The history of the castle goes back to the high middle ages. The earliest documents date back to 1281 when Lord Vznat I. of Lomnice (1240-1281) was mentioned as the owner of the mediaeval castle of Lomnice. The famous Lords of Lomnice ruled over extensive parts of Moravia and established numerous cities and towns, such as Lomnice, Velké Meziříčí, Tassenberk, Tasov, Bukov, Náměšť nad Oslavou, Brumov, Ledeč nad Sázavou, Mostiště, Letovice, Louku, Pyšolec, Rájec, Skuhrov, Zubštejn. Their rise started from the castle in Lomnice.
The small Gothic jewel of Moravia
The original castle constituted of today’s second courtyard; todays first courtyard was added in the 14th century as an irregular bailey. At the same time a cross wing was added between the two courtyards, in which a late Gothic chapel was established in the second half of the 15th century. Today the chapel is affectionately known as the small Gothic jewel of Moravia.
Many Gothic elements have been preserved in the chapel, among which the most important are the ribbed vault, the bay window, and the original ceiling paintings (fresco). The stained-glass windows in the bay are complemented by a filigree keystone decorated with a rosette. The chapel also features a 17th-century wooden baroque kneeling altar and 19th-century pews.
During the Baroque period the chapel was consecrated to St. Francis of Assisi.
Times of religious war
In the 16th century the counts of Zerotin came in possession of the castle and lordship, at that time the male lineage of the Lords of Lomnice ended and the name went extinct.
The new owners made extensive changes in the style of the Renaissance, one of the most prominent is the arcade in the first courtyard.
The reign of the Zerotin family did not last long as they sold the estate in 1601 to count Oldrich Kaunitz. However, the reign of the Kaunitz family was also short lived as the property was confiscated by the emperor after the Battle of White Mountain in 1620 in which the Kaunitz fought on the protestant side, as the counts of Serényi.
In the aftermath emperor Ferdinand II gave the lordship to a loyal catholic family, the counts of Breunner. What followed, was a time of short ownerships by the already mentioned count of Breuner, and later the countess of Mansfeld.
The Serényi family’s rise in Moravia
On March 4th, 1662 Gabriel Serényi (1604-1664) bought the lordship Lomnice and with him a time of enlightenment and prosperity is set to begin. Gabriel extended the family property gradually by buying the manors Banov, Pohořelice, Milotice, Kunin, Zlin, Luhačovice, and Lomnice. He held several offices in Moravia, such as deputy governor of Uherské Hradiště and eventually became the Moravian governor in 1655. A position he held until his death in 1664.
His brother Pavel (1602-1667) was a general in the war against the Turks and alongside his brother the first owner of Luhačovice. The two brothers later decided that Luhačovice should remain under Pavel’s control. In 1634 Pavel also acquired the manor Zablati close to Trenčin.
With these two brothers the Serényi family came in possession of the two estates their descendants still own today.
Pavel and Gabriel are the sons of František II Serényi (ca. 1580-1621) who was the first in his family to acquire properties in Moravia in the 16th century. First, through marriage to Dorota Jakušičová of Orbova he came in possession of the manor Vlachovice in the Zlín region. Later, in 1613 he acquired the lordship Novy Svetlov.
František II supported the Bohemian side at the Battle of White Mountain, while remaining catholic. Therefore, a quarter of his property was seized by emperor Ferdinand II. After his death in 1621, his sons Pavel and Gabriel went to see the emperor and successfully reversed seizure by paying a fine of 5000 guilders. This solution was aided by the fact that his sons played a central role in the war against the Turks, in which two of them František III and Emmerich died in battle.
The two brothers are known as the founding fathers of the two main branches of the family, Pavel established the Luhačovice branch and Gabriel the Lomnice branch. Only when their respective great grandchildren Elizabeth, heiress of Luhačovice and Zablati and Amand Gotthard, heir of Lomnice married in 1744 the two branches united.
The Golden Age
After Gabriel’s death in 1664 his son František Gabriel (ca. 1630-1677) employed the emperors architect Giovanni Pietro Tencalla to rebuild the town of Lomnice and to modernise the castle in Baroque style.
The most prominent examples of the reconstruction of Lomnice are the church dedicated to the Visitation of Mary, the rectory, town hall, and the Chapel of St. Antony of Padova, surrounded by the old graveyard.
František Gabriel´s main focus lay in the economic recovery of his manors as these suffered immensely in the Thirty Years’ War. He supported the local economy by giving the regional guilds special privileges, that aimed on broadening the guilds accessibility.
Furthermore, he used his influence to help the town of Lomnice attain the right to hold market and to establish a school and hospital. Furthermore, he gave fields to the towns to enhance their independence.
