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Chrudim Theatre

František Schmoranz

history of the theatresupplementtechnical dataHistoric equipment

Important events

(detail)18.10.1801 | opening

(detail)1847 | Alteration
The theatre was reconstructed in 1844—47.
(detail)6.8.1850 | fire

(detail)24.4.1854 | opening

(detail)1875 | Alteration

(detail)80. 's 19. century | alteration

(detail)00. 's 20. century | Renovation

(detail)1929 | Demolition


(detail)František Schmoranz |main architect

He is a representative of the Neo-Gothic style, in which he designed several new buildings. He reconstructed the Žleby castle and built several houses in Chrudim.

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At the beginning of the 19th century, Chrudim was a town where regional administration resided together with about 5 000 inhabitants. Substantial credit for establishment of a theatre building in Chrudim belongs to regional Hauptmann Markvart Josef Koc who bought the former almshouse church of st John Baptist for 700 Rheinische Guldens from a voluntary collection in 1801. The church was built between 1685 and 1715.  It was a smaller structure with one nave from massive stonework, to which a building of the almshouse was adjacent on the north side. The south, longer elevation was oriented towards the street and there were three segmental windows in it. The church was abolished during the reign of Joseph II.  Within reduction of church activities, it was put up to auction in 1788. Building work during its conversion into a theatre weren’t much demanding, because the theatre was opened within two months period from the conclusion of the contract. It was on 18. 10. 1801 with a premiere of German comedy  „Das Epigram“ by August von Kotzebue.


There isn’t much information about the appearance of this theatre building. It was roughly 16 meters long and 13 meters wide. It retained a tower. There was a  „noble gallery“ in the former choir (with the entrance fee for 36 kreutzers), the auditorium was divided into the first parterre (for 24 kreutzers) and second parterre in the rear sector (for 12 kreutzers). The pulpit was converted into a box for the regional commissioner. The stage was located in the former presbytery with a dressing room in the former sacristy. A larger reconstruction of the interior was carried out already in the following year when it became a two storey building, a new timber floor was laid and two new main entrances were created. The theatre was furnished by reed roof with stucco, upholstered chairs, new stove and seven scenery changes.


At first, the theatre was the property of the regional Hauptmann and apart of amateur actors, it was also used by wandering theatre troupes, about some of which there was considerable doubts concerning their quality in the periodical Czech press. The members of theatre companies of Alois Miller or Magdalena Kochansky von Kochan performed here before the half of the 19th century. Apart of them, amateur actors from the local clerks, teachers and officers of the garrison in Chrudim performed here as well. Czech language was heard at the stage on 19th March of 1839 for the first time during a musical evening and the play Foundling by Josef Kajetán Tyl was staged later that year. Czech plays were usually staged somewhere else, for instance in the inn “U arcivévody Štěpána" or in the “shooting range” out of the city from 1822. The theatre was transferred into the property of the almshouse’s foundation in 1837, which administered the building of the adjacent almshouse. The exterior and interior were renovated between 1844 and 1847. The theatre got new set pieces, some of which were to the design by painter Jan Kokeš.

On 6th August of 1850, the town of Chrudim was consumed by an extensive fire through the fault of a six years old boy who played with matches. The fire consumed 278 buildings including the theatre and almshouse, from which only parts of circumferential walls remained. A collection in Bohemia was organized to reconstruct the city and farm estates of counts Auersperg and Kinsky delivered building wood for free. On 25th August of 1851, the city council authorized the allocation of a financial sum for building a theatre and commissioned builder František Schmoranz to create its design. The county council approved the design on 15th August of 1852 and the construction was finished a year later. The new theatre was ceremonially opened on 24th April of 1854 with a performance of the opera Alessandro Stradella by Friedrich von Flotow.


The architect erected the new building on a L shaped plan and used a part of brickwork from the burnt building. The former longer 16 meters wide elevation now became a base of the letter L shaped plan and the two wing building had almost 26 meters in length. The former theatre then formed the entrance section and a part of the auditorium of the new structure. The exterior was now carried out in historicizing Neo-Romanesque style, being articulated by pilaster strips with circular discs and windows with semicircular segmental arches and shutters and was topped by a hipped roof. Its south entrance elevation had three windows in the first floor and portals with semicircular tops, located in the side axes. The one on the right led into a vestibule and further either into the parterre or the stage or through a staircase into the boxes and the gallery. The one on the left led into a corridor, from which the parterre and further the stage were accessible. Between both the entrances, there was a cash desk with a window into the street. The space of the former almshouse was now occupied by the front section of the auditorium, orchestra pit and stage. Its exterior was articulated by small narrow windows with semicircular funicular arches in two floors and a narrow arcade gallery above them. 


