On the first floor of the castle are three grand halls featuring original murals. William of Pernštejn built his residence in the late Gothic style, and it was later remodelled by his sons Vojtěch and Jan in the style of the early Renaissance. These later alterations included the addition of early Renaissance murals decorating the main halls. The murals were damaged during interior reconstructions during the 18th century, and they were not rediscovered until the 1920s, after the castle had been purchased by the Pardubice Museum Association.
The most extensive fragments of the original Renaissance murals have been preserved in three knights’ halls located in the castle’s south wing – known as the Maashaus, Vojtěch’s Hall and the Column Hall. The castle also hides another Renaissance treasure – the original coffered ceilings installed between 1520s and 1530 (consisting of ornamental sunken panels known as coffers). One of these ceilings has been preserved intact in the Column Hall.
Unfortunately, all three knights’ halls are currently closed to the public during renovation work. They will be re-opened in 2021 as part of a brand-new exhibition commemorating the Pernštejn dynasty.
The largest of the knights’ halls is the Maashaus (a German word meaning a spacious hall taking up the entire front part of the ground floor). Here the original décor has survived in a small area. Besides the trompe l’oeil paintwork around the portals (a special technique which creates an optical illusion of a three-dimensional image), this hall is also dominated by its large mural depicting the antithesis between the Old Testament and the New Testament. The basic meaning of the allegory is explained by a well-preserved inscription in the upper part of the mural: “The Law is given by Moses; Grace and Truth are given by Jesus Christ.” The theme of the Law and Grace (in Latin, Lex et Gratia) was a frequently discussed aspect of Lutheran dogma during the first half of the 16th century. The mural in the Maashaus was produced under the influence of the workshop run by Lucas Cranach the Elder at some point after 1530, and it is the best-known artistic depiction of this common topic. Jan of Pernštejn probably commissioned the mural in the late 1530s or the early 1540s. At the time, Jan was one of the leading figures in the Bohemian estates’ opposition to King Ferdinand I’s attempts at centralizing power, and he was also one of the leaders of the Bohemian neo-Utraquist nobility – a grouping which supported the Lutheran reformation. There is no doubt that the castle in Pardubice was the scene of numerous political discussions and negotiations. Jan’s intense involvement in both political and religious activities may explain why such a huge mural depicting a prominent religious theme was surprisingly located in one of the secular parts of the castle, which was used for receiving guests.
In addition to these early Renaissance murals, the Maashaus also boasts valuable Gothic-Renaissance portals, which are the work of a master whose identity is still not known. The wooden coffered ceiling (consisting of ornamental sunken panels known as coffers) dates from the 16th century; the missing parts were replaced with replicas when the ceiling was rediscovered in the early 1920s.