The family’s social responsibility and modern thinking became evident once again as František Gabriel Serényi enfranchised the people of Lomnice with its surrounding villages that were part of his lordships in 1673 from any socage (Robot) and dues. By doing so, he followed his father’s tradition who did the same already in 1636 in the manors Novy Svetlov and Luhačovice. This was about 150 years before the French Revolution, 200 years before it became law and 280 Years before the end of the monarchy.
After the early death of Frantisek Gabriel his brother Jan Karel (ca.1630-1691) completed the construction of the church in Lomnice on behalf of František Gabriel´s young son Antonín Amatus (1670-1738). Jan Karel was an important and successful commander who eventually served as field marshal. He fought boldly against the Turks defending Vienna in 1683 and reconquering Ofen (Budapest) in 1686. Jan Karel acquired the lordships Prštice, Bojanovice, Svatoborice, and Blatna in Czechia, Guntersdorf in Lower Austria, and Possenhofen in Bavaria, which later became known as the birthplace of Empress Elisabeth (Sisi).
Antonin Amatus (1670-1738) followed his family´s military tradition and became an important officer, who self-financed his own company comprising of 100 horsemen. He and his men fought at the Battle of Slankamen, in which the imperial army defeated the Turks in 1691. In addition to his military achievements he was a highly educated men, who added vast amounts of books, maps, and globes to the library of Lomnice. He stood by his father´s privileges given to the people, despite this immense financial pressure. Later, he established the Jewish quarter in Lomnice, redesigned the main square, and erected the plague column.
In face of ubiquitous dangers in early Baroque times the castle was further fortified under the same Antonin Amatus. However, the garden was redesigned and now featured a classic Baroque layout.
Later, the highly decorated renaissance portal was transferred to Lomnice from the Serényi Palace in Brno. It bears the coat of arms of František Gabriel Serényi and his wife princess Maria Benigna Lobkowicz.
United in marriage
Antonin Amatus` son Amand Gotthard Serényi (1715-1770) the heir of Lomnice in 1744 married the heiress of the Luhačovice branch, baroness Elisabeth (1727-1809) and therefore united the estates Lomnice, Luhačovice, Zablatie, and the Hungarian manors Putnok and Dedes. Their descendants still own Lomnice and Luhačovice today.
Their son Josef, married to countess Maria Csaky, was a highly educated man that extended the castle´s library extensively. Also, he considerably renovated great parts of Lomnice, such as the brewery, the school, and the mansion.
19th Century politics until the end of the monarchy
Josef´s son, Jan Nepomuk (1776-1854) was a famous natural scientist focusing on minerals, geology, and mining. As such, he played a crucial role in the development of the spa Luhačovice. He helped the establishment of the Moravian Museum in Brno and gifted his vast mineral collection comprising of more than 2000 pieces to the newly established museum. Jan Nepomuk owned the manors Lomnice, Luhačovice, Tulešice, Rešice, Putnok, Dedes and Zablati.
His son Alois (1812-1893) inherited Lomnice. A known figure in politics and an expert in agriculture and forestry, he soon became the director of the Moravian-Silesian forestry association, which he also cofounded. Furthermore, he was a member of the administrative board of the Moravian Regional Bank, a member of the Moravian State Parliament, and had a lifelong seat in the House of Lords in Vienna. He supported federalism and the historic constitutional law of the Bohemian crown. Additionally, he held multiple offices in Brno, such as member of the administrative board at the social and cultural centre Besední Dum.
Together with his wife countess Ernestine Zerotin he modernised the castle Lomnice significantly and established today´s cemetery.
Jan Nepomuk´s youngest son, Gabriel (1817-1868) inherited Luhačovice, he followed his fathers’ footsteps in mining and mineralogy. To advance his knowledge further he travelled through Europe extensively. After the revolution in 1848 he resigned from his position as the emperor’s minerals expert and focussed on the further development of the spa in Luhačovice. As a member and vice president of the Moravian State Parliament he fought for the construction of barracks and by doing so improved the circumstances of the rural population significantly, as they were until then responsible for giving soldiers shelter. In this role, he also sought to enhance the autonomy of the districts. Furthermore, he initialised the establishment of a lending consortium (Vorschuß – Casse) to facilitate the availability of cheap loans for local businesses.
In the 19th century the castle was again modernised significantly, by adding neo Gothic elements, while the park was converted to an English garden with a neo Gothic gazebo that was erected on the fundaments of a medieval tower.
Castle Lomnice was the seat of the last Moravian governor Otto Serényi (1855-1927) and therefore a place of high political significance.
