The building on Národní třída has been haunted for over 650 years
A bit lost on busy Národní třída in the commercial shopping area of Prague is a building and courtyard called Platýz Palace. It is easy from the street level cafés and shops to overlook that the building is a palace, but it was originally the home of the Duke Friedrich of Burgundy, a member of the court of Emperor Charles IV in the 14th century. The original entrance used to be at Uhelný trh, the former market on the opposite side of the block, and the stone portal can still be seen.
The palace is near the Church of St Martin in the Wall, and close to where the town wall used to be.
The building has passed through many hands, and was rebuilt in many styles so it no longer looks like it originally did. But way back right after it was built it became haunted due to a twisted romantic tale.
Duke Friedrich of Burgundy traveled a lot, and had several palaces in different cities. He relied on his staff to keep the palace running in his absence, and ready for his sudden arrival.
His chamberlain took good care of the palace. The chamberlain, who had long been in the service of the Duke, had a large family and the Duke took one of them as a protégé, the eldest son, Jan.
Even before the palace was finished, the Duke began to take Jan with him on his endless travels, dressed up in the height of fashion at the time. Coats of embroidered silk, colored leggings and puffy hats were all the rage. The young man made quite an impression everywhere they went.
The Duke went to his ancestral home in the wine region of Burgundy to spend the harvest season and oversee the making of wine, as it was a big part of his annual income.
During this era, marriages among the upper classes were arranged to create stronger alliances, and not because they were suitable matches.
A young and attractive noblewoman was married off to a very elderly man in what both families considered a beneficial match. Everyone except the bride, who was never asked about it. Both families felt the subject of her marriage had nothing to do with her, and her opinion wasn’t needed.
She saw the dashing Jan from her window, and soon contrived a way to meet him. Jan and the young noblewoman soon began an affair.
The couple planned to vanish and change their names to pose as man and wife someplace else where they would go unnoticed.
But the husband of the young woman got wise to his wife’s dalliances, and complained to the Duke about the transgressions of a member of his entourage. The affair put the Duke in a bad light, as he was responsible for the actions of his staff.
The Duke took his honor very seriously, and immediately called for Jan to be arrested for adultery. But Jan was a step ahead. He and his lover fled a bit faster than they had planned and eventually settled in a far corner of Bohemia.
Jan found work as a chamberlain for a minor count, and the couple was able to live in some sense of style, if a bit less lavish than before. The Count was content to look after his own estate and seldom traveled or entertained, which suited the young couple who was trying to lay low.
The bride’s elderly husband died shortly after his wife ran away, and the whole affair was all but forgotten.
That is, until Emperor Charles IV announced the coronation of his second wife, Anne of Bavaria, as Queen of Bohemia. It was going to be a lavish event, and Bohemian nobles far and wide were invited.
The Count was surprised to be included, as he thought he had long been forgotten by the court’s protocol office. He felt he had to go, as ignoring it would be a black mark against his name.
Jan begged to be left behind, but the Count insisted that he needed an entourage, however small, so as not to look like a beggar. And Jan still had his fancy clothes so he would help to make a good impression for the minor nobleman.
The Duke of Burgundy spotted Jan in the crowd, wearing the very clothes the Duke gave him long ago. The Duke still bore him ill will for his misdeeds.
Jan was arrested at the coronation. The events of the case were clear, and there was not much need for a trial. Jan was to be be put to death for adultery, bigamy and dereliction of his duties and a list of similar crimes.
Jan’s father, the chamberlain, begged for mercy for his son’s life but the Duke felt he could not overlook the grave crimes, as it would make him look weak.
Jan had his head cut off in a public square.
What happened to the unfaithful wife is not mentioned in the legend at all. There was no husband to make a complaint against her, as her husband had passed away. Whether she just vanished again to live her life in obscurity or was also executed for adultery is not known. Just as with her own wedding, she remains an afterthought.
The Chamberlain was friends with one of the executioner’s assistants, and was at least able to get his son’s body back so it wouldn’t be publicly displayed hanging in a cage, as many executed people were at the time. By dead of night, the father secretly transported his son’s corpse back to the Duke’s palace.
The father buried his son in an obscure part of the basement, unknown to the Duke or anyone else.
Every year, on the anniversary of his execution, he rises up from his basement grave and wanders the halls of the former palace trying to find out what happened to the woman he died for, but nobody remembers any longer, so nobody can help him.
Platýz now has flats and offices on its upper levels, and a variety of stores from cafés to décor shops to clothing stores on the ground level, with outdoor seating and a modern art statue in the courtyard.
The exact date of the execution is not known, but Queen Anne’s coronation took place at St Vitus’ Cathedral on Sept. 1, 1349, and the execution was likely shortly after that.
Palác Platýz, located at Národní 416/37 in Prague 1, was founded on or about 1347 during the reign of Charles IV on the site of three houses near the Old Town fortification wall. Duke Friedrich of Burgundy (Fridrich Burgundský) was the first occupant.
The building is a registered landmark, notable for becoming the first apartment building in Prague in 1813, but it went through many transformations before that.
In Annales Bohemorum, a chronicle by Václav Hájek z Libočan, the building’s original appearance is described as a castle with a high tower, with its main facade facing Uhelný trh.
From 1405, it was owned by the wealthy Prague malt maker Jan Bradatý ze Stříbra. In 1408, there was a scholarly debate held at the palace about the writings of John Wycliffe, an English philosopher who was a major influence on the Hussite movement, which eventually led to the Hussite Wars.
In 1586, the palace was purchased by Jan Platais (Platejs) z Plattenštejna, an imperial council member and secretary to Emperor Rudolf II. The name Palác Platýz dates from this time.
The facade was modified in Renaissance style. A loggia was built in the first floor inside the courtyard.
Renovations were continued by Jan Platais’ son, Jan Arnošt, who later became archbishop of Olomouc. A few details such as a ceiling beam and some murals are preserved inside but not accessible to the general public. Paintings from the 17th century are also inside, and there is a large two-story rectangular hall.
In 1637 the palace was owned by Count Jan ze Šternberka, and under the Šternberk family, Baroque remodeling took place. The passage through the courtyard between Uhelný trh and Národní třída, which still exists, was created.
The building became a popular place starting in 1715, when Jan Leopold Paar married Marie Terezie Violanta ze Šternberka. There were balls, and many artists found a home there. The building also had a fencing school and post office. A bust of Jan Leopold Paar can be found by a staircase on the Národní třída side.
In 1797, the owner was Jakub Wimmer, who became wealthy as a contractor for the Terezín military fortress. He also had a humanitarian side, and opened up parks in Letná and Vinohrady for public use. He also built the Wimmer Fountain at Uhelný trh.
In 1813, Sir František Daubek bought the palace and rebuilt it into a profitable apartment building in Prague, the first of its kind. The renovations took from 1817 to 1835 before it was complete.
Architect Jindřich (Heinrich) Hausknecht moved the facade to Národní třída and redesigned it in the Empire style, creating a stone portal with four Doric columns. The look of the connected buildings was unified.
An owl sculpture above the entrance was used to signal whether there were vacancies in the courtyard for carriages, and owl motifs can still be found in the décor.
Remains of the 13th century fortifications are preserved in the cellars, parts of which have survived unscathed through all the various renovations.