May 2016

Wild wolves used to be common in Europe, and with them tales of werewolves.

They were often talked of across Northern Europe and deep into Russia, but on occasion were mentioned all across the Continent going back to ancient Rome.

Prague back in the time of Rudolf II not only had wolves in the Stag Moat at Prague Castle, but also, according to legend, a werewolf. Most people take their werewolf knowledge from Hollywood films, but full moons and silver bullets are seldom featured in the real tales. The Stag Moat story is simple and unadorned. Rudolf II was a great collector of all things and at times had various wild animals, often very exotic, in and around the castle as well as in several large parks under royal patronage.

A pair of grey wolves lived in the Stag Moat, and were overseen by a royal gamekeeper and his nearly mute assistant named Janek. At the time, people considered him simple-minded, but he seems to have just been a bit withdrawn from the human world as he had nothing in common with it. While he almost never spoke, he did start to howl with the wolf family and soon spent almost all of his time with them. The gamekeeper punished him for neglecting his other duties, and Janek was so ashamed he ran away. Or did he?

The Stag Moat at Prague Castle

The Stag Moat at Prague Castle

The Černín Palace in Prague has a long and unsettling history.

What is now the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs from the 1660’s up to 1851 belonged to the noble Černín family, which legends depict as being somewhat vain as well as stingy.

The family had Černín Palace built on a hill slightly higher than Prague Castle, due to their love of prestige. It took several generations of the family to complete the construction of the truly massive building, which began with designs by Giovanni Lorenzo Bernini in the 1660’s and was finished with a monumental staircase by František M. Kaňka in 1720, with almost every famous artist or sculptor of the time contributing something.

Chernin-Palace-night1000

The first ghost tale associated with the palace occurs just as the building was under construction. Count Humprecht Jan Černín was the one who commissioned the largest palace in the city, but he promised to pay each craftsman only when his work was finished.

When he died in 1682,  there were no written contracts for any of the construction. The tradesman turned to one of the count’s relatives, who was adept in occult arts and a member of a secret society. The head architect at that time, Francesco Caratti, was taken blindfolded to a meeting of the secret society and the spirit of the count was raised up and asked to sign the required contracts. The spirit seems to have obliged, as the work was able to continue.

But the most famous ghost story, which concerns demons and a duchess, comes later…