The Main Building of the Ministry
ROHANSKÝ PALÁC – Karmelitská 8, Malá Strana (Lesser Town), Prague 1
Three houses originally stood on the site of the contemporary palace, which were structurally connected by architect, builder and stonemason Bonifác Wohlmut around 1571. One of them had a theatre hall in 1700–1713 where German opera performances took place. In the 1790s, these houses became the property of the Černíns of Chudenice, who had them reconstructed and unified in 1796, with the reconstruction being designed by master builder Josef Zobel.
This palace also belonged to Peter Biron, Duke of Courland and Sagan, who was i.a. the owner of Náchod Estate in 1792–1800 and was described by writer Alois Jirásek in his novel Na dvoře vévodském [At the Ducal Court]. After his death, the Prague palace was used by his daughters, thus even Katharina Wilhelmine, Duchess of Sagan – the famous ‘Madam Duchess’ from Božena Němcová’s novel Babička [Grandmother]. In 1806, the palace was bought from her own family by Princess Marie Luisa Paulina Hohenzollern-Hechingen, the sister of Katharina Wilhelmine. It also later belonged to the Elector of Hesse.
In 1816, the building became the property of Duke Charles Alain Rohan of Bouillon and Montbazon, under whom it acquired, after a reconstruction between 1838 and1841, its contemporary Late Classicist appearance. It was owned by the Rohans from 1816 to 1945.
With its wings, the two-storey building encloses two courtyards. The parapet gable is decorated with the Rohan coat-of-arms. An interesting and quite rare element is the window with a Syrian arch. On the rear façade, the Ionic pilaster heads have been replaced by Corinthian ones, the character of the windows is the same as in the case of the other façades.
In the ground-floor areas, Early and High Baroque as well as Classicist vaulting has been used. The central wing, dividing the courtyards, is decorated in the corners by niches with vases with lion heads and an attractive bronze nude by the sculptor Břetislav Benda (1897–1985), who was a student of Myslbek and Štursa.
The most interesting room of the palace is The Large Mirror, originally Dance, Hall on the first floor with that so-called Syrian window. The floor’s interior is divided by a pair of Corinthian columns on the shorter sides; it has coffered ceilings, and the floors are inlaid in Classicist style.