Josef Pekař was born on the 12th April, 1870 in the village of Malý Rohozec, but he spent his childhood in nearby Daliměřice, which is now part of Turnhov. Here he was greatly influenced by his uncle Jan Matouš Černý (1839–1893), a distinguished politician and writer of the 19th century, who inspired his interest in history. As a pupil of the Turnov elementary school, Pekař showed excellent academic abilities, as well as behavioural problems. Once, on his way home from school, he whistled loudly at a newly-purchased caged nightingale and was severely reprimanded by its owner pharmacist Radský in Hluboká street, even having to run away to avoid a beating. He had a fight over the same nightingale with his classmate Pepa Hájek the next day – together they tumbled down a hillside into the river Jizera.
His childhood and youth were also determined by sad events in the family. His seven siblings did not live to adulthood, most of them died of tuberculosis. His mother Františka succumbed to this “family” illness in 1882, on the day when he brought home his school report from the grammar school in Mladá Boleslav. His father soon remarried and Josef Pekař was joined by new siblings, who then accompanied him very intensively throughout his life – his sister Marie and his brother František, whose descendants still live in the Pekař farmstead in Dalměřice to this day.
Numerous castles and chateaux around Turnov played an important role in the life of the nascent historian. Pekař liked to remember how he and his friends – inspired by their reading – had organised trips around the area while they were walking to school in Turnov. When Pekař entered the grammar school in Mladá Boleslav, he made friends with his older classmate and roommate Josef Novák of Ohrazenice and together with other school friends, Jan Krejčí, František Soukal and Bohuslav Nový, visited nearby castles and chateaux, such as Bezděz, Michalovice and Zvířetice.
„I remember that, as boys in elementary school, we fell in love with the old castle ruins around Turnov (...), and how reading the history of the knightly age (eg Father Blaise’s Cave) inflamed our imagination and stimulated our curiosity. It was about getting to know and learn everything that we surmised of the past, such as of Bezděz or Trosky or Valdštejn, to relive it in thought, to bring the silent ruins to speak and tell us their secrets. So I began to find out what the wise and foolish had written about the history of our castles in the Turnov area, and in the fifth class I ‘wrote down‘ the history of Hrubý Rohozec; and my first printed work was ‘Memories of Valdštejn Castle‘.” Josef Pekař, 1908
The chateau closest to Pekař was Hrubý Rohozec, which is located near the family farmstead in Daliměřice. Unfortunately, an edited study of the history of this chateau, which Pekař wrote in the school year 1884–1885, has not been preserved. Originally a Gothic castle on a marl promontory above the Jizera, it was founded in the middle of the 14th century by the Markvartic family when they moved their seat from nearby Dolánky. The castle was reconstructed several times and became a nicely habitable Renaissance chateau, with further minor modifications made in the Baroque and Empire styles. During the Thirty Years’ War, Albrecht of Valdštejn sold the chateau and estate to his colonel Mikuláš Desfours, whose family held Hrubý Rohozec until the end of World War II.
In 1889, when Pekař was in his graduation year at school, a significant piece of work of his was printed. The Mladaboleslavian magazine Jizeran published the article Valdštejn Castle. The castle, which Pekař visited very often, was built in the second half of the 13th century by the Markvartic family, and later became the seat of a side branch of the family – the Lords of Valdštejn. During the 16th century, Valdštejn castle was abandoned and became a haven for hermits. In 1722, a Baroque chapel was built on the central rock section and dedicated to St. John of Nepomuk. In the first courtyard, the Empire chapel dedicated in the early 19th century to St. John the Baptist has an altarpiece of the saint that is associated with the poet Karel Hynek Mácha, who purportedly posed for the painting. The last owners of Valdštejn castle were until 1945 the Aehrenthal family. They made Romantic style alterations, built a coaching inn and opened the castle to tourists. At present, the castle is a cultural monument owned by the town of Turnov.
