At the end of the 15th century, Vilém (William) of Pernštejn had the castle rebuilt to create a chateau-type residence with four wings. At the same time he also built massive fortifications. The castle was separated from the outside world by a wide ditch (a moat), a six metre-high wall and a large, tall earth embankment with circular towers (roundels) at the corners. The castle became very difficult to attack, with a sophisticated system of defence based on a water-filled moat. This is the largest surviving example of early 16th-century military engineering and construction anywhere in Central Europe.
Because the castle was conceived as a fortress, it was essential that it gave extensive views of the surrounding area in case of attack. As a result, the castle’s embankments were kept entirely free of vegetation for many centuries. This changed in 1778, when gardens were created at the fortified corner towers (roundels) for use by the estate officials who lived at the castle site.
NO LONGER A MILITARY FORTRESS
In 1836 the Hradec Králové army office in charge of fortifications announced that the castle in Pardubice was no longer classified as a military fortress. This led to major changes in the appearance of the embankments, as the estate managers decided to remodel the entire fortification system (including the castle walls). The top parts of the embankments were made wider, and footpaths were created to give access to them. 1600 fruit trees and 1200 vines were planted on the embankment slopes. When the trees and vines began to bear fruit (apples, pears, cherries, plums and grapes), the estate authorities hired a guard to ensure that people could not take the fruit free of charge.
Later, other types of trees were planted, especially ash, maple, lime (linden) and horse-chestnuts. The appearance of the embankments changed over time; in the 20th century the fruit orchard gave way to a park-like area featuring ornamental trees and shrubs.
A temporary change came in 1931, when Pardubice hosted an exhibition of sport and physical education. The castle (including its fortifications) were used as part of the exhibition site; one of the roundels was converted into a café, and another roundel housed a scout camp. A temporary path was created linking the castle with the nearby park (Tyršovy sady) via an opening in the castle wall on the west side of the embankments.
A REFUGE FOR rare BEETLES
In the present day, the castle embankments (along with the Tyršovy sady park) form a calm green oasis in the heart of Pardubice’s city centre. The greenery is carefully managed and replanted when necessary; fruit trees and ornamental species are planted, and the footpaths are renovated.
Since May 2016 three of the castle roundels (east, north and west) have formed part of the European Natural 2000 system of protected areas (the Pardubice Castle Protected Area) because they are a habitat for the hermit beetle – an endangered species which lives in the hollow insides of old trees. Adult hermit beetles appear here from May to September – so with a bit of luck, you might see one.
THE CASTLE EMBANKMENTS
- Area: 3.7 hectares
- Length of path: about 600 metres
- Number of trees: about 180
During the renovation of the castle (2019–2020) there is unfortunately no barrier-free (wheelchair) access to the castle embankments, and the north part of the embankments is closed to the public. The embankments are open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (and up to 8 p.m. in the summer) only via the south gate.