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Cernín Palace (Cernínsky Palác)

Cernín Palace (Cernínsky Palác) (27)

If you go to Loreto Square and look up towards the west side, the only thing you will see is the imposing palace that stands there. Nothing about it is discrete or restrained but everything shines out from its spectacular appearance.

The palace was built between 1669 and 1679 by Count Cernín, who had been a diplomat in Venice and had returned greatly impressed by Italian architecture. In fact, for a while the count was obsessed in having a palace designed by Bernini himself. In the end it was built by Francesco Caratti.

There are 30 massive columns along its 150 metre long façade. It seems that Count Cernín wanted to compete in monumental terms with Prague Castle, just a short distance from here. In the reforms a beautiful Baroque garden was created inside in the mid-18th century.

The count’s anxiety to build in luxury almost bankrupted him, although his own son ordered another similar palace to be built in Vienna. In the Cernín Palace he managed to bring together an extremely rich collection of art.

The building stands on a raised piece of land that makes it a privileged spot... although sometimes this privilege has become misfortune. The palace was sacked by the French in 1742 and was later damaged by Prussian bombing in 1757.

One century after its construction and faced with the impossibility of maintaining it, the owning family put it up for sale. Perhaps due to its state of deterioration or the cost, it seemed impossible to find a buyer. It was finally sold to the State in 1851.

From that same year, the palace was not used as a residence but it was given other uses, such as a military headquarters or as a hospital during the Napoleonic wars.

Between 1928 and 1934, Pavel Janak undertook a complete restoration that returned to the Cernín Palace its lost splendour.

Since 1919 it has been the Ministry of Foreign Affaire although it was also used as a military headquarters by the Nazis during the Second World War.

The complicated history of this building experienced one of its saddest episodes on the 10th of March 1948. On this day, after the Communist coup d’état, Jan Masaryk, Minister of Foreign Affairs and son of the Prime Minister of Czechoslovakia, appeared torn to pieces at the foot of the balcony. He was the only non-communist member of the recently created government.

Whether it was suicide or murder, it remains a state secret that only the walls of the Cernín Palace know.

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