Most historians agree that the peak of Pekař’s research efforts is represented by his extensive Book of Kost Castle. Between 1909 and 1911, the first two volumes were published. Due to the historian’s deteriorating health, the third volume was never completed. Kost castle – a national monument – is one of the best preserved medieval castles in the Czech Republic today. It was founded by Beneš of Vartemberk sometime before 1349. At the end of the 17th century, the Černín family of Chudenice transformed the core of the castle into granaries, warehouses and flats for the Lord’s officials. As a result this, the oldest part of the building suffered considerably. As part of the post-communist restitutions, in 1992 the castle was returned to its previous owners, the Kinský dal Borgo family. For the reason of its authenticity it is a sort-after location for film-makers (Hannibal – Rising, Radúz and Mahulena, S čerty nejsou žerty (Give the devil his due), Jan Hus etc.)
We find ourselves in the village where Josef Pekař was born – in Malý Rohozec. The first written record of this village dates from the year 1547, when the property of Adam Vartemberk, the owner of the Hrubý Rohozec estate, was confiscated as punishment for his participation in the rebellion against King Ferdinand I. Malý Rohozec is also mentioned In the list of villages, with a hereditary magistrate. The village belonged to the Hrubý Rohozec estate, which in 1628 was acquired by the Imperial Colonel, later General, Mikuláš Desfours. In the middle of the 17th century, the Desfours in Malý Rohozec converted the property into a chateau with Baroque features, and built a courtyard nearby, now known as the Red Courtyard. The family held Malý Rohozec and its adjacent estate until 1832, when it was acquired by the Rohan family and incorporated into the manor of Svijany. In 1836, it was bought from them by Ferdinand Unger, who had a brewery built near the chateau.
After the year 1850, Malý Rohozec became an independent village in the Turnov district, and then later a settlement of Bukovina. In 1876, the settlements Malý Rohozec, Mokřiny and Vazovec were separated from Bukovina. Malý Rohozec remained an independent village until 1964. In January of that year, the District National Committee in Semily decided to merge the until then independent villages Bukovina and Malý Rohozec together with the villages Dolánky, Kobylka, Loužek and Mokřiny into one municipality under the name Dolánky by Turnov; the merger was to take effect from the date of elections to the District National Committees (14th June, 1964). This merged community ceased to exist 20 years later. On 1st July, 1985, all Dolánky came under the administration of the town of Turnov, where it remains today. In front of the old Art Nouveau building of the municipal school, which ended its purpose in the 1970s, there are two mature linden trees – Masaryk and Štefánik. These were transplanted from the village of Vršek when it was electrified in 1925. They had originally been planted by the locals in celebration of the founding of the Czechoslovak state in 1918. In front of the old school stands a memorial honouring the fallen in the First World War. It was built from donations from local residents and unveiled in 1926. Later a plaque was added commemorating the local native Stanislav Linka, a pilot in the 311th Bomber Squadron in the Battle of Britain. A few metres further on, behind the fence, is the old Sokol playing field, now overgrown, which was built in the 1920s by the locals, who converted the original brewery ice pond. In its vicinity is the core of the old Sokol hall, originally a brewery, where ice from the pond was kept in the so-called ice cellar. After the arrival of electric cooling, the brewery left it to the Sokol. The path straightens out behind the Sokol hall and we find ourselves in the part of Malý Rohozec called Na Černavě. The trail of Josef Pekář leads us on to Jenišovice through the area known as Na Pískách.
Map of Josef Pekař´s Thematic Trail by Jiří Lode (2020)
Father Josef Pekař (1832–1904) and mother Františka, by maiden name Černá (1848–1884)
"I should behave peacefully at school." - Pekař's school punishment from the first half of the 1880s
In addition to the memorial to the war victims, the photograph of the Malorohozecký school also shows a flagpole, which was installed in the school garden in 1935. The trunk of the tree from which it was made was donated by the brewery in Malý Rohozec
Today's pub in Valdštejn served in the past as a residence for noble employees
Hrubá Skála and Trosky were frequent subjects of Pekař's photographs
Kost Castle, as captured by Josef Pekař on one of his trips in 1911
The public gymnasium established in the former ice house of the Malorohozecký brewery was ceremoniously opened in 1927