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Jirásek Theatre Hronov

Jindřich Freiwald

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Important events

(detail)1826 | First stage
Due to initiative of Antonín Knahl, theatre stage was constructed  in old timbered school, not existing building today.
(detail)18.5.1925 | Foundation of association
Cooperative for construction of Jirásek Theatre in Hronov was founded on 18th May, 1925. A first project of the theatre emerged in 1925 by architect Valášek from Hradec Králové.
(detail)1928 | Project
The Cooperative addressed directly with request for building design Prague architect Jindřich Freiwald, who elaborated the design of the theatre including interior with atelier Freiwald–Böhm for free in May, 1928.
(detail)1928 | Foudation stone
The foundation stone laying ceremony took place on 26th August, 1928 with Jirásek participation. The construction works, assigned to execution to firm   Břetislav Veselý together  Náchod building firm of  Antonín  Hartman and Oskar  Goldschmid  begun within a year after celebration – on 1st  of June, 1929.
(detail)28.9.1930 | Opening
Ceremonial opening of the new theatre took place by production of Lantern by Alois Jirásek on 28th September, 1930. Official final building approval was granted a day earlier.


(detail)Jindřich Freiwald |main architect

Belonged among the most productive Czech architects of the 1920s and 1930s. An architectural studio, which was led jointly by him and Jaroslav Böhm (Freiwald & Böhm), designed large quantity of family houses, dozens of blocks of flats, financial houses and several congregations of the Czechoslovak Hussite Church in the area spreading from Duchcov to Slovakia. In context of Freiwald´s occasionally qualitatively floating work, three theatre buildings are evaluated very highly: Hronov (1930), Chrudim (1934) and Kolín (1939). He died in fights liberating Prague in the end of the WW2.

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K. Fišer |architect
(detail)Jaroslav Horejc |sculptor

He belonged to the most distinctive representatives of Czech Neo-classicism, inspired by Greek archaic sculpture (Amfitrité, 1913). His easily recognizable style is characterized by broadly elongated figures, with small head, thin hips and broad shoulders. His rather decorative than monumental sculpture expression caused that he was sought-after author of architectural ornamentation (sculpture on the savings bank in Karlín, on building of Czechoslovakian embassy in Warsaw, on headquarters of communications in Pardubice, on ministerial complex below Emauzy in Prague). He was an author of Memorial of Fallen in Dvůr Králové (1922), cemetery sculpture of Alois Jirásek´s tomb in Hronov and several tombstones in Vinohrady cemetery.

In: http://www.libri.cz/databaze/kdo20/search.php?zp=1&name=Horejc+Jaroslav

(detail)Jan Štursa |sculptor

One of the founders of the Czech modern sculpture. At first, he was influenced by Art Nouveau symbolisms, but later he inclined to sensual approach of depicting a female body. He reacted in his work to experiences from the front lines. The after war relief The NINERA player (1919) heralded the aesthetics of Civilism. He created mainly portraits in the last years of his life.


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(detail)Karel Lidický |sculptor

A Czech sculptor, a disciple of Otakar Španiel. His work is characterized by high monumentality that resumes on Classicism.  His most renown works are the sculpture of a woman protecting her face against flames of her burning village- Lidice monument, The Master Jan Hus – a bronze statue in Prague Karolinum (1954), a memorial plaque of Joachim Barrand on Barrandov rock.


(detail)Franta Anýž |interior designer

He was initially manufacturing  jewelry and items from iron and leather in Art Nouveau style with characteristical floral ornaments. He founded a modern iron founding firm (Anyž - later Zukov) and cooperated with significant sculptors and architects on realization of their works (Municipal house, St. Vitus cathedral). He was manufacturing illuminants, which connected  high quality of workmanship with simple shapes.

In: Prostor - AD

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Antonín Knahl |Commissioned by


The building stands in the north east corner of the square, to which its main facade is oriented, a culture hall is attached to its left side facade, the theatre is facing the Jiří z Poděbrad Street by its right facade.

The beginnings of Hronov amateur actor theatre are connected with clockmaker Antonín Knahl, who wanted  to realize similar performances, as he had been attended in Prague, after  his return from his Prague journeyman's scholarship. Knahl initiated the emergence of a theatre stage in an old timbered school, today not existing. In September of the same year, first Hronov amateur actors submitted an application for permission of several plays to the seigniorial authority on the Náchod castle, which was not in favour of such similar productions and declined the request. Several performances, later officially permitted (Hronov amateur actors acquired a licence for theatre operation from the suzerain in 1847) were carried out by amateur actors in the By a blue star inn, located at the Hronov square.

