Ut certatura videatur: Bohuslav Hasištejnský a Itálie
In a letter written in 1489 and addressed to Kristián Pedík, Bohuslav Hasištejnský describes the renovation of the Royal Castle of Prague. The old buildings, visible from far away, must have been almost turning to dust. “However, Vladislav has enclosed them by a wall and moat of remarkable size, keeps bringing in loads of hewed rock every day, decorates (the buildings) by paintings, and spends so much on them that within a few years, they should compete with the most beautiful buildings of Europe. (ut certatura videatur.)” We may wonder what Bohuslav and his learned contemporaries may have meant by a royal palace “competing” with the most beautiful buildings of Europe. Bohuslav studied in Bologna and Ferrara. In either place, he must have met people deeply interested in classical architecture. The intellectual environment was loaded with new ideas. Bohuslav probably could not help but absorb knowledge of new architecture and its new meaning. In the paintings of Cosmè Tura and other painters, he must have perceived not just a new illusionism, based on a central linear perspective, but also work with a two dimensional rendition of classical architecture. He was not just confronted with a “modern” architecture and art, but must have gotten acquainted with personalities such as Filippo Beroaldo, Cesare Nappi or Pellegrino Prisciani. Other Czech students coming from the foremost aristocratic families, such as Petr of Rožmberk or Jan of Vartemberk must have had similar experiences. Bohuslav returned to Prague at a time when Vladimir Jagiellon was moving the royal residence from the Old Town back to the Castle of Prague, where for several decades, he then carried out his rebuilding program. His improved relations with the pope, reached in 1487, may have opened the door to Italian paradigms, such as the classic windows in Vladislav’s Hall or the Gates. They seem to fi t into the new political direction of the Czech Kingdom, later corroborated by Vladislav´s becoming King of Hungary. New architecture was a tool of royal, perhaps imperial power. In the 15th century, accepting classical paradigms outside Italy was a political show of force. Best known examples come from the architecture of Matthias Corvinus. However, other temples, fortifi cations, even the tsar’s palace in Moscow’s Kremlin, (1499) were to announce imperialistic ambitions. This also explains the conservative style of the Jagiellons of Cracow: until his death, Matthias Corvinus was their arch enemy. Also, their relations with Holy See were not good. So when Bohuslav mentioned a competition with Europe’s most beautiful buildings, he undoubtedly had in mind Italian residences, intentionally built to imitate Roman imperial architecture, such as the Urbino palace, or royal castles of Buda and Moscow.