The historical centre of the town of Bečov is dominated by a complex of one of the best-preserved Czech castles built in Late Gothic style. Two towers rise above the high rock outcrop – the smaller with a castle chapel of the Visitation of Holy Mary decorated with unique mural paintings from the 1400’s, and the larger residential tower (donjon) built in the 1500’s. Both the towers were interconnected by a three-storied wing with banqueting halls (dining rooms) in the first quarter of the 16th century when the castle was in the possession of the family of the Pluhs of Rabštejn. The new Renaissance palace, known as the Pluh Palace, has retained its Classicist appearance. The south castle entrance was once guarded by a tall cylindrical tower torn down in 1623, the lower part of which has been rebuilt into the present-day look-out terrace. The castle was seized and foraged by the Swedish army in the course of the Thirty Years War. During its subsequent renovation, a massive gun bastion was built at the town entrance overlooking the castle moat according to the plans of Jan Lacron, the military commander of the castle. The later Baroque chateau was built on the site of the gun bastion in the early 18th century in two phases, the first phase commenced in 1701, and the second followed in the course of years from 1710 to 1713. The chateau is dominated by an octagonal corner tower with a library and a chapel. A reconstruction of the castle in Romantic style according to the design of Josef Zítek was contemplated in the 1860’s, fortunately though, the plans were never brought to life and only the chateau terraces were renovated then. The castle has been preserved in its medieval appearance because it served only as an accessory building. Dolní zámek (Lower Chateau) was opened to the public for the first time in 1996, following an extensive and challenging reconstruction and the Reliquary of St. Maurus has been displayed on its premises since 2002.
The vault of the Lower Chateau houses one of the most valuable treasures on the territory of the Czech Republic, i.e. the Reliquary of St. Maurus. The reliquary was made in the first third of the 13th century for the Benedictine Monastery in Florennes, present-day Belgium, to hold the relics of St. Maurus, St. Timothy, and St. John the Baptist. It was made in the style of Romanesque tomb reliquaries typical of the Rheno-Mosan art of goldsmithery. The wooden core is richly decorated with gilded silver and copper plates forming figural, relief and filigree elements and complemented with enamel and varnish plates, jewels, as well as antique gems. Following the dissolution of the monastery during the French Revolution, the reliquary was bought by Alfred de Beaufort-Spontini who had the reliquary restored and brought it with him to his Bečov estate. When the Beauforts were forced to leave Bečov after World War II had ended, they secretly buried the reliquary under the floor in the castle chapel where it lay hidden for almost 40 years. The reliquary was finally found in 1985, however, in a very poor condition, and the painstaking restoration of the rare and unique artefact of European significance lasted 11 long years.
Interesting tidbit: How Pluh of Rabštejn Saved the Castle