work was concentrated in the richest deposit, Huberův peň, and later in the newly discovered Schnodův peň and because of the intensity of the work it was necessary to improve the intake of process water from the pe- atland and raised bogs around Kladská near Mariánské Lázně to propel the mining and processing equipment.

Thus in 1531 a start was made on the unique water-management project called “Dlouhá stoka” (Long Channel) which was designed to serve a doub­le function: both to provide sufficient water to propel the machines in the mines and to allow for the transport of wood required for the operation of the mines and the metal works. The construction was completed in 1536 and attained a length of approx. 24 km. In the second half of the 16th cen­tury, the scheme was continuously developed and eventually comprised channels of 30 km in length fed by mining ponds with a total area of 7 hec­tares. The channel had a gradient of 3.5 per mille (3.5 metres of height dif­ference per 1000 metres of length); it had 14 sluice gates, 35 bridges and an average width of almost 2 metres. In addition to the mines themselves it al­so fed 52 ore mills. A second similar water-management construction was that of the Puškařovy stoky (Puškař Channels), approx. 6 km in length, which fed Dlouhá stoka.The improvement in the intake of water allowed for the efficient use of the mining machines propelled by water wheels, better pumping of mine water and the establishment of processing and smelting works.

With the development of mining and the increasing depth of shafts, it be­came necessary to drain mines to an ever greater depth and so Kašpar Pluh had a new allodial gallery opened, the mouth of which is located approx. 800 metres below the town in the direction of Loket. The tunnelling of this gallery began in 1539; it was financed by mine-owners and affluent burghers. The allodial gallery received special privileges and tax concessions in order to speed up the project and these were later ratified by all subsequent Czech monarchs. Because of the high costs, the profit from the rich silver veins which were discovered during the tunnelling was used to pay for the work.

At the end of the 16 th century, tunnelling work had already come to 68856 guilders. In 1587, after 48 years of uninterrupted work the allodial gallery had reached a length of 3393 metres and tunnelling continued at an average daily rate of 23 cm. By 1655 it had reached 5920 metres and its face was 117 metres beneath the ground. It had 7 crosscuts, 13 light wells and 4 shafts and it still served its purpose in the 20th century for uranium mi­ning drainage needs. In the 16th century, both in Bohemia and it might even be said in Europe as a whole, the mining districts of Horní Slavkov and Krásno were quite peerless.

In the 1520s, in addition to the tin mines and the placers, there were so many other successful mining works in the silver veins that a mint was set up in Horní Slavkov for silver dollar coins, but this was only in operation for a very short time (1526-1527). However, as late as 1573, Horní Slavkov was still mentioned in the list of minting towns although by this time, most Czech silver mining was in considerable decline and there was no great ho­pe of reviving the mint even in the Slavkov mining area.

Because of its high quality, tin from the Slavkov Forest became a commo­dity on the European metal markets; during the first half of the 16th century, it dominated almost all the main European markets. It was particularly su­ccessful in Antwerp, Leipzig, Nuremburg and Linz where the main export centres were located. Tin from the Slavkov Forest facilitated the develop­ment of Czech metalworking trades, especially pewter and bell-making.

On 1. 9. 1547, King Ferdinand I. granted Horní Slavkov the status of a free mining town and at the same time a Supreme Mining Authority was established in Horní Slavkov with the authority to direct and inspect the ac­tivities in the Slavkov Forest mining area. In the second half of the 16th century there was development of tin mining up until the great crash, when a number of foreign entrepreneurs broke off their business links, small mi­ne-owners could not financially cover their investment costs and producti­on began a marked decline. The intensity of mining work continually dec­lined, which was reflected in the decline in the population. Whereas in the mid-i6th century Horní Slavkov still ranked among the largest Czech towns, by 1654 it only had 2450 inhabitants.

