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Title: Svitavy  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: Svitavy District, European route E461, Oskar Schindler, Karle, Polička
Collection: Cities and Towns in the Czech Republic, Svitavy District
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


Peace Square in Svitavy
Coat of arms
Country Czech Republic
Region Pardubice
District Svitavy
Commune Svitavy
River Svitava
Elevation 435 m (1,427 ft)
Area 31.33 km2 (12.1 sq mi)
Population 17,117 (01-0-2015)
Density 546 / km2 (1,414 / sq mi)
Founded around 1150
Mayor David Šimek
Timezone CET (UTC+1)
 - summer (DST) CEST (UTC+2)
Postal code 568 02 - 570 01
Location in the Czech Republic
Wikimedia Commons:

Svitavy (Czech pronunciation: ; German: Zwittau) is the capital and largest town in the Svitavy District in the Pardubice Region of the Czech Republic. The town has a population of 18,000 and is also the district administrative centre. It is the birthplace of Oskar Schindler and an important center of the Czech Esperanto movement, with an Esperanto museum that is part of the city museum.


  • History 1
  • Sights 2
    • Civic buildings 2.1
    • Ecclesiastical buildings 2.2
    • Museums, galleries and other cultural institutions 2.3
    • Statues and monuments 2.4
    • Nature 2.5
  • Notable people 3
  • Surroundings 4
  • Transportation 5
  • Esperanto activity 6
  • International relations 7
    • Twin towns — Sister cities 7.1
  • References 8
  • External links 9


The town's origins date back to around 1150 when Premonstratensian monks from nearby Litomyšl built a church and founded a village at a ford on the river Svitava ("pure", "clear"), from which the settlement got its name. Svitavy was first mentioned in 1256 when it was taken over by the bishop of Olomouc, Bruno von Schauenburg. Settlers were then brought in from Germany. In 1330, Svitavy was promoted to the status of a city, and at the end of the 14th century, walls were built around the city with three gates. In the 16th century the town flourished economically as a center of weavers and drapers. During the Hussite, Thirty Years', Napoleonic and Austro-Prussian wars, the city suffered as armies passed through the town. During the Thirty Years' War the town was devastated and in 1781 it burned down by accident. In the 19th century the building of a railway line through Zwittau contributed to the development of the town, especially the textile industry. Svitavy was historically a German-speaking town with a Czech minority; in 1930, 88.4% of the population was German. In the beginning of the 20th century the town saw tensions between Czech and German speaking people. In October 1938, the town was added to Sudetenland and occupied by the German army. After the end of the Second World War in 1945, the German population was expelled as a result of the Beneš decrees. The industrialist Oskar Schindler, who saved 1,200 Jews working at his factory during the war, was born in Zwittau.


Svitavy has a valuable historical core, which includes the elongated main square with the second longest arcade in the Czech Republic and a collection of architecturally noteworthy civic buildings, several churches, remains of city walls, and baroque statues.

Among the most notable buildings in Svitavy are the old city hall and the neighboring building "U mouřenína" ("The Moor"), located on the main square. Also of particular interest are the City Museum and the Ottendorfer House. The oldest church in Svitavy is the Church of St. Giles. There are only a few remains left of the city walls, including a semi-circular bastion. There are a variety of monuments and statues in the town's public spaces.

Civic buildings

  • Main square - Náměstí Míru (Peace Square), an elongated square surrounded by baroque and classicist buildings and their arcades, carefully reconstructed in the 2000s.
  • Old city hall – originally a Renaissance building with a tower, extensively rebuilt after the fire of 1781 and again in 1849; it served as the city hall until 1933 (and in addition, it housed the city treasury, a court, a police station, and a jail), now it is used for commercial purposes. The façade of the building has the town's emblem (the head of a male goat between two towers), on top of the tower there is a Turkish crescent.
  • "The Moor" – neighboring the old city hall and linked to it by a corridor above the street. The Austrian emperor Joseph II spent a night here in 1776. The tourist information center is now located in the building.
  • Ottendorfer House – a red-brick historicist building with a tower, it is one of the symbols of the town, built in 1892 by the locally born philanthropist, the American journalist Valentin Oswald Ottendorfer on the site of the cottage where his was born. It originally housed the public Ottendorfer Library, until the Second World War the largest and most modern German-language library in Moravia (what is left of the collection is now located at the City Museum and Gallery), later a city cultural center. Since 2008 the Esperanto Museum and a tea room are located on the ground floor, the ornate hall on the floor above continues to serve as a concert hall.
  • Langer villa (Present city hall) – historicist building with rich stucco ornamentation, localed at the edge of Jan Palach Park, built in 1892 by architect Hugo Wanderley, son of Professor Germano Wanderley, designer of the building, who also designed the Ottendorfer House. The house belonged to one of the richest families in Svitavy, local businesspeople. During the Depression, it was rented out to the city treasury, which in turn in 1933 rented the house to the city authorities, who bought the house and transferred the city hall to it. It was extensively renovated in 1989.
  • Old treasury – neoclassical building dating from 1902, located on the main square, in the 1990s the interior was decorated with sculptures by Olbram Zoubek. It currently houses a bank.
  • Former orphanage and old people's home – with elements of the Italian Renaissance, built in 1886 with the financial support of Valentin Oswald Ottendorfer. It currently houses an elementary school.

