Photographer's Note

Vyšší Brod Cistercian Abbey

A summary of the history of the Cistercian Monastery Vyšší Brod / Hohenfurth

The Cistercian Abbeys Vyšší Brod (Hohenfurth) and Osek (Osegg) in Bohemia are the last of the numerous Cistercian monasteries that once existed in the historical lands of the present-day Czech Republic, i.e. Bohemia and Moravia. Their cultural impact is inseparable from the history of these lands. In the order of their dates of foundation, there were the following Cistercian men’s monasteries in Bohemia and Moravia: Sedlec (German: Sedletz) 1143, Plasy (Plass) 1145, Nepomuk 1145, Svaté Pole (Heiligenfeld, Sacer Campus) 1157, Mnichovo Hradiště (Münchengrätz) 1177, Osek (Osegg) 1194, Velehrad (Welehrad) 1205, Žďár (Saar, Fons S. Mariae) 1240, Vyšší Brod ( Hohenfurth) 1259, Vizovice (Wisowitz, Rosa Mariae) 1261, Zlatá Koruna (Goldenkron, Sancta Spinea Corona) 1263, Zbraslav (Königsaal, Aula Regia) 1292 and Skalice (Skalitz) 1337.
Of these men’s monasteries, ten were situated in Bohemia and three (Velehrad, Žďár and Vizovice) in Moravia. Four of these monasteries went out of existence in the course of the Hussite wars or as a consequence of the general destruction suffered in these wars: Svaté Pole, Mnichovo Hradiště, Nepomuk and Vizovice. Seven of the monasteries were abolished as a result of the Josephine attack against monasteries, which was especially drastic in Bohemia and Moravia: Sedlec, Zlatá Koruna, Zbraslav, Plasy, Žďár, Skalice and Velehrad. As a result, not a single men’s monastery remained in Czech territory. All Benedictines, Carthusians and hermits were abolished. The two remaining monasteries of the Cistercian Order, Osek and Vyšší Brod, were abolished by the communist government of the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic. Vyšší Brod had actually been abolished in 1941, due to the fact that the Czech Lands were part of the Third Reich for the duration of World War II. At one time, there were three Cistercian monasteries on the Vltava River: Vyšší Brod on the upper Vltava, Zlatá Koruna on the middle Vltava between Český Krumlov and České Budějovice, situated approximately on what was then the linguistic border, and Zbraslav on the lower Vltava, just a few kilometres from Prague. Vyšší Brod, the southernmost settlement of the Czech Republic, which was endowed with town rights since 1870 and had a population of about 2,500 until the German population was expelled, lies just a few kilometres from the Austrian border. It is also the last parish on the border, while the parish and market town of Bad Leonfelden on the opposite side of the border has been in the care of the Cistercian order since historical records were kept. The town lies half concealed in a flat basin, surrounded by the mountains of the southern Bohemian Forest, reaching up to an altitude of 1000 meters in that area. Somewhat separated on a low rock ledge up the river, stands the monastery Vyšší Brod on the Vltava, which, having descended from the rocks and forests of the Bohemian Forest in the north-west, changes its course and continues northwards directly through the middle of Bohemia.
The monastery of Vyšší Brod was founded in 1259 by Petr Vok of Rožmberk, of the House of Vítek / Witigon, so powerful and famous in the early history of Bohemia. The castle and little town of Rožmberk are situated a few kilometres down the Vltava from Vyšší Brod. The real incentive for founding the monastery remains, as is common with many old monasteries, cloaked in the darkness of the past. An legend has it that Petr Vok, who was Marshal of the entire Kingdom of Bohemia, rode to Vyšší Brod, where he wanted to say his prayer at a chapel situated in the site of the present-day St. Ann’s Church (later the monastery cemetery). To reach it he had to cross the Vltava, for there was a ford nearby, as is obvious from the name Hohenfurth, which translates into English as "the high ford". Because the river was swollen, Petr Vok got into a quandary and promised that he would build a monastery in the place of the little church if he escaped death. There is, however, no historical evidence behind this legend. A later wall painting depicting this event stands on the epistle side of the presbytery in the Abbey Church, while a corresponding painting on the opposite side of the presbytery shows the foundation of Vyšší Brod and the founder transferring the new monastery to the first monks, who came from Wilhering Abbey on the Danube, near Linz. A very old, undated document reports that Petr Vok of Rožmberk wanted to found a monastery and give it to the Cistercian Order for the sake of his and his relatives’ spiritual welfare. Therefore he turned to the Abbot General of the Cistercian Order with the request to inhabit the newly established monastery with monks from Wilhering. Wilhering itself was populated by monks from the Abbey of Rein in 1146. This line of descent then goes from Rein to Ebrach to Morimond, which is the fourth daughter monastery of Citeaux.
According to a document dated 23rd May, 1259, Bishop John III of Prague confirmed the donation made by Vok of Rožmberk, together with his patronage right over the churches of Rosenthal / Rožmitál and Priethal / Přídolí. According to a document dated the 1st June of the same year, he granted the first church of the monastery the benediction while confirming all property, incomes and rights granted to the monastery by Vok of Rožmberk. Therefore, the 1st of June 1259 has long been accepted as the foundation day of the Monastery of Vyšší Brod. This document of the 1st of June 1259 also mentions Vyšší Brod as a settlement with its own church, which existed at that time probably as a border garrison on the route from Linz on the Danube through Haselgraben, across the pass of Vyšší Brod as far as the Vltava ford and into the interior of the country. The monastery obtained further donations from the noble family that founded it. It was the remote location in the vast border forests of Bohemia that protected and spared Vyšší Brod many a military battle whereas several other monasteries were destroyed, especially in the 15th century during the Hussite Wars. Whether and to what extent the Monastery of Vyšší Brod suffered because of the Hussite Wars remains unclear to this day. Contemporary documents are unclear or contradictory. According to Janauschek (a 19th century historian of the Order), the monastery was spared by the Hussites as the only Cistercian monastery in Bohemia. Nor does the monastery tradition know anything of a Hussite attack. However, Hussites seem to have advanced as far as the town of Vyšší Brod and burnt down the unfortified settlement. The monastery was protected by its fortification wall with towers, which are preserved as they were then to this day. The Hussites probably made an attempt to set the monastery on fire. However, they only managed to set fire to the roofs, in particular that of the monastery church. In times of grave danger, the monastic community found asylum behind the firm walls of the town of Český Krumlov. Serious damage was inflicted upon the monastery property and some patronage churches, some of which were destroyed and had to be reconstructed in the latter half of the 15th century.