During the 17th century there were several measures taken to improve the situation and some of the mine shares were taken over by the state treasury but mining only developed very slowly after that. In the 18th century, the Slavkov and Krásno mining areas underwent a number of changes aimed at reconstructing the old mining works and reviving mining under a new poli­cy. There was some modernization of operations, fundamental changes in mine drainage, horizontal transport, the introduction of trolleys and piece rates. At the beginning of the igth century, the state invested around a quar­ter of a million guilders in the mines but this money was not used with gre­at efficiency. The necessity of making savings became evident and the rela­tively spendthrift activities in operation were soon restricted so that by the end of the 1670s they had come to a complete halt. Only one undertaking remained in continuous operation and this was progressively assigned to va­rious owners and modernized. The proceeds from mining did not match the costs and so it went bankrupt several times. After the First World War, the significance of the Slavkov-Krásno mining area increased again; an es­pecially promising area was the mining of wolfram ore and tin. A new shaft was sunk but in 1920 work was again stopped. Prospecting work was car­ried out progressively but until the Second World War the mines remained out of active operation.

Mining was renewed in 1941 and production rose sharply until 1944. In 1945 the mine was taken over by the Pribram Ore Mines, mining was im­mediately recommenced and carried on until January 1991 when it was defi­nitively finished in this area with the closure of the Stannum mine.

The last tunnelling in the Slavkov Forest was that of the Barbora draina­ge channel. With a cross-section of 12 m2 it reaches a length of 1050 metres and until 1995 drained the mine water which needed to be pumped out af­ter the completion of activities at the Jáchymov Mines through the Barbora Pit to the Slavkov stream. This tunnelling practically completed a thou­sand-year old tradition of mining activity in the Slavkov Forest area. It is estimated that for the entire period of mining in the area, approximately 60000 tons of metal tin have been excavated. Practically the same amount of metal remains deposited to this day for the next generation in those geo­logical sources underground which have been prospected.

The presence of uranium ore in the Slavkov Forest area has been known throughout history but the possibility of using it for military purposes com­pletely changed the approach to this raw material. Immediately after the end of the Second World War, geological prospecting commenced on the Homi Slavkov and Krásno area and in 1948, with the “assistance” of Soviet advisors and thousands of political prisoners, uranium mining was started. In 1949-1950, German prisoners of war relocated from Soviet POW camps also worked here. From 1950, it was mostly political prisoners who were assigned here (e.g. officers with the most severe punishments but also Czech ice-hoc­key players!). To provide labour for the uranium mines, four work-camps we­re set up: Prokop, Ležnice, Svatopluk and Camp XII. The camps were built in close proximity of the shafts so that the prisoners could be taken from the camps through fenced-off corridors directly to work in the mines. The camps were definitely not recreational; life was hard and the prisoners’ physical and mental endurance was continuously exposed to extreme tests.

Radioactive uranite, black uranium and some other radioactive minerals were mined here without any protective aids and with minimum food rati­ons. The exploitation of uranium was very intensive but because of its sec­recy, its extent and importance was considerably exaggerated for public consumption over the course of time. In addition to the extensive gallery work, a total of 23 primary shafts were sunk within a relatively small area and within a very short space of time. The entire process of uranium mi­ning and usage was strictly secret and detailed information on the mining was not published until 1989. A total of 2668 tons of uranium were mined in the Slavkov uranium mining area, which incidentally was the smallest mi­ned uranium area in Bohemia. Its significance for the political situation at the time primarily consisted in the speed of acquisition of the metal as a re­sult of the definite knowledge of the geological situation in the area (analo­gous to the Jáchymov deposit). The assignment of labour, the intensity of work and the size of the investment, however, did not at all match the size of the deposit and the state of its reserves.

Because of its privileged political position in the 1950s, the uranium in­dustry played a dominant role in the Horní Slavkov and Krásno area. The mining of uranium ore was wound up 1961-1963 but the aftermath of this ac­tivity remains to this day, mainly in its effects on the health of citizens and the devastation to the countryside. There have been relatively large chan­ges in the contours of the original surface (including numerous tips and de­pressions). At the same time, the original water network was disrupted with the entire destruction of historical mine ponds and a fundamental change in the level of the underground water in the area. Paradoxically, considerable damage was caused by the uranium industry in the destruction of the uni­que historical heritage (with the destruction of the historical centre of the town) and of old works (the Kašpar Pluh gallery and so forth). Hence tin mining brought development and fame to the town while uranium mining paradoxically brought about its decline and destruction as a result of the po­litical situation.