Ecclesiastical buildings

  • Church of the Visitation of the Virgin Mary on the main square – originally probably a romanesque structure, built ca. 1250, Gothic and baroque adaptations, with an accessible tower with a panoramic view
  • Church of St. Giles – originally a romanesque basilica from the mid-12th century, three-nave structure, rebuilt in the early baroque period, with valuable baroque internal ornamentation, in the vicinity of the valuable Gothic Roman Catholic parish house
  • Church of St. Joseph – three-nave, two-tower, neo-romanesque basilica built in 1896, originally called the Red Church because of the red bricks out of which it was built
  • Monastery of the Sisters of Grace of the St. Vincent de Paul order, founded in 1871, served as a hospital, primarily for children, and an old people's home – currently the "Home at the Crossroads", taking care of mentally handicapped women

Museums, galleries and other cultural institutions

  • City Museum and Gallery – located in a villa, built in 1892 in German Renaissance style, originally belonged to former mayor and businessman Johann Budig. In 1947 the city museum was installed in the confiscated building, later a wing was added on the right side. The first museum collection was established already in 1894 kaj place in the city orphanage. Among the permanent exhibits is the "Search for the Star of David" – a biographical presentation on Oskar Schindler, the Righteous Among Nations, the unique "History of Washing Technology", the photo exposition "History of Svitavy" showing photos of the town from the beginning of the 20th century and the "Villas of Svitavy". In addition, the museum organizes temporary thematic exhibits. At the beginning of June the museum organizes a Museum Night with a rich program and throughout the year organizes lectures, discussions, and other cultural programs. There is a photo exhibit on the life and works of Valentin Oswald Ottendorfer in the corridors of the Ottendorfer House.

In addition, a branch of the museum is located on the ground floor of the Ottendorfer House:

  • Esperanto Museum – established in 2008, run by the Czech Esperanto Association. It has a permanent exhibit as well as an annual thematic exhibit (from July 2011 to May 2012 "Spiritual traditions of the world and Esperanto"), organizes educational and cultural programs for Esperantists and the general public.
  • Modern cultural center FABRIKA
  • City library – also has a collection of Esperanto literature

Statues and monuments

  • Sculpture of Motherhood – funded by the local philanthropist Valentin Oswald Ottendorfer in memory of his mother Katharina and maternal feelings generally. A work by Stuttgart professor Adolf von Donndorf kaj sculptor Johann Tomola from Brno. There are only four examples in the world of this unique artwork: in New York in Union Square (1881), Svitavy (1892), Weimar (1895) kaj Stuttgart(1898).
  • Marian Plague Column – a work by an unknown artist, located on the main square, put erected in 1703 after the plague epidemics of the 16th and 17th centuries. The column is surrounded by the three patron saints of the town – St. Sebastian, St. Florian kaj St. John Nepomuk. In the grotto of the column there is a statue of St. Rosalie.
  • Fountain of St. Florian from 1783, located next to the Plague Column
  • Baroque sculpture of the Holy Trinity from 1734, a work by the school of Jiří František Pacák (1670–1742), influenced by Matthias Bernhard Braun
  • Statue of St. John Nepomuk from 1708, the work of an unknown master, located in front of the Church of St. Giles
  • Baroque Pietà from 1713 on Pražská street
  • Oskar Schindler Monument – located directly opposite the house of his birth on Poličská street and inaugurated in 1994 on the occasion of the premiere of the Steven Spielberg film "Schindler's List"
  • Sculpture of Liberation from 1948 by the sculptor Josef Kadlec, located in front of the Sigmund villa


  • Jan Palach Park – established in 1890 in connection with the building of the Langr Villa, in 1946 was named for Edvard Beneš and opened to the public. In 1993 it was renamed for Jan Palach kaj en 1999-2001 the entire nearly two-hectare area was completely renovated. Its principal art decoration is the Statue of Maternal Love,
  • Rosnička Fish Pond – a place of rest located northeast of the town, bathing place and water sports center, venue for music festivals, motorcycle races and other events. Starting point of the instructional trail "To the sources of the Svitava river" with 7 informational stops.
  • Instructional trail "Bohemian-Moravian borderland – Svitavy microregion", going out from the city center, with 9 stops

Notable people


  • Litomyšl – Renaissance-style urban monument reserve with a representative castle, birthplace of the composer Bedřich Smetana
  • Polička – town with uniquely preserved medieval walls and bastions, birthplace of the composer Bohuslav Martinů
  • Svojanov - medieval fortress
  • Nové Hrady - monumental roccoco castle
  • Dolní Újezd – regional village museum
  • Moravská Třebová – late Renaissance castle with valuable collections, water park
  • Žďárské vrchy (Žďár Hills) – protected landscape region
  • Toulovcovy Maštale – nature reserve with a labyrinth of sandstone rocks


Svitavy is a transportation hub of the area. It is well-connected by rail to other parts of the Czech Republic, including regular connections to Brno and Prague. EuroCity and InterCity trains pass through Svitavy without stopping, but some stop at Česká Třebová, a short distance from Svitavy on the same line. The town also has an intercity bus station with services to various destinations. Two major highways cross just north of Svitavy, E461/43, which goes through the town to Brno and Vienna, and E442/35 going east-west.

Esperanto activity

  • An Esperanto club founded in 1933 is active in Svitavy. It co-organizes regional Esperanto meetings, organizes Children's Days, and manages the Esperanto Museum. The head of the club is Libuše Dvořáková, vice-president of the Czech Esperanto Association since October 2011.
  • In October 2009 a conference of the Czech Esperanto Association took place in Svitavy, during which there was also a seminar on internet-related topics
  • In December 2010 an event called "Marzipan Christmas" was held at the Esperanto Museum
  • In October 2011 the first Esperanto Wikimania ("Vikimanio") took place in Svitavy to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Esperanto version of WorldHeritage.

International relations

Twin towns — Sister cities

Svitavy is twinned with:


External links

  • Official website (Czech)
  • City Museum (Czech)
  • Brief History (English)
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