The Serényi are an originally Hungarian noble family that came to Moravia in the late 16th century. Accordingly, in difference to many other aristocratic families of Bohemia and Moravia the Serényi family came to this land before the Battle of White Mountain, in which members fought on the protestant side even though they remained catholic. The family owned properties in Moravia, Bohemia, Austria, Germany, and Hungary.

Many members of the family were in high political positions over the centuries and their presence in Czech history is represented by the many monuments they built.

The castles of Milotice, Luhačovice, and Lomnice as well as, the churches of Lomnice, Pozlovice, Blatna, Paštiky, and Malenisko, and of course the spa Luhačovice are some reminders of this influential family’s legacy.

The oldest history of the Serényi family is still not entirely clear. However, the name most likely derives from a first name of an ancestor Serenus, that was later translated into Hungarian. The family’s nobility was confirmed in 1518 by King Louis II and in 1596 Michael Serényi was granted the title baron for himself and his descendants. By the end of the 16th century, the family first acquired properties in Moravia in the person of František II Serényi (ca. 1580-1621), who by marriage to Dorota Jakušičová of Orbova, came in possession of the manor Vlachovice in the Zlín region.

In 1613 František II bought the neighbouring estate of Nový Světlov. He 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 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, Frantisek III and Emmerich died in battle.

František II´s oldest son, Pavel (1602-1667) a general in the war against the Turks, in 1629 alongside his brother Gabriel (1604-1664), acquired the lordship Luhačovice and in 1634 Zablatie. The two brothers decided that Luhačovice would remain under Pavel’s control.

Pavel Serényi de Kis-Serényi (1602–1667) NPÚ, ÚPS v Kroměříži, mobiliární fond SZ Lysice, LS 164

Gabriel Serényi extended the family property gradually by buying the manors Banov, Pohořelice, Milotice, Kunin, Zlin, 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 the manors Nový Svetlov / 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.

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 Zablati and Amand Gotthard (1715-1770), heir of Lomnice married in 1744 the two branches united.

The family’s social responsibility and modern thinking became evident once again as František Gabriel Serényi (ca. 1630-1677) enfranchised the people of Lomnice with its surrounding villages that were part of his lordships in 1673 from any socage (Robot) and dues.In 1656 František Gabriel was granted the title of an imperial count for himself and his descendants.His brother 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 Amtus (1670-1738) followed his family´s military tradition and became an important officer, who self-financed a company comprising 100 horsemen. 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. Furthermore, he established the Jewish quarter in Lomnice, redesigned the main square, and erected the plague column.

In the next generation, Karel Antonín (1681-1746), who gained an influential position at the imperial court in Vienna, projected his ambitions by building a magnificent residence in Milotice.

Amand Gotthard Serényi de Kis-Serényi (1715–1770) NPÚ, ÚPS v Kroměříži, mobiliární fond SZ Lysice, LS 1649
Elisabeth Serényi de Kis-Serényi (1727-1809) NPÚ, ÚPS v Kroměříži, mobiliární fond SZ Lysice

The two estates in Lomnice and Luhačovice that are in the family’s possession today were connected due to the marriage of Amand Serényi (1715-1770) the heir of Lomnice and Elizabeth Serényi (1727-1809) the heiress of Luhačovice. Three generations later the two estates were separated again but reunited shortly after when Alois (1812-1893) died without descendants.

Their son Vincenc (1752–1810), an educated and enlightened aristocrat, modernised the spa by using the famous spa Bath in the United Kingdom as a model.

Amand´s grandson 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 more than 2000 pieces to the museum. He owned the manors Lomnice, Luhačovice, Tulešice, Resice, Putnok, Dedes and Zablati.

Jan Nepomuk Serényi de Kis-Serényi (1776–1854)
NPÚ, ÚPS v Kroměříži, mobiliární fond SZ Lysice, LS 11523

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.

Alois Serényi de Kis-Serényi (1812–1893) NPÚ, ÚPS v Kroměříži, mobiliární fond SZ Lysice, LS 1755

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 Serényi de Kis-Serényi (1817–1868)
NPÚ, ÚPS v Kroměříži, mobiliární fond SZ Lysice, LS 1661

Gabriel’s son Otto (1855–1927) inherited Luhačovice from his father and Lomnice from his uncle Alois, as his marriage to countess Ernestine Zerotin remained childless. From the 1880s onwards, Otto Serényi was a member of the Moravian State Parliament and within that 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 equally well, 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.

Otto Jan Serényi de Kis-Serényi (1855–1927)

His wife, countess Leopoldine of Harrach (1872-1917), was also charitably inclined 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.

The family had full control over the spa’s development until 1902, when Otto Serényi 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 people like František Vesely.

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.

Otto was married twice, first to countess Josefine Berchtold of Buchlovice, who died tragically in a riding accident while being pregnant, and later to the above-mentioned countess Leopoldine Harrach.

Otto’s uncle Ladislav Serényi (1815-1893) inherited the family´s estates Putnok, Dedes and Sajo-Szeged in Hungary and moved there, by doing so he established the new Hungarian branch.

His son Bela (1866–1919) became the minister of Agriculture and Trade in the Hungarian government.

Alois Serényi de Kis-Serényi (1893-1957)

Otto’s son Alois (Louis) (1893–1957) was educated at the Czech Charles University in Prague and became a Czechoslovakian reserve officer in 1919, after serving in World War I. In 1921, he married countess Margarete Pálffy, the mother of their 4 children, the marriage, however, was divorced in 1939. The same year, he married baroness Zuzana Offermann under the auspices of the Czech authorities of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia.

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. In 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 withstood 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 did count Alois give in and sign the German citizenship.

The six hostages were all freed after he signed the documents. Also, the ongoing threats against his immediate family finally came to an end, especially the imminent danger of his children being taken away.

Additionally, the spa´s administration urged him to accept the German citizenship to be in a better position to secure the spa’s interests against Nazi–threats. Many documents confirm that due to his outstanding engagement at the time, Spa Luhačovice remained the only non-Germanised spa in the country. Thereby, he saved more than 1600 Czech jobs.

A large variety of testimonies of the time stand proof of his help and support of the local people during the occupation. He was nonetheless wrongfully detained in 1945, and an attempt was made 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 communist regime took over control in 1948 and after the mysterious death of the anti-communist foreign minister Jan Masaryk he fled into exile to Austria and the family property was confiscated. 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.

Today, members of the Serényi family live in Austria, Hungary, France, Sweden, and the USA.

Foto Aloise Serényi pred svatbou s 1. manželkou hraběnkou Markétou Pálffyovou z Březnice