Star Summer Palace

Prague, Czech Republic | C.1556

Photo Credit: Jen Preston

Why is a star-shaped building located in the middle of a hunting preserve? Built in 1556, the mystical design of the Star Summer Palace has hosted the likes of royalty and holiday hunters — and at one point found itself in the middle of one of the most pivotal battles of the Thirty Years’ War.

In 1530, King Ferdinand I established the Obora Hvězda game preserve and commissioned his son Archduke Ferdinand II to build a villa on the grounds. A staunch supporter of the wave of intellectualism spurred by the Renaissance, it is believed that the Archduke designed his villa to be used as a retreat for philosophers rather than a simple lodge for seasoned hunters.

The Archduke infused his interests into the villa’s unique design. He was a member of a group of intellectuals influenced by Hermeticism, a movement that embraced proportion, harmony, and numerical symbolism as high importance in architecture — no wonder his villa retreat embodied the physical structure of a star. Inside, the villa’s walls and ceilings are adorned with Greek and Roman gods, another nod to his fascination with the heavens.

Nearly a century later, the Palace’s peaceful retreat setting within the hunting preserve was thrust into the throes of war. On November 8, 1620, the Battle of White Mountain exploded near the Palace grounds. Considered an important battle in the early stages of the Thirty Years War, more than 40,000 men fought against each other. To this day, their valor is remembered in an exhibit within the Palace — an homage to the brawn and bravery of men displayed during the aftermath of the greatest intellectual awakenings of our time.

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