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Town Theatre Žďár nad Sázavou

history of the theatresupplementtechnical dataHistoric equipment

Important events

(detail)1901 | construction

(detail)1981 | opening



In the 19th century, the city of Žďár nad Sázavou was a typical local settlement in a forgotten region in Bohemian-Moravian Highlands that had no significant connection with the outside world. Mostly small manufactories operated in it, in addition suffering from competition of enterprises that were located more advantageously. Building activity in the town and surrounding area was minimal until the end of the 19th century. Larger economic development of the town and region itself was enabled by building a railway from the present day  Havlíčkův Brod in 1897.

Despite apparent isolation, there was a population in the town that was of high Czech national awareness, of which the rich social life is a testimony. Among other, the glee club Svatopluk was founded in Žďár already in 1862 and a loose association of community theatre two years later.  The first community theatre initiated its activity in the house of Jíří Liml in 1863. The loose association became a society with its own rules eleven years later and started using the name Sázavan in 1867. The society performed with strong support of local students. After 1899, the garden area of the hotel Krajina was used for theatre performances and after 1900, its altered barn where also touring companies performed.      

Great importance for societal and cultural life in Žďár was the construction of the National House in 1900 – 1901 to the design by Josef Křelina, a builder from Žďár. The building activity testified about great providence of municipal councillors for societal issues. The house was built at the expenses of the town with a significant contribution of František Binka, a mayor at that time, and became the largest social hall in the broad neighbourhood. Originally, the building was meant to stand at the present day Náměstí Republiky in the location of a demolished brewery, but it was eventually erected in a school garden.                                                      

Not only theatre was played in the new cultural haven, but also societal and political meetings, concerts and dance events were taking place here as well. The interior layout corresponded to this as well with a grand hall, lit by large windows occupying  almost the entire dimension of the building. The main elevation, oriented towards the main square in Žďár, was very opulent. The author of the building already designed it in a more liberal spirit of Art Nouveau, but still with usage of historicising architectural elements. The most significant element of it was two bays that were topped by small helm roofs encircling the central section of the elevation with a main entrance and a semicircular gable. The stage in the hall had a ceremonial painted curtain, which was acquired in 1876 by amateur actors of Žďár from a small theatre hall in Besední House in Brno for Municipal Yard in Žďár, which was located in the building of an elementary school at that time. In 1901, the curtain with the central theme of a sitting figure of Lumír playing a lute was transferred into the newly opened National House, from where it disappeared in 1905 during the transportation to Prague.                            

The cultural and theatrical life in Žďár continued in the interwar period as well.  The Sázavan society united with the educational and theatrical society Havlíček that was founded in 1903 and enlarged its activity, a student's department was set up within its frame as well. Workers’ theatre started to play a significant role in the 1930s in Žďár as well. After a new gym hall of the Sokol movement was built in 1930, the National House became a theatre venue exclusively, in which also operas and operettas were occasionally performed apart of the drama.  A new double line railway was started to be built in  1939 leading from  Havlíčkův Brod to Brno and thus Žďár nad Sázavou became to be a traffic junction on one of the most important railway of the state. In relation to this new situation, construction of a new foundry and engineering company Žďas and that meant a turning point for the entire town and its surroundings. All of a sudden, a small country town became a district town (since 1949) that should become a “shop window” of the socialist regime of that time.  

The increased need of labour force was manifested at the face of the town in the hurried building of new residential areas, first demolition works on his historical sections started already in the 1960s and an idea of redevelopment of the town centre appeared in the 1970s. In this atmosphere of building enthusiasm, the National House appeared as a building that is too much obsolete to the city representatives. According to the period formulation, the building was without any value and furthermore without monument protection. Although the interior of the National House was partially modified, the entrance hall modernised in 1959 and renovation of the stage carried out in 1960-61, an objective of overall reconstruction eventually prevailed, or rather for radical rebuilding. It was decided that the core of the existing building would remain and other rooms would be built up to it. The original society house was meant to be converted into a genuine theatre that would fulfil obligatory parameters, convenient even for more demanding performances of professional theatre troupes. Primarily, the background should have been enlarged as already inconvenient at that time, especially the area adjacent to the stage, and the spectator’s comfort should have been secured by steeply raked stalls that would replace the existing flat floor of the hall.

