The vague beginnings
The first traces of Slavic settlements in the region are documented as early as the 7th and 8th centuries, as evidenced by archaeological findings in today’s Obora near Luhačovice.
The oldest written record of a fortified castle in Luhačovice dates back to 1412. Apparently, it was destroyed during the war between the Hungarian King Matthias Corvinus and the Bohemian King George Poděbrady.
The Serényi family´s rise in Moravia
The history of Luhačovice as we know it today starts in 1629, when the lordship was purchased by Pavel Serényi (1602-1667) alongside his brother Gabriel (1604-1664). With them the Serényi family came in possession of the estate their descendants still own today.
Pavel is the oldest son 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.
Times of religious war
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 of the property 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 first owners of Luhačovice were Pavel (1602-1667) who was a general in the war against the Turks and also acquired the manor Zablati and his brother Gabriel (1604-1664). Gabriel extended the family property gradually by buying the lordships Banov, Pohořelice, Milotice, Kunin, Zlin, Kunvald and 1662 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.
He famously enfranchised the people in Bojkovice in 1636 from socage (Robot) and dues. This was about 150 years before the French Revolution, 200 years before it became law and 280 Years before the end of the monarchy.
When Pozlovice became a part of the manor Luhačovice in 1642, Pavel started with the construction of the Baroque church, at the location of a prior wooden church.
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 (1727-1809) heiress of Luhačovice and Zablatie and Amand Gotthard (1715-1770), heir of Lomnice married in 1744 the two branches united.
A castle is built
It took another 100 years until the family started the construction of today´s baroque castle on the site of the old fortified house. It was Pavel´s grandson Wolfgang (1685-1743) who had the castle with its two wings, a covered entrance staircase, and a clock tower built between 1730 and 1738. He is known for only employing the best craftsmen of Bohemia and Moravia as he aimed on creating a magnificent Baroque castle with all the comforts available at time.
The castle now also included a baroque park and a chapel dedicated to St. Joseph that became the parish church of Luhačovice until 1997, when it was replaced by the modern church of the Holy Family.
At this time a number of outbuildings were added, namely a building for the employs, a farm, a pheasantry, and a tavern.
When the construction was finished in 1738 the family moved from Záblatie to Luhačovice.
United in marriage
Wolfgang’s only daughter Elisabeth (1727-1809), inherited the substantial family properties of the Luhačovice branch. Which comprised of Luhačovice, Zablatie and the Hungarian manors Putnok and Dedes, that her grandmother baroness Barbara of Orlay brought in the family when she married Ondrej Serényi (ca. 1625-1689).
When Elisabeth married Amand Gotthard Serényi (1715-1770), the owner of Lomnice in 1744 the estates as well as the two main branches united. The couple erected today´s rectory in Pozlovice in the style of Baroque.
Their descendants still own Lomnice and Luhačovice today.
The history of the Serényi family and the spa in Luhačovice are inseparable.
Elisabeth built the beautiful chapel on grounds of the spa, dedicated to her patron St. Elizabeth. In order to honour her parent’s Wolfgang Ondrej (1685-1743) and countess Kristina Balassa, she had their alliance coat of arms mounted over the portal.
The second son of Amand and Elisabeth, Vincenc (1752–1810), an educated and enlightened aristocrat modernised the spa by using the famous spa Bath in the United Kingdom as a model. The oldest grandson of Amand and Elizabeth, 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. He employed the well-known architect Jan Sarkander Thalherr, to plan the city as well as the spa. Later he had the “Janův dům” (Jan house) as well as the neighbouring houses built. Later, the Janův dům was further developed by the famous architect Dušan Jurkovič, whose name it bears today as a landmark of Luhačovice. Further, he supported the establishment of the National 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, Resice, Putnok, Dedes and Zablatie.
19th Century politics until the end of the monarchy
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 Dům.
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.
Gabriel’s son Otto (1855–1927) inherited Lomnice from his uncle Alois, as his marriage to countess Ernestine Zerotin remained childless, and Luhačovice from his father.
From the 1880s onwards, Otto Serényi 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, 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.
The family had full control over the spa’s development until 1902, when Otto decided to transform the company into a stock corporation. While keeping the relative majority of shares and becoming head of the board of directors he prepared the path into the future by involving Czech physicians like Dr. František Vesely.
Otto Serényi facilitated the connection of Luhačovice to the railway network which enabled it to become easily accessible for tourists from all over Europe. Many of the springs still bear the names of family members such as the Vincentka, Ottovka, Amandka, Aloiska.
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) Serényi (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 he was one of 33 aristocratic signatories of the National Declaration of the Czech and Moravian Nobility, to pledge loyalty to the president and the Czech people.
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. 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.
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 spent some summer weeks in Luhacovice in 2018.
Her return was very emotionally celebrated the following year 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.