History of Prachatice - The Golden Age
After the rage of the Hussite storm had quieted, Prachatice became a royal city for a short time from 1436, but soon afterwards, Emperor Sigmund bargained the city‘s ownership to Jan Smil of Křemže, thus placing the city among feudal towns. But Prachatice soon changed hands again; Oldřich II of Rožmberk (1403–1462) arrested Jan Smil for leading an alleged “thieving” way of life and had him executed in 1447. Four pignorative deeds giving him lien, likely forged, gave him subsequent control of the city. So it was that for the first time in its history, Prachatice was in the hands of the powerful Rožmberk family.
By the end of the 15th century, the city had changed owners several times. Trade along the Golden Path was revived, and Prachatice took to bloom once again, also affecting its architectural development. Another ring of fortification walls was built, as was a set of houses on the square, and following a longer pause after two hundred years of building, the church of St. Jacob was finally completed.
The beginning of the 16th century saw the onset of two important events. The city again became the property of the Rožmberks (in 1501), followed soon afterwards by a great fire (1507). The fire brought great destruction on one hand, but it also sparked new construction activities by the city residents on the other. The strongest imprint on the city from this period is the Renaissance houses from its burgher residents. The burghers were able to use their wealth from the lucrative salt trade to build grand residences for themselves, many times employing Italian architects and builders. These houses stand out nowadays for their richly decorated gables. Another typical decorative characteristic often found on the Renaissance houses (and not only in Prachatice) are sgraffito decorations on the facades. The most common sgraffito motif seen is the tapered block resembling both block and envelope. The City Hall was built on the main square from 1570 to 1571, now one of the most valuable Renaissance structures in the country for its exceptionally high architectural and artistic worth. The City Hall was also built with the participation of Italian artists and builders. This is the time when the salt path, having brought such glory and riches to Prachatice, became known with its appropriate attribute, Gold. It was no longer only salt and other goods that passed through here, but now came colonists to settle the border region. These settlers brought with them new customs, new knowledge, and new cultural impulses. Craftsmen and artisans thrived and blossomed. Guilds emerged for weavers, butchers, bakers, tailors, and many more. Prachatice‘s position became so significant that in 1593 it was able to buy the dominion of Helfenburk with its castle of the same name.
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