The conversion of the national society house into a theatre building was started to be considered already by the end of the 1960s, initial studies were done in 1970. The appearance of the newly reconstructed building was conceived in the participation of architects from Architectural Art Atelier in Jihlava, E. Drápal, M. Roštínský,P.  Skála and J. Pospíšil  among other, the reconstruction of the interior was designed by architect Lubor Lacina. A building permit was issued not before 1976 and the final approval was processed together with modification of the surrounding park in 1981. The main contractor was the city of Žďár nad Sázavou and the first operator was the United Club of Workers of the National Enterprise Žďas.

The designer of the reconstruction intended to refer to the appearance of the previous building in the new one, especially on the distinctive bays with a helm roof, which were to be reminded by stylized towers in the new elevation. This designed was eventually dropped and only the interior of the grand hall has been preserved.

A foyer came into existence in the front of the entrance vestibule and on the sides of the hall, new foyers and new staircases to the first floor, in which entrances to the gallery and operational rooms of the theatre are located. The stage was enclosed by a small side stage on the east side and by the room of dressing rooms on the west side. The fly loft was raised and the ceiling strengthened above the theatre hall. As it was said earlier, the theatre hall has been preserved as its stucco décor of its walls and ceiling for the most part. The flat floor in the auditorium was replaced by raked stalls with 285 seats. The building was given a new façade in an austere style of the so called Normalization.


Present state


The theatre stands in the centre of Doležalovo Square on the grounds being sloped towards the south-east. The main entrance into the building is oriented toward the north, from where it is possible to access the theatre from the main public space in Žďár -  Náměstí Republiky (Republic Square).                   

The building is located on a sloped terrain and so its rear, south west elevation is higher by one storey. Its elevations, which are covered by the so called břízolit plaster and aluminium window frames with parapet fillings from the so called boletický panel, are shaped with reference  to the monumental Classicist architecture. This element is emphasized by large pilaster strips at the side elevations. The main elevation, which is oriented towards the northeast to the main square in Žďár - Náměstí Republiky with a tripartite entrance, is composed of a slightly protruding portico that is carried by a couple of concrete columns. The entablature that is symbolically conceived is decorated by a relief with theatre motifs by painter František Kovařík.          

The décor of the interior is carried in the spirit of the official production in the 1970s. This is documented by conception of the reliefs on the walls in the entrance vestibule of the theatre, marmor tiling and aluminium ceiling with glass fillings in the rooms dedicated to the spectators. From the former national house, there has been preserved the mentioned area of the hall with its original stucco décor referring  by its arrangement to large windows formerly breaking its side walls. There were pilasters with composite capitals that has been preserved until the present days between individual windows, topped by semi circles and from their décor,  the wedges with females mascarons have been preserved. The pilasters illusively support a stucco architrave and a flat frieze. The décor of the ceiling is further composed of a large stucco mirror, complemented by vegetable motifs that surround  especially the opening for the main, modern chandelier of the hall. The line of the proscenium arch is decorated with a stylized astragal, the entablature then with profiled moulding and underneath it, frugal festoons and small flat coats of arms.  In the middle, there is a coat of arms with a relief of the Czech lion with a crown in the top.


Employed sources and literature:

Antonín Bartušek, Jiřina Grünwaldová, Josef Pohanka, Josef Polišenský, Miroslav Richter, Jiří Sehnal, Antonín Verbík, Metoděj Zemek, Dějiny Žďáru nad Sázavou III, Brno – Žďár nad Sázavou 1974, s. 67,69, 84,87,103,104,155-156, 180, 181, 186,191

J. Fuksová, A. Jičínská, Žďár v proměnách času, Žďár nad Sázavou 1990, s.44,50,51,65,76,80,138,142,145,148

Ivo Filka, Stručné dějiny města Žďáru nad Sázavou, Žďár nad Sázavou 1998,s.137-149

Ivo Filka, Město Žďár nad Sázavou na starých pohlednicích, Žďár nad Sázavou 2007, s.93, 94

Petra Jebavá, Proměna města Žďáru a jeho historických památek v kontextu dějin (s důrazem na 20. století), diplomová práce, Pedagogická fakulta Masarykovy univerzity v Brně, s.14-20

Miloslav Lopaur, Žďárský uličník I - Průvodce  životem starého Žďáru, Žďár nad Sázavou 2012, s.64,65

Silvie Jagošová, Divadlo (Národní dům), Žďár nad Sázavou, Plošný průzkum zhodnocení a dokumentace architektonického kulturního dědictví 19. a 20. století, NPÚ Ú.O.P. v Telči,2009

Materiály stavebního úřadu MěÚ Žďár nad Sázavou pro čp.73




Author: Ludmila Hůrková

Translator: Jan Purkert

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