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Cheb – Castle, Urban Monument Reserve 

Cheb – Urban Monument ReserveThe first written record mentioning Cheb (German: Eger) dates back to 1061 and it is concurrently the oldest record documenting the progress of medieval colonization of Egerland (German name for the area of Cheb).

In 1167, Cheb was acquired by Emperor Friedrich Barbarossa who was aware of how significant its border position was for the objectives of his imperial policy. Colonization of Egerland was completed during the 100-year rule of the Štauf family and in addition to numerous castles and fortified settlements; there were almost 300 colonization villages in the district. In a deed dating to 1203, Cheb is first denoted as a town (civitas). In 1266, Cheb was occupied by the army of Přemysl Otakar II (also denoted as Ottokar II of Bohemia), King of Bohemia, who took advantage of his position of the administrator of imperial estates and attached Egerland to his lands.

In the early 15th century, Cheb ranked among the largest and wealthiest towns of the Lands of the Bohemian Crown with a total population of 7,300 inhabitants, some 400 houses in the inner town and almost 200 houses in its suburbs before they were destroyed. The Cheb burghers kept their own mercenary army supported by guild units.

Cheb – Urban Monument ReserveDuring the Thirty Years War, the town served as a well-positioned base for both allies and the enemy who took regular turns in capturing the town, foraging its surroundings, collecting contributions and in confiscating supplies. In 1631, the town was conquered by the Saxony army, re-gained by Albrecht von Wallenstein (Czech: Albrecht z Valdštejna) a year later, and re-captured by the Swedes in 1647. The first plundering of the town and Egerland is associated with the first stay of the supreme commander of Austrian armies whose name was to be forever intertwined with Cheb.

With Wallenstein's death in 1634, the situation of the town remained unchanged and the war brought it to the verge of extinction. Almost a third of the houses and all suburbs were ravaged, many craftsmen and tradesmen fled. Cheb was ruined and dilapidated. Economic and cultural prosperity returned to the town in the late 17th century, nonetheless, the town never regained its former position.

Cheb – Urban Monument ReserveA major factor affecting the growth or decline of individual areas was the connection to the newly constructed railway network. With its new railway station built in 1865, the town, clenched within its medieval walls and limited by its 13th century layout, acquired a modern town gate. A one-kilometre wide gap between the historical centre and the railway station experienced a construction boom. The upper part of the enclosed town square was opened by tearing down two houses and the new Nádražní (Railway) Street was constructed as a result of levelling height differences of the moat by the town walls (in present-day Šlikova [Šlik] Street) all the way up to the outer walls. Most of the scattered houses standing in this area were either covered or demolished and new houses were soon built.

Three new regular circular streets were constructed on the site of the former castle moats and outer walls (present-day Komenský [Comenius], Májová [May] and Evropská [European] Streets), along which the newly constructed buildings of the Evangelic Church (1871), the Rudolfinum central school building (1874), and the Theatre (1874) determined the future layout of the 20th century town.

The cultural and social life of the town thrived hand-in-hand with the changing town in the second half of the 19th century. With the construction of a new theatre, Cheb now had a permanent theatre scene and many singing and other interest societies and clubs were active in the town. One of the first regional museums in Bohemia was founded in the town in 1873 based on the initiative of G. Schmid. In the early 20th century, we may find wealthy tradesmen and concentrated financial capital, as well as significant engineering works (e.g. Fischer's Works, established in 1863, belonging among leading agricultural machinery manufacturers, a British company founded the well-known Premier motorcycle and bicycle factory in 1891, a Dutch company founded the Eska factory in 1911), food-production plants (e.g. a brewery established in 1873 ranked among the largest producers in Bohemia), as well as textile factories and construction companies in Cheb.  

The historical centre of the town underwent extensive renewal and reconstruction in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Present-day Cheb with more than 32,000 inhabitants has been declared an urban monument reserve in 1981 due to its constructional and architectural uniqueness.

Interesting tidbit: The Unfinished West Tower of St. Nicholas Church