A narrow and prolonged auditorium with a lyre-shaped plan had 11 boxes, from which two were located in the proscenium arch and two in the gallery, perhaps with a one row of seats along the parapet and with the rest of the space for standing spectators. The individual circles were supported by slim columns with Tuscan capitals. There was a city crest in the middle of the proscenium arch. The stage curtain that has been preserved up to the present days was painted by Jan Kokeš.


The audience enforced in 1861 that it would be performed here only in Czech language. The theatre was bought in 1873 by the City Credit Union for  25 000 Guldens. Also in this period, the Chrudim public started pointing out to increased interest in theatre and to it related unsatisfactory capacity of the theatre. A reconstruction of the theatre and creation of a large association house was approved on 4th May of 1873 at the general meeting of the Credit Union, also an architectural competition should have been announced later. Exactly in a week, the Vienna Stock Exchange crashed and an economic crisis followed. By the end of the year, the Credit Union was in red numbers and so the big plans were abandoned. Instead, the theatre was only enlarged. The reconstruction works on theatre enlargement were carried out in 1875 again to the design by František Schmoranz. The building permit was issued on 11th June and the works were finished in the December of the same year with the total cost of 33 103 Guldens and 74 kreutzers.


The Credit Union let the adjacent building of the ossuary, which was attached to the entrance section of the theatre on its east side, be torn down. The architect preserved the existing layout of the theatre, however, the area of the original orchestra pit was now converted into the auditorium space and the orchestra pit was moved into the location of a section of the former stage. The stage now extended up to the original line of the circumferential north wall of the former almshouse, which was now torn down as well. Behind it, an extension wing for the theatre background was built, where a small back stage was located and it was slightly protruded eastwards. The arm of the bottom section of the L letter plan, which represented the previous plan of the building, was so symmetrically supplemented by another arm at the other point of the stem. The theatre was ceremonially reopened on 21st December of 1875. There were 156 seats and 40 standing rooms in the stalls, 11 big boxes for 44 spectators, 8 smaller ones for 32 spectators in the circles and 2 boxes for 12 spectators at the gallery. The gallery had a platform with 24 seats and 31 seats by each side apart of about 120 – 130 standing rooms. Therefore the capacity of the theatre was up to 300 seats and up to 250 standing rooms.


During the Karel Pippich’s management, after whom another theatre at another location in the city would be named, set pieces from the abolished Provisional Theatre were bought in 1886 and some new ones were painted by painter R. Holzer. During the same year, gas was installed into the theatre and some interior remodeling including the fly loft and dressing rooms was carried out. The rear vault arch  in the stage was torn down and that enlarged the opening into the rear stage. The Credit Union sold the theatre back to the city in 1895. The city had some exterior renovation be carried out in 1902 under supervision of the builder Josef Staňek. There appeared a new entrance in the location of the former cash desk in the entrance wing of the building and the facades were painted in yellowish-brown. Renovation of heating was carried out in 1905. Further reparation works followed in 1907. Painter František Moravec painted the theatre and upholsterer Karel Kokeš embellished the boxes. Some other reparation works were carried out as well in 1915 – 1916. Electric lighting was installed in 1921 and some repairs were done as well.

In the 1920s, the local authorities were concerned about the safety and they banned performing here on 30th October of 1928. The building was subsequently bought by the Chrudim Saving Bank for 1 200 000 Crowns so a new seat of this institution would be erected in its location. Permission for demolition was issued on 30th January of 1929 and it was executed during the spring. A new theatre was later built in another location in Chrudim to the design by atelier Freiwald & Böhm.



Sources and literature:


KOBZA, Zdeněk, ed. Divadelní Chrudim: 1801-1934: památník vydaný k otevření Městského divadla Karla Pippicha v Chrudimi dne 18. února roku 1934. Chrudim: Městské divadlo, 1934. 170, [ii] s.

KOBETIČ, Pavel a kol. Chrudim: vlastivědná encyklopedie. Vyd. 1. Praha: Milpo media, 2005. 247 s. ISBN 80-903481-4-9. s. 32.

NESEJT, František. Z dějin chrudimského divadla. Část jedna – osm.  Chrudimské vlastivědné listy. Chrudim: Okresní muzeum, 1992- 1993. ISSN 1214-7508.

ALEXA, Ignác. O umění dramatickém. Divadlo v Chrudimi. In: Chrudimsko a Nasavrcko. III, Obraz kulturní. Chrudim: Výbor ku popisu okresu Chrudimského a Nasavrckého, 1912. s. 560- 574.



Author: Jan Purkert

Translator: Jan Purkert

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