History and the Present
The town of Loket (among other names also denoted as Loketh, Elbogen and literally meaning "Elbow") was founded in the 1240’s during the reign of King Václav I (also denoted as Wenceslaus I of Bohemia). It actually formed the outer ward of stately royal castle of the same name with a Romanesque rotunda probably dating to the third quarter of the 12th century. Loket Castle was built on a marked cliff clenched by the bending Ohře River. Loket Castle gained significance after 1230 when the seat of the regional authority transferred to the castle from Sedlec. The importance of the town grew along with the castle because they later formed a single defence unit. Even the only town gate was guarded by the castle vassals and the vassalage spreading around the castle during the reign of King Přemysl Otakar II (also denoted as Ottokar II of Bohemia) created a rather odd shape. The town reinforced its defence system under Přemysl Otakar's rule and profited from its advantageous position along the trading trail leading from Cheb and Kraslice to Prague via Žlutice or Kadaň. In the era of the Luxembourgs, Loket Castle served as the temporary residence of members of the royal family. It was visited by King John of Luxembourg a number of times and his wife, Eliška Přemyslovna (also denoted as Elisabeth I of Bohemia), stayed at Loket with her son Václav, the later Emperor Charles IV, in 1319. Young Prince Wenceslaus was imprisoned at the castle for two months upon his father's orders. In 1337, the king conferred rights upon Loket that were also enjoyed by other royal towns. Charles IV was a frequent visitor at Loket Castle in his adult years and he especially favoured the local royal game park.
The fact that the fortification of Loket ranked among the best in Bohemia and throughout Central Europe, was proven, among others, when King Václav IV fought with Ruprecht of Phalz in 1406 and 1407. In the pre-Hussite era, Loket and Cheb burghers organized a number of punitive expeditions against robber-knights. The town was subject to the laws of Cheb and it was the seat of the appeal tribunal for the towns of Bečov, Kraslice, and Ostrov. During the Hussite era, wealthy burghers retained power over Loket and thus, the town remained loyal to Catholicism and Emperor Sigmund. The overall defence of Loket and surrounding areas against the Hussites was commanded by the Burgrave of Loket Castle, Půta of Ilburk. In 1434, Emperor Sigmund pledged Loket Castle, the town, the position of the royal burgrave and almost all of the Loket lands to his chancellor, Kašpar Šlik for his financial aid during the Hussite Wars. Thus, the Šliks gained control over a major part of the Loket district with minor interruptions till 1547. Nonetheless, they revolted against Bohemian kings and they even attempted to sell the Loket demesne to the Saxons, whereby it would be alienated the Czech Crown. Even Loket burghers went into litigation and fought the Šliks for they resented becoming their hereditary serfs.
In 1547, the town citizens, despite being largely non-Catholic, remained loyal to King Ferdinand and its loyalty more than paid off. Although Loket was still pledged to the Lords of Plavno between 1551 and 1562, the Loket burghers succeeded in redeeming the pledge in the middle of the 16th century and acquired the Loket burgraviate with all goods and with it the Kynšperk, Hertenberk a Luby demesnes for 30 thousand thalers. In 1598, the pledge was fully in the hands of the town, which thus became a free royal town holding large demesnes. Loket obtained the right to hold annual markets as early as in 1547 and in 1561, it received an improved coat-of-arms and the right to use a read wax seal. In 1562, it received a part of the yields of the Loket district and the key to the town gate.
The Thirty Years War was disastrous for the town and it brought about the slow decline of Loket. This was also caused by the general decline of the Loket district, a large part of which was assigned to the district of Žatec in the second half of the 17th century. The Loket district did not even exist between 1714 and 1751. In 1725, the entire inner town was devastated by a massive fire. With the restoration and expansion of the Loket district in 1751, the stagnation of the town ceased. Loket did not regain its previous fame, however, and in 1795, Loket Castle was rebuilt into a prison. Towards the end of feudalism, when the Loket district was once again dissolved, the town had 279 houses and more than 2,300 inhabitants.
Out of the numerous industrial plants in Loket, the porcelain factory, founded by the Haidinger brothers in 1815 and managed by them for almost 50 years, contributed to the fame of Loket most significantly. Under their management, the porcelain factory reached the top in terms of technology and art between the years 1835 and 1840. After 1918, the Loket porcelain factory became a part of the Epiag joint-stock company. In the second half of the 19th century, a glass factory was another source of livelihood for the local people. Otherwise, the growth of the town was inhibited by the fact that modern industry settled in neighbouring towns, such as Kraslice, Sokolov, Karlovy Vary and Cheb. From 1850, the largely germanised town was the seat of the court district and also of the political district between 1855 and 1868 and between 1913 and 1948. The town was therefore growing and in 1930, it had 429 houses and 4,000 inhabitants.
The foundation of the stone castle was customarily dated to the period of reign of King Přemysl Otakar I (Ottokar I of Bohemia, 1197-1230). Nonetheless, following the discovery of a Romanesque rotunda, which, according to its architectural design, belongs among the oldest Czech structures of its kind, the foundation of the castle may be dated to an earlier period, i.e. approximately to the third quarter of the 12th century. Preserved Romanesque structures include the extremely valuable rotunda, foundations of the castle tower and foundations of the north palace. The castle more or less acquired its present appearance during an extensive reconstruction completed during the reign of Václav IV, which included, for example, the so-called "Margrave House". Additional reconstructions took place in the second half of the 15th and they mostly affected the south palace where the stately hall was built during the rule of the Šliks, and the east palace where the Šlik archive was built. Rather unfavourable for the castle was its reconstruction into a prison, which took place in the early 19th century – most of the buildings were lowered by one floor and one of the oldest parts of the castle known as the stone room was demolished completely.
In 1992, the castle returned to the possession of the town and it is currently undergoing intense reconstruction, which is partially funded from the resources of the Ministry of Culture by means of the Programme for the Regeneration of Urban Monument Reserves and Zones in the Czech Republic.
Interesting tidbit: Tale of the Magic-Struck Burgrave