Karlštejn Castle has got an exceptional position among Czech castles. It was established by the Czech king and Roman emperor Charles IV who wanted to build a place for the royal treasures, holy relics and the crown jewels. The castle was finished in 1365 when the Chapel of the Holy Cross was consecrated.
Karlštejn was reconstructed in the Late Gothic style in the end of 15th century and in Renaissance style in the end of the 16th century. Its present appearance comes from its last reconstruciton in the puristic Neo-Gothic style at the end of the 19th century.
The heart of the castle consisted of three parts placed on terraces of different levels when each of them express different importance. On the lowest terrace there is the Imperial Palace, a level higher there is the Marian Tower and on the highest level there is the Big Tower.
The Well Tower, the logistical centerpiece the castle, was the first part of the castle which was built. Miners worked here were tooken from the mining town of Kutná Hora, however water was not found even in the depth of 70 meters, which is below the level of the nearby Berounka river. They excavated the underground tunnel for bringing the water from a stream. The undergound reservoir was manually filled twice a year by opening a floodgate. This fact was the significant weakness of the castle, so the existence of that channel was a state secret known only to the Emperor. The miners who built the tunnel were allegedly massacred on their way from the castle after the construction, so they were no survivors who knew the secret.
The Chapel of the Holy Cross located in the High Tower was esteemed by Charles IV that he entered it barefoot there to stress its humility. The tower was fitted with three iron doors and nine locks. Its decoration took the inspiration from the description of Heavenly Jerusalem in the biblical book of Revelations. The chapel was used as a repository of crown jewels and the collection of the remains of saints belonging the Charles IV. The chapel with windows partially glazed with precious gems, cross vaults with profiled ribs, frescoes from the life of Christ and 129 unique panels with portraits of the saints made by Master Theodoric make a visit of this sacred room a truly exceptional experience.