Originally the site of a Celtic settlement, Brno grew between two hills, one of which, the Spielberg (Czech špilberk), had a castle known in the 11th cent. The city became part of the kingdom of Bohemia, whose king, Ottocar I, confirmed Brno's ancient charter, a model of liberal town government, in 1229. King Wenceslaus I made it a free city by royal decree in 1243, and Brno flourished in the 13th and 14th cent. In the Hussite Wars it sided with the Roman Catholic Church. The city was besieged in 1645 by the Swedes and served as headquarters for Napoleon I during the battle of Austerlitz in 1805. The Spielberg castle, which was captured by Hapsburg forces during the Thirty Years War, became (1740–1855) their most notorious political prison. Franz von der Trenck and Silvio Pellico (who described it in Le mie prigioni) were its most celebrated inmates. In the 19th cent. Brno became one of the foremost manufacturing towns of the Austrian empire. Most Germans were expelled from the city after World War II.
Brno's landmarks include the cathedral (15th cent.), the old and new town halls, several fine Gothic and baroque churches, and Mies van der Rohe's classic modernist Villa Tugendhat (1930). Masaryk Univ. (founded 1919), Beneš Technical College, a music conservatory, and several fine museums are also located in the city.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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