The effects of the Thirty Years’ War and the Counter-reformation had a very unfavourable impact on mining. The gradual consolidation of the economy after the Thirty Years’ War manifested itself in the wider growth of trade-guild production (pewter work, pottery and stove making).

With the abolition of serfdom, the 18th century saw the inception of per­vasive social changes, at the heart of which was an acceleration in the deve­lopment of capitalist production.

In the region there is still an active pewter industry which is renowned throughout Europe and whose beginnings are closely associated with the beginnings of the mining of tin deposits around the town. There is also tex­tile and haberdashery manufacturing, production of pearl buttons and the like as well as the usual trades and services required for life in the town and its environs.

The first plants and factories appeared in the Slavkov Forest and the first Czech porcelain was produced here too. The porcelain factory in Horní Slavkov was established in 1792 and underwent its greatest development in the igth century, when the renown of the town spread throughout the count­ry and the world. Very high quality porcelain is produced here to this day under the Hass & Czjzek hallmark, and this is exported all over the world so that following tin in the 16th century, the fame of the town which is now re­nowned for its porcelain.

After the end of uranium industry operations in the town, new factories were built on the remains of the mining works. A new mine processing complex was built in the Shaft No. 9 area for the Stannum mine with plan­ned annual mining and processing capacity of 400000 tons of ore. This completed operations in iggi. In the complex around the uranium mine works at Ležnice arose the Stasis works, producing construction and road machines. The Mine No. 8 area provided ihe land for the development of the Cheza works, nowadays Chcmapetrol Pentar s.r.o. The Mine No. 3 area was used by the former Mototechna and other enterprises for their operat­ions. The Mine No. 15 area was taken over by state estates. A state prison was established at the site of the former work-catnp at Mine No. 1. And so one could go on. The manufacture of leather and textile goods also has a prominent place in the recent history of the town.

The development of manufacturing brought with it an increase in the im­portance of transport facilities both internal and external. After the con­struction of the Loket—Nové Sedlo line, the town councillors in Horní Slavkov decided to build a Loket—Krásný Jez line, which was to link up the area to the Cheb—Karlovy Vary line and the Karlovy Vary—Mariánské Lázně line. To acquire the funding to build these lines, the town had to sell some of the forests and in 1924 the line was nationalized. Endeavours to bu­ild the line can be traced back to the 1860s but the line was not actually app­roved until 1884. Construction started in 1895 and the first train covered the entire route on 7. 12. 1901. Locomotives cover a track gradient of 32 per mil- le (i.e. a height difference of 32 metres on a length of track of 1000 metres).

The great significance of the line from the outset was in the operation of goods transport for the porcelain factory both for the receipt of raw materi­als for porcelain and for the dispatch of finished products all over the world. A freight elevator was built for improved handling from the porcelain fac­tory to the track. In the interwar years, ore from the tin mines was tran­sported along the track as was uranium ore in the 1950S-1960S. The first re­construction since the completion of construction in 1901 took place in 1931-1952 when the railway surface was rebuilt because of the requirements of the Jáchymov Mines for the transport of uranium ore and a siding was built to the uranium mine works (the present-day Stasis works). The line was closed for operations by Czech Railways on 31. 5. 1997 and its reopening seems to be in the unforeseeable future.

The town has some most notable surroundings for visitors with such na­tural phenomena as the Slavkov Forest and a number of heritage sites in the nearby towns and municipalities of Krásno, Sokolov, Bečov nad Teplou, Loket, Prameny, Kladská and Cheb. The world-famous spa centres of Karlovy Vary, Mariánské Lázně, Kynžvart, Františkovy Lázně and the no­torious Jáchymov are not to be forgotten in this regard. This region is cer­tainly worth getting to know.