Město Chrastava

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The history of Chrastava

HistoryThe town of Chrastava is situated in the valley of the Jeřice River, about 10 km north-west of Liberec. During the 9th and 10th centuries the Slavonic tribe of Milcani founded a small settlement here.

In Olden Times

In olden times Chrastava was part of Zagost district, and later for more than six hundred years it belonged to Grabstejn demesne. In the surrounding area three guardian strongholds (Hamrstejn, Rajmond and Grabstejn) were built, protecting the pathway from central Bohemia to the Baltic.

The oldest written records date from the year 1352 and you can find these in the clerical book Registra decimarum papalium. The King of Bohemia, Přemysl Otakar I, invited German settlers to the underpopulated borderland and enabled them to comply with German laws in the Bohemian territory; as such the 13th and 14th centuries saw high German colonization.

In the manor of Donín the mining of metals (iron, copper, zinc, lead, silver) was carried out for several thousand years and so Chrastava, between the 13th and 17th centuries, became an important mining centre.

During the years 1428 to 1433 the Hussites passed through Chrastava during the so-called graceful-trips to Germany.

The mining of ores ended in the 16th century, when the Grabstejn demesne belonged to Silesian Lord of Jiří Mehl of Střelic. In 1581 this squire awarded Chrastava the town heraldry, which is valid to this day. Mehl was vice-chancellor of the Imperial palace of Rudolf II.

Thirty Years War

Immense damage was caused during the Thirty Years War. The wooden town hall was twice burned down as the troops of the Swedish and Croatian armies marched through the town, robbing and plundering. The mining activity was almost stopped.

After the Battle of White Mountain (1620) several hundred local people left the country due to their non-Catholic beliefs. The town was affected by frequent floods on the Jeřice River joining the Nisa River. Many wooden buildings were destroyed by perilous fires, and the plague epidemic twice took many lives.

Since 1704 the Grabstejn demesne has belonged to the parentage of Gallas, later on Clam-Gallas.

Art and Architecture

Josef FührichThe most famous native of Chrastava is the painter Josef Führich (1800-1876), and a claim to fame of the town is the fact that 10 painters were either born or spent much of their lives here.

The focal point of the town is the Gothic Revival St. Lawrence Church. A notable building is also the town hall (1636) with its high wooden tower. On the town square you can also find the Marian plague pillar (1732). Located in the town centre are several traditional half-timbered houses and three secession buildings.

The 19th century to the present day

The 19th century was a period of industrialization. Twenty textile factories were built and Chrastava became an important industrial centre of North Bohemia. In 1859 the railway-line from Liberec to Zittau was completed and put into operation.

In the period of the so-called First republic the Czech minor school was opened under the permanent direction of Bohumil Honsa.

Between 1936 and 1938 many fortresses were built in the town’s neighbouring areas.

From 1938 to the end of the Second World War Chrastava became a direct part of Hitler‘s Great German Empire. The largest textile factory was converted to the Spreewerke ammunition works where more than three thousand foreign workers were employed, among them hundreds of Jews from France and Holland.

After the Second World War textile production was restarted and the production of several types of textile machines (Elitex) was established.

At present the town, which includes Andelska Hora and both Dolni and Horni Vitkov, has 6000 inhabitants. Many families live in modern flats in the neighbourhood of Střelecký vrch, and a few houses with domiciliary services were built as well as a new school dining hall. The textile industry has seen its fortunes decline while, conversely, the production of pressed components for cars is developing.

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