Žofín Palace HISTORY
The neorenaissance Žofín Palace, one of the most notable architectural treasures, can be yours! Žofín Palace is used for important social events, conferences, concerts and balls. The Large Hall at Žofín regularly hosts the most prominent personalities from business, politics and the arts in this country and abroad. Agentura NKL Žofín, s.r.o. can organise everything for you to the highest professional standards. Today anyone who wants to hold an important event at the very highest level chooses Žofín Palace.
In 1835, when Václav Novotný decided to build the first brick building on Slavonic Island (or Dyers' Island as it was then called), he had no idea that the one-storey neoclassical building named after the mother of Emperor Franz Joseph I, Princess Sophie (or Žofie in Czech), would become one of the most important cultural and social centres in Prague and the Czech Lands as a whole. In 1884 the municipality bought the whole island, including Žofín, and over the next two years it converted the building into the present neorenaissance palace with richly decorated interiors and fine halls that have now been part of Czech (and not only Czech) culture for the last 150 years. On 5 November 1882 the first performance of Smetana's My Country in its entirety took place at Žofín, and four years previously, on 17 November 1878, Antonín Dvořák had held his first concert here. The hall at Žofín also hosted performances of Zdeněk Fibich's works; Berlioz, Liszt, Tchaikovsky and Wagner all appeared here, and Jan Kubelík made his debut here. Žofín was also a venue for balls and dances. The first was held on 3 February 1841 and two years later the writer Božena Němcová danced here, and Žofín was visited by the poet Jan Neruda and other figures from Czech history.
Since 1994, when the renovation of the palace's exteriors and interiors was completed, Žofín has been managed by Agentura NKL Žofín, s.r.o. The company has restored and added to the glory of this exceptional venue where concerts of classical and popular music alternate with the Žofín Forums, international conferences and wonderful balls. Its location, in a venerable park with a view over Prague's historical panorama, and the magnificent and gloriously decorated halls with original paintings and stuccowork on the ceilings, fitted with modern lighting, sound and projection technology and air conditioning, once more offer unique opportunities and experiences.
At the beginning of the 17th century the island on which Žofín Palace stands had yet to come into existence, and it only began to form in the 17th and 18th centuries thanks to sediment in the Vltava. It became a true island after the great flood of 1784, when it was secured with a low embankment and fruit trees were planted among the shrubs growing wild here. This created an island 250 metres long and 100 metres wide. Leather dyers moved onto the island from the New Town, bringing their work with them, and the island was initially named Dyers' Island ("Barvířský ostrov" or "Barvířka") after them. (At the same time, however, the island was sometimes called Šítkovský Island after the miller Jan Šítek.) In 1817 the first wooden pub and a primitive bathhouse were built here alongside the dyers' shacks. A few years later František Engel acquired the island when he married Josef Ignác Saenger's widow, and on it he opened a cotton printing works and a pub. It was now called Engel's Island after its new owner, or the Czech version Anděl's or Andělský Island. Up to 1830 the island changed hands a number of times, and in 1823-4 the then owner Václav Schiega had a bridge built to the island. In 1834 the miller Václav Novotný bought half of the island, followed by the other half in September 1835. He pledged to allow the public access to the island as a place of recreation and he generously decided to transform the island into a major social and cultural centre in Prague, undertaking substantial construction work on the island in 1835-1837. This included plans for three new brick buildings – a restaurant, a bathhouse and a residential building – designed by the Senior Engineer at the Building Directorate in Prague, Vincenc Kulhánek. Construction was overseen by the builder Josef Tredrovský, and was in essence completed in 1836. On 5 May 1837 the City Hall licensed Václav Novotný to use the new main building, and on 30 May 1837 a ball was held in the main hall to mark the official opening. On 27 September 1840 Dyers' Island was visited by Archduke Franz Karl, the father of Emperor Franz Joseph I. Václav Novotný was absent at the time but his sons-in-law, Messrs. Schaffner and Erben, asked on his behalf whether the visit could be commemorated by naming the island Sophie Island (Žofínský ostrov) after the archduke's wife. The archduke agreed, but the City Hall subsequently demanded that Novotný produce the archduke's consent in writing, which Václav Novotný requested in a letter to the archduke dated 30 November 1840. The archduke gave his consent in a letter of 19 January 1841. For Prague's citizens the new name sounded lofty and noble, and they soon forgot the island's earlier name, Dyers' Island. The new name was extended to a historically significant musical institute in Prague, the Žofínská (Žofiina) Academy, a choral ensemble founded here in 1840 that specialised in Czech and foreign classical music. The Žofínská Academy's first public concert was held in the Žofín Hall on 18 March 1841. As well as concerts, weddings feasts and a variety of music and dance events were held here.
Since reconstruction in 1994 this national cultural monument has been managed by Agentura NKL Žofín, s.r.o., whose founder and first owner was Jan Nekola. Although the floods of 2002 devastated Slavonic Island and Žofín Palace, everything was swiftly restored and the island and the palace were even more splendid afterwards. In recent years Slavonic Island and Žofín Palace have become a symbol for Czech and international social, political, cultural and business events of exceptional importance.