Great advancement of amateur actors activity occurred in sixties and seventies of the 19th century as the writer and playwright Alois Jirásek recalled in his memoirs and in the book “By us”, he used to play with Hronov amateur actors in his students years and himself directed some of their plays. A celebration of the 50th anniversary of amateur actors activity in Hronov took place due to his initiative in 1876. Amateur actors successively changed several provisional stages: the By Habr’s Inn, the house of merchant Vlach and thereafter hotel Slavia and By the Bridge, where they remained up to the opening of the Jirásek Theatre. (The exposition of the Hronov museum in Jirásek Theatre still keeps a preserved curtain of the Association of amateur actors from 1875 with a veduta of Hronov that was painted by Náchod painter Šrůtek.)

Systematic theatre activity in Hronov was interrupted only by first years of the First World War, amateur actors association operated  again since 1917. Shortly after the celebration of the 70th birthday of Alois Jirásek in 1921, in which an amateur actors performance of  the jubilant´s play The Father took place in outdoor theatre, an initial idea of purchasing the Jirásek  natal home transformed  itself  into a thought of constructing a permanent living memorial to the famous Hronov native. „ Because what is for us the house, where the cradle of Master stood that decisively is and must be to us a stand, where his work, thoughts and desires revive and are being enlighten.“ we read in the letter of amateur actors representatives to the Hronov city council from 10th December of 1912. The members of association founded the Cooperative for Construction of Jirásek Theatre in Hronov on  18th May, 1925 with basic capital of 15 000 Crowns. A first project of a theatre emerged in 1925 by architect Valášek from Hradec Králové. He designed a theatre as an indistinct building in style, freely standing with a balcony portico in the front facade and a saddle roof with dormers, from which a polygonal turret protruded. According to the Cooperative’s concept, the Jirásek theatre should have been only one part of  Jirásek house with a museum purpose, where souvenirs on Alois Jirásek and his period would have been deposited and a library with a reading room located. Financial means for construction that were assembled by Cooperative mainly from whip-rounds, lottery gains and theatre productions arranged in country  increased so that the Cooperative had  money in cash around a half million of Crowns at their disposal by the end of  1927.

The Hronov city decided to build a museum, library and reading room in this period and after an agreement that these services would find their rooms in the planned new theatre building, it made a contribution of  200 000 Crowns. At first the Cooperative wanted to announce a public architectural competition for theatre designs, but resigned on this in the last instance because of modest financial means reserved for competition awards. The Cooperative consulted the possibility of an acquisition of at least several designs from renowned architects with the Syndicate of Czechoslovakian artists in Prague still in the spring of 1926, but  after all they addressed directly with a request for a building design to the Hronov native, Prague architect Jindřich Freiwald, who elaborated the design of the theatre including interiors with atelier Freiwald–Böhm for free in May of 1928. Shortly thereafter Freiwald appealed to the Cooperative not to postpone the ceremonial laying of the foundation stone and to be it realized as soon as possible for promotional reasons – also with regard of poor health of Alois Jirásek.

The Cooperative complied to the Freiwald´s request; the ceremony took place on 26th August of 1928 with Jirásek participation. However, the famous writer had passed away in peace before the opening of the Hronov Theatre – he died on 12th March of 1930. Construction works, assigned to execution to the firm   Břetislav Veselý together with the Náchod building firm of  Antonín  Hartman and Oskar  Goldschmid  (which realized among others the labour colony of the firm  S. Katzau in  Babí by Náchod, designed by Adolf Loose) begun within a year after the celebration – on 1st  of June, 1929. Thanks to continuous progress of bricklayer's and concrete construction works, a shell construction was erected within a year “up to the roof” , the roof was finished in the spring of 1930 and the works on the interior begun.  Local offerors were deliberately invited to workmanship in the first place (for instance the Hronov joinery of Antonína Brejtr made wall and ceiling lining), only set piece painting and stage furniture were commissioned to the firm of František  Fert  from  Brno-Husovice, chandeliers and metal elements to the firm of Franta Anýž and Napako from Prague, fireclay paging was carried  out by the firm Jindřich Wimmer & col. From  Hradec Králové, plaster ceilings and marble cladding was procured by Hořice firm Kulhánek and central heating by hot air was made by the firm Etna. Painting of the theatre space and the curtain was made by Prague firm M. Fessl and K. Kadlec.

