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History

Early history

Construction of the Italian Court goes back to the end of the 13th century when rich silver ore deposits were discovered on the property of the monastery in Sedlec. Thousands of settlers arrived in the town. They were especially of German origin and they all aimed to become rich from mining silver. They founded mining settlements, built wooden houses, chapels, baths and markets. The King of Bohemia Wenceslas II built a stone fortress which is later called the Italian Court. It was the best place to store silver ore because the area was separated from the town with a moat.

Establishment of the mint

There originally were seventeen mints scattered in the Kingdom of Bohemia. Each produced its own coins of various qualities, which was not very handy, so the king Wenceslas II decided to merge all the mints and established one central mint in the Italian Court. At the same time he carried out a mint reform, issued a mining code (IUS REGALE MONTANORUM) and started to coin a unified currency for the whole country called the Prague groschen.

During the 14th century refurbishing of the Italian Court for the needs of the mint was carried out. Seventeen smithies were placed along the south-east and south-west sides of the court. Each smithy was up to 5 meters high, with its own entrance and a crest of the town from which the minters arrived during the reform. The smithies had saddled roofs, it the gables there were windows which helped to bring fresh air into the workshop. Silver circles called fanks for final stamping were produced here. The stamping was carried out in the coiners room called preghaus.

Royal palace

The coiners’ room was placed to the left of the entrance gate and coins were stamped there. Wenceslas IV the King of Bohemia had a royal palace built above the coiners’ room with a royal audience hall on the first floor. A few important political events took place there (signing of the Decree of Kutná Hora – 1409, election of Vladislaus II Jagiellon the King of Bohemia – 1471), on the second floor there were private royal chambers (nowadays a knights hall where meetings of the council of Kurtná Hora are held). A gothic royal chapel was built opposite the tall house – the royal palace – in the 14th century and was used as a private chapel of the king Wenceslas IV. It was originally of an irregular shape with a regular rib star vault. In the 19th century the room was changed into a regular square shape and painted in Art nouveau style by Mr. and Mrs. Urban. The only access to the palace was on a stone winding staircase constructed as a part of the palace. The palace was used by the Kings of Bohemia for both long and short term visits to Kutná Hora. (Sigismund, Holy Roman Emperor, stayed there with his wife Barbara of Cilli)

Modern history

The Hapsburgs did not use the palace anymore, so in 1545 the Italian Court was officially recognized as not suitable for living. Two years later minting of Prague groschen was terminated and a new currency taken from a private mint of the House of Schlicks was established as a new official coin – the Thaler. The Thaler spread all around Europe and got with the immigrants even across the Atlantic Ocean to North America where it gave the name to today’s most popular currency - the dollar.

A major reconstruction of the building was carried out in the 1580s when the first floor above the smithies was built. In the 1730s silver mining was terminated due to low economic efficiency as a result the coin production was moved to Prague and in 1727 the mint was closed down. During the two following centuries the buildings were ruining but were still used for various purposes. After 1770 there was a town hall, during Napoleonic wars, there was a military hospital and later a boys’ elementary school. Another major reconstruction was carried out at the end of the 19th century after the town of Kutná Hora had purchased the building from the state. The reconstruction was under the direction of architect Ludvík Lábler. The town hall of Kutná Hora moved in after the reconstruction, there also were a girls’ school and a flat of the headmaster of the school.

At the moment the Italian Court serves as the town hall, the headquarters of the Guide service Kutná Hora, the Museum of the Unveiling of the Mysterious Face of Kutná Hora and the Gallery of Felix Jenewein Kutná Hora.

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