Historic Opitz House: Accomodation for university guests

Wednesday, 03 August 2022 09:44

Did you know that it is possible to sleep overnight within the Carolinum complex? Charles University offers accommodation in its buildings to university guests (including esteemed recpients of honorary degrees). The most representative accommodation facility is known as Opitz House,just a few steps from the Old Town Square.

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The entrance to the Opitz House found on in Celetná Street along what is known as the Royal Route which leads to Prague's Old Town Square.

The oldest mention of the house in Prague's Celetná Street No. 559/I dates all the way back to 1363. It lacked the back courtyard which connects the Carolinum university complex today. The back part was apparently built in the first half of the 16th century, when the house became the property of the Bubna family, who carried out Late Renaissance renovation and general reconstruction. The vaults on the ground floor of the main building and the courtyard wing also date from this or the following early Baroque construction - probably after 1644, when the Bubnas were made earls.

Unique painted ceilings

The front facade corresponds to the last two decades of the 17th century with partial corrections from the first decade of the 18th century. The main staircase, the arches at the back of the house and the painted ceilings on the second floor also date from before 1700. Contemporary records from 1723 describe that there were three large stables. It was not until 1760 that the building came into the possession of Prague burghers, and rococo details were added during the rebuilding (1777-1793). Between 1822 and 1823, the second floor of the courtyard wing was added according to plans by František Heger.

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In the 1890s, the rebuilding of the Carolinum and the extension of its grounds into Celetná Street were considered, where the gap between the front tracts of the Stockhaus (560/I) and the Buquoy House (562/I) was to be filled by the purchase of house no. 561/1 and the addition of house no. 559/I, named Opitz House after another owner. In 1901, this idea took a back seat as a new building for the Rector's Office and the Faculty of Law was being considered.

The idea resurfaced again in 1934, when it was established by law that the Carolinum would be granted to Charles University as its sole property. At the same time, it was decided to restore the historic building so that it could be completed by 1948 (to celebrate the 600th anniversary of the founding of the university).

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Changes in the legal regulations of home ownership that occurred after the Communist takeover in1948, saw Charles University acquire seven more buildings, including Opitz House. Thus, Charles University has owned the house since 1957, when it underwent a major reconstruction overseen by Jaroslav Fragner. The alterations destroyed the historic appearance of the courtyard wings and affected the interiors of the main building.

In the city centre at interesting rates

The Gothic cellars have been preserved and are accessed by a Baroque staircase of palace character from the early 18th century, equipped with railings with stone balustrades. On the second floor, early Baroque painted false ceilings above the main staircase and in some rooms have been preserved, as well as several Rococo doors.

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Renovation at the Carolinum in the years 1964 and 1965. Photos:CU archive, Jan Lopata's private collection,

In recent years, Opitz House has functioned as a university hotel, with the most recent reconstruction, designed by architect Tomáš Šantavý, completed in 2001. “The hotel has fifteen rooms with a total capacity of 27 beds; there are suites, one of which is fully wheelchair-accessible, and double and single rooms with private bathrooms, television or refrigerator. Of course, there is free wi-fi connection and breakfast in the university café,” says Věra Barnová, Head of the Organizational Department of the Rector's Office of Charles University.

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The hotel itself is managed by Jana Jasanová, who also has work experience at top providers such as the Marriott or Corinthia hotels. However, she now has only two housekeeping staff on hand; there is no need for a receptionist in a modern building. Guests check in via a self-service check-in kiosk operating 24 hours a day. Details of the Opitz House's room rates and amenities can be found here.

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Author: Jiří Novák
Photo: Vladimír Šigut, Michal Novotný

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