The managing board of the Cooperative paid special attention by theatre furnishing to the selection of optimal stage equipment, which had been delivered to the theatre by several firms: the Hronov plant Mach and Fišer donated stage flybars and iron bridges, the electrical plant Autramo from Pilsen produced  a metal portal and curtain constructions, the Prague branch of the firm Siemens made lighting of the drop, the Liberec branch of firm A. E. G installed the stage and the firm   Markische Maschinenfabrik from Berlin delivered a modern circular drop. Total construction expenses reached the amount of 2 100 000 Crowns, from which roughly a third was paid off by the Cooperative for several following years. The Cooperative´s effort was crowned by a ceremonial opening of the new theatre by a performance of the Lantern by Alois Jirásek on 28th September of 1930. The official final building approval was issued a day earlier.

Freiwald still drafted the theatre without a column portico, only with a pillar three bay entrance, concluded by a low parapet triangular gable above the cornice (similarly the right side facade had still full windows in the first floor and it did not open itself to the street as a covered loggia), on the undated colorized perspective (it is exhibited today in an exposition of the Hronov museum and named “the Jirásek Theatre and Museum in Hronov”). A column stele on the draft supplements decorative park arrangement in front of the theatre front facade and there is attached freely a three winged  block on a rectangularly bended  plan with hip roofs and tersely designed facades along the left side of the theatre ( a bay with an arcade juts out from frontage towards the square). An identical appearance of the theatre and its forefront was also captured by a plaster model, about which Freiwald conveyed the Cooperative by letter from 5th July of 1928 that it was assigned for fabrication, it would be ready soon and that was intended for an international builder congress and exhibition in Brno. Financial reasons caused calling off  the realization of this wider concept of the theatre and  related building.

After 1948, the theatre fell upon management  of the Factory group ROH (Revolutionary Trade Union Movement) of Cotton Factory of Master Alois Jirásek, n.p (National Enterprise) Hronov, which undertook  wider reconstruction of the building including restoration of outer plaster in 1952–1953. Conversion of the theatre hall occurred in 1970 for movies projection by inserting a projection room into the rear part of the auditorium (the design from May, 1970, author MSc. K. Fišer). A cube of a technical background was added to the north side of the theatre at first in the second half of the 1970s and a little bit later volume of a multifunctional hall (ROH club) was attached to this insertion block.

Present state

A symmetrically composed front facade of the theatre with  a wide  staircase is composed of three bay portico with four,  eleven meters high, cylindrical columns and lateral slightly receded wings, broken by high, through the entire height of the facade penetrating windows, which lit the inner staircase (a ledger with inscription To Tribute of Our Great Native Mister Alois Jirásek / Placed 26.–VIII–1928 is imbedded into the facade of the lateral wing above the terrain of pavement). Massive columns of the  portico that is an obvious paraphrase of a Rome  triumphal arch, „provide an antique and theatre character to the building on the first sight“, as it was expressed in a description of the building in a celebratory print, issued on the theatre opening in September of 1930. The rear wall of the vestibule, a spheroid droplight, emplaced in periodic intervals between the columns, hangs from its ceiling, is opened up by two rows of large windows, rectangular in the ground floor and squared in the level of the first floor. The entablature carries a relief inscription JIRÁSKOVO DIVADLO (Jirásek Theatre) on the frieze; the volume of the building moderately recesses into a low prism with an ecru yellowish skin above projecting principal moulding. The south side facade of the theatre is opened up by  three bay loggia in its central part above the parterre, accessible from a corridor to lodges and balcony and above it, another spacious roof terrace. Attached rear part of the side facade outstands by impressively moulded composition with a rounded staircase bay and middlings of staggeredly handled prismatic volumes. A predominant prism of tower-like fly facilities protrudes out of it, its sandy yellow diaper work is highlighted by application of an arboreal bond above the plastered cornice.

