Pusté Kostely

Desolate Churches - Wüste Kirchen


Useful Information

photography
Pekelné doly, Pusté Kostely, Czech Republic. Public Domain.
photography
Pekelné doly, Pusté Kostely, Czech Republic. Public Domain.
Location: Between Svitava and Velenice, between the cities Mimon and Novi Bor on road 268.
(50.727481, 14.641603)
Open: no restrictions.
Pekelné doly: Sping to Autumn daily.
[2020]
Fee: free.
Pekelné doly: free.
[2020]
Classification: SubterraneaRock Mine MineSand Mine ExplainRoom and Pillar Mining
Light: bring torch
Dimension: Pekelné doly: L=60 m, W=150 m, AR-3,500 m², T=12 °C.
Guided tours: self guided. V=35,000/a [2013]
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
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As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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History

1756-1760 mirror factory in the Svitávka valley founded by Count Josef Kinský.
1849 report by local history researcher Karel Brandtl.
1933 archaeological excavation by archaeologist Emil Gebauer.
1944 underground factory Nautilus for the production of guns.
1984 used as filming location for the Czech movie S čerty nejsou žerty (Give the Devil His Due).
1990 caves surveyed.
1993 caves for sale.
1995 caves surveyed.
1997 caves purchased by the Czech Curling Club.
2001 caves purchased by Miroslav Krejčí nicknamed Pekelník.
2005 Pekelné doly motorcycle club founded.

Description

photography
Pusté Kostely, Czech Republic. Public Domain.
photography
Pusté Kostely, Czech Republic. Public Domain.
photography
Pusté Kostely, Czech Republic. Public Domain.
photography
Former grinding mill of Count Kinský, Pusté Kostely, Czech Republic. Public Domain.

The Pusté Kostely (Desolate Churches, Wüste Kirchen) are a system of mostly artificial caves in sandstone along the river Svitávka. There are dozens of caves to be found along the road for more than a kilometer, in a forested valley between low hills. The caves in the area have different ages and were dug with different techniques. The oldest are of Medieval age and were dug by monks which lived here as hermits. There are caves which were equipped as chapels and reliefs cut into the rock. The caves were used as hideouts in times of war. But most caves were dug in the 18th century, the rocks were ground into fine sand and then used to produce glas for mirrors. The building Lindava No. 308 in the valley is the former grinding mill of Count Kinský.

The Nautilus Caves or Lindavské komora are the most excessive group of caves in the valley. According to legend the first caves were created by members of the Unity of Brethren after the Battle of the White Mountain as hideout. But according to the local history researcher Karel Brandtl they were created by a businessman Count Josef Kinský. He published a report in 1849 where he describes that Kinský founded two factories for the production of mirrors. One was in the Svitávka valley. For the glas production he needed four types of sand which were mined in the sandstone rocks of the valley. The rock was mined in the ancient room and pillar way, the chambers were dug not more than 3 m wide, then a pillar to support the ceiling was left. That's why they look like a series of arches and why they resemble churches with parallel naves and arches, hence the name. A cistern was built at the rear end of the mine when a water bearing layer was reached. Mining was terminated at the end of the 19th century.

The caves were reused at the end of World War II under the code name Nautilus. In 1944 the Nazis relocated weapon production from Poland to the caves. Prisoners produced 30 mm MK 108 air cannons in the caves.

After the war when many buildings were destroyed the caves were adapted and used as warehouse of fruits and vegetables by the Zelenina Terezín company. But soon they were too far away and replaced by rebuilt warehouses. In 1984 the caves were used as filming location for the Czech movie S čerty nejsou žerty (Give the Devil His Due). It is one of the world famous Czech fairy tale movies and one of the most popular of those in the Czech Republic. They were actually used for numerous films as location, the sets of some of the films are still there. The Chronicles of Narnia, The Blacksmith of Podlesí, The Most Beautiful Riddle, and The Princess and the Scribe were filmed here. During the cold war they were owned by the state, but after the war they were on sale. First the Czech Curling Club purchased the caves and planned to built an underground ice rank inside. Fortunately for the caves this never happened, it would have resulted in extensive modifications.

In 2001 the caves were purchased by the former businessman Miroslav Krejčí, nicknamed Pekelník. He started to clean the caves and remove the rubble of centuries which accounted to 30 containers. Only the film sets are still there and part of the experience. Pekelnik means devil or hellspawn, and most of the filming stuff is from fairy tales movies and shows devils, witches and dragons. When the caves were frequented by bikers he finally founded the Pekelné doly motorcycle club in 2005. Some passages are wide enough for motorcycles, so there are roads marked underground. If you are interested, drive straight in on your machine, park, have something to eat or drink, borrow a mattress and spend the night in hell. Admission is free, the club is financed by the food and beer sales. Typically 35,000 bikers visit the caverns during summer. Non bikers are welcome too.

There are at least two more groups of caves along the valley. 300 m upstream are mines which were closed 1849. František Palacký (1798–1876) recorded the existence of those caves in his diary in 1825. He was a Czech historian and politician and is considered as one of the three Fathers of the nation. In 1886 the road was built in front of the caves on a dam which is higher than the caves. As a result they are sometimes flooded. Archaeological research was carried out here in 1933 by archaeologist Emil Gebauer.

A third group of caves was originally 30 m wide and 12 m deep, which makes it the smallest of the three. But this time the pillars were not sufficient and the quarry collapsed, the year of the collapse is unknown. There are only small cavern remaining.