Daily program of the monks

of the Cistercian monastery of Our Lady in Vyšší Brod (founded in 1259)
4.15 Rising
4.30 Vigils (nocturnal office)
followed by meditation
6.15 Lauds (morning praise)
followed by a morning mass in the monastery (at 10.00 on Sundays and holidays)
Breakfast individually
8.15 Terce (on Sundays and holidays immediatelly after Lauds)
followed by Lectio divina (spiritual reading)
9:00 Benediction and assigning of work (except on Sundays and holidays)
9.15 - 11.45 Work (except on Sundays and holidays)
12.00 Sext and Nones
followed by Necrologium (prayer for the dead)
Midday meal
Midday break (common recreation on Sundays and holidays)
14.00 - 16.30 Work (except on Sundays and holidays)
16.45 - 17.15 Lectio divina (from 17.15 in the summer season)
17.30 Vespers (at 18.00 in the summer season)
followed by the Rosary (voluntary)
Sunday: Eucharistic adoration and Benediction
18:10 Supper (at 18.40 in the summer season)
Common recreation (voluntary)
19.15 Lecture of the St. Benedict's Rule, Collationes (at 19.45 in the summer season)
Compline, Salve Regina
Silentium (strict nocturnal silence)

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Photo Information
Viewed: 1954
Points: 14
Additional Photos by Csaba Witz (csabagaba) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 591 W: 167 N: 1408] (6636)
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