There is a six leaf door with wheel-windows in the central axis of the entrance portico, by which one enters into the vestibule with pale grey marble cladding in the lower part. The windows in the parterre of the front facade of the theatre are illuminated by   spacious cloakrooms installed by the both sides of the vestibule. Both the lateral walls are cut out right away behind the entry by rectangular recesses with windows, rooms of a cash desk were originally located behind them. The ceiling of the vestibule is articulated by a triplet of embossed frames in an ellipse shape with pleasant coloured presentation in pastel shades of pink, blue and finely yellow colours. Above the door of the vestibule into the  ground floor foyer, we can read an inscription, manufactured as a facsimile of Jirásek´s handwriting  : „ Let this be  blessed work …“ – a catchword that was presented by the respectable playwright in August of 1928 by knocking the foundation stone of the theatre. The walls of the vestibule has ochre brown marble cladding, there is a rectangular niche with a bust of Jirásek, the work of Jan Štursa, in the middle of the front wall. Decorative brazen coverings of the heating with  a geometric pattern form an advanced pedestal of the niche in front of the bust. A low, to the space expanded droplight with a brazen casing has a shape of an oblong rectangle with arched endings.

There are corridors with entrances to the stalls on both of the sides of the auditorium. Circular openings with  blacken glass are inserted into their two leaf doors in the upper part. A buffet, situated opposite to auditorium entrances, is accessible from the south corridor.  The blank heading of the north corridor is decorated by a bronze bust of Josef Čapek, created by the authors duo Lidický–Kerhart (a relief inscription under the carving states : To the memory of Hronov native, writer Josef Čapek, tortured to death in 1945) .

The theatre auditorium, with the original capacity of 570-640 seats, is of a rectangular plan with rounded corners on the sides of the proscenium arch, the level of a floor is moderately elevated in the rear two thirds. The space behind the rear row of seats has been occupied by an additionally inserted solid of a projection room. The walls of the auditorium have  refined joinery facing in the level of the ground floor. A wide stepped auditorium balcony protrudes on the sides into lodges flights receding and decreasing moderately in the ground plan towards the stage. An additionally inserted solid of a projection room  seized the space behind the rear row of seats. An inscription above the proscenium arch reminds Jirásek´s book By us, names of Jirásek dramatic pieces are inserted in a decorative font  above the doors of lateral lodges (again with circular  windows). They are Jan Hus, Kolébka (The Cradle), Lucerna (The Lantern), Samota (Loneliness) , Vojnarka and Jan Roháč by the right side of the auditorium; Jan Žižka, Emigrant, Gero, M. D. Rettigová, Otec (The Father)  and  Pan Johaneson onthe opposite side. A flat ceiling of the auditorium is articulated by cross beams into four fields with triplets of low, circular lighting, nobly executed in an artistic and  craftsman  manner that composes a regular network on the ceiling. The ceiling is highlighted by captivating paint in pastel shades of pink and blue, combined with natural grey tone of wooden lintels. The stage is opened up by a rectangular arch, room of the back stage is connected to it in axis.

A rectangular lecture hall with a flat ceiling, opened up by large windows to the square, is accessible from a corridor behind the auditorium balcony. Two carvings of female figures by Jaroslav Horejc stand in front of hall pillars on low mason pedestals. Exhibition halls of Hronov museum are located in the second floor, a restaurant was originally in the basement.

Sources and literature:

– Archiv stavebního odboru Městského úřadu v Hronově, spisová a plánová dokumentace
k čp. 500
– Muzeum města Náchoda, Stavební deník stavby Jiráskova divadla od roku 1929, ev. č. A 1081
– Český svět XXI, 1925, č. 41, s. 12–13
– Almanach divadla sdružených měst východočeských a českého severu, Pardubice 1928
– Otevření Jiráskova divadla v Hronově 28. září 1930, Hronov 1930
– Alfred Javorin, Divadla a divadelní sály v českých krajích I, Praha 1949, s. 64–65
– Vladimír Mráz, Hronovské jeviště, Ochotnické divadlo I, 1955, č. 8
– Jiří Hilmera, Česká divadelní architektura, Praha 1999, s. 119–120, obr. 160–162 na s. 238
– 150 let Aloise Jiráska – divadelní tradice Hronova, Hronov 2001
– Štěpán Bartoš – Zdeněk Lukeš – Pavel Panoch, Ve víru modernosti: Architektura 20. století v Královéhradeckém kraji, Pardubice 2008, s. 100


Tags: Neoclassicism, Interwar period, detached building


Author: Pavel Panoch

Translator: Jan Purkert

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