From the 1880s onwards, Otto was a member of the Moravian State Parliament and within it a leader of the party of the Konservative Großgrundbesitzer (conservative estate owners). This party sought to strengthen the historical rights of the Kingdom of Bohemia within the Habsburg monarchy. It stood against imperial centralism and for the relative autonomy of Bohemia and Moravia comparable to the position of Hungary since 1867. In the Imperial Council (from 1888) he initially joined the Czech Club before joining the Hohenwart Club in 1891. After the death of Count Egbert Belcredi, he became chairman of the clerical-feudal party in Moravia. Following his idea of national patriotism, he supported the full equality of both national ethnic groups. He spoke Czech and German alike, as well as all the languages of the monarchy and additionally French and English. He was involved in many Moravian associations, such as President of the Moravian-Silesian Forestry Association and Moravian-Silesian Forest School Association, the Red Cross of Moravia, and the State and Women’s Aid Association to combat tuberculosis.
His wife, countess Leopoldine of Harrach (1872-1917), was also charitably committed in many ways. According to an unconfirmed source, she was even convicted of having tried to avoid the execution of Russian soldiers towards the end of WWI.
Otto Serényi, who became the Moravian governor in 1906, carried out the Moravian Compensation (Mährischer Ausgleich) for which he fought already as a member of the Moravian state parliament.
It was only when Emperor Karl resigned two weeks after the foundation of the republic that he officially stepped down as governor of Moravia. However, he then supported the newly established Czechoslovak Republic from his castle in Lomnice.
1st Republic and times of national threat
Otto’s son Alois (Louis) (1893–1957) was educated at the Czech Charles University in Prague. After serving as an officer in World War I he became a Czechoslovakian reserve officer in 1919. He took possession of the estates in Luhačovice and Lomnice after his father’s death in 1927.
As the president’s office regarded him a dependable Czech aristocrat, he was chosen to lobby for Czech interests against Nazi Germany with Lord Runciman. From September to October 1938 he voluntarily registered himself as an officer in the Czech general mobilisation against Nazi Germany, even though he exceeded the age limit of 40 years.
In September 1939 by signing the National Declaration of the Czech and Moravian Nobility, to pledge loyalty to the president and the Czech people he became one of 80 signatories representing 33 aristocratic families.
As such, he was object of Nazi persecution and his estates were of interest to German land policy. Alois Serényi withheld the pressure but authorised his lawyer to take over control of his assets in case he was imprisoned by the Nazis. Later, the lawyer himself was object of Nazi persecution and eventually was imprisoned and killed in the concentration camp Flossenbürg.
Only when the GESTAPO detained 5 citizens from Luhačovice and the estate manager as hostages while threatening to send them to concentration camp count Alois gave in and signed the German citizenship.
The six hostages were all freed after he signed the documents. Furthermore, the ongoing threats against his immediate family finally came to an end, especially the imminent danger of his children being taken away.
Also, the administration of the spa had urged him to accept the German citizenship to enhance the spa´s position and to secure the spa’s interests during occupation. Many documents of that time confirm that due to his outstanding engagement Spa Luhačovice remained the only non-Germanised spa in the country. Thereby, he saved more than 1600 Czech jobs.
A large variety of testimonies stand proof of his existential help for, and his manifold support of the local people during the occupation. Nonetheless, he was wrongfully detained in 1945 and it was attempted to seize his assets. However, the authorities rehabilitated Alois Serényi in 1946 and 1947. Also, his daughter Isabella received confirmation of never having lost the Czechoslovakian citizenship.
When the communistic regime took over control in 1948 and after the mysterious death of the anti-communistic foreign minister Jan Masaryk he fled into exile in Austria and the family property was confiscated.
The castle was spared from attacks during World War II and retained its beauty. However, in the aftermath the castle’s interior was partly looted and the building stood unused for years.
From the 1970s onwards the castle housed a school for gastronomy and hairdressers until the school ceased its business in 2018. The family offered to share the castle with the school, but its management decided to leave. The castle was then handed over in rather bad shape and without functioning electricity supply.
A new era
After the Velvet Revolution the Czech parliament made a new start possible.
The fact, that the trials took 25 years, has been officially identified and conceded as far too long. Wrong translations of important documents may have played a role. Decisive was the decision of the highest administrative court, ruling out formal issues that had been utilised.
Eventually, Alois Serényi´s rehabilitation was again confirmed in 2016, which led to the restitution to his, youngest daughter Isabella Thienen-Adlerflycht, who applied for it.
This allowed Isabella Thienen to return home eventually, which was very emotionally celebrated by the people of Lomnice and the whole family at the 350-year anniversary of the church and the re-consecration of the castle chapel in summer 2019.
Isabella Thienen was born in Luhačovice in 1927 and died in Lomnice in 2019 a few months after this warm welcome. As it was her wish, she was buried in Lomnice, where her solemn funeral took place.
Since autumn 2018 the Thienen family started extensive reconstruction works on the castle and park. The long-term aim is to restore the castle to its former beauty, while carefully modernising it and keeping it partly available to the public.
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