Hrad Rabí: Largest Castle in the Czech Republic

Although much of it is in ruins now, Hrad Rabí, or Castle Rabi, has been the largest castle in the Czech Republic for centuries now. The castle is a sublime example of Gothic and Romanesque architecture and the lasting icon of the Plzen Region. Moreover, it towers over the town of Rabí. While the town has only 500 official inhabitants, it is a popular tourist attraction because of Hrad Rabí. The town center is also on the preservation list due to its historic identity and structure.

Hrad Rabí from above

There are different views on the meaning of the name Hrad Rabí. Some think that the name of the castle comes from the word “raven” in German while some believe that it means “sparrow’s peak.” Either way, it is obvious that the castle’s name points out to its location on the higher plains.

Hrad Rabí walls
Martin Černý

The first mention of the castle dates back to the late 14th century. Historians believe that the castle was built by the Lords of the Velhartice who wanted to protect the trade routes and any gold source that may come from them. Hrad Rabí is near the Otava River which is nearly 135 kilometers long. Aside from being one of the longest rivers in the country, the Otava River was a popular location among the traders.

Hrad Rabí and the town

Since the castle’s primary goal was to protect the trade in the area, the builders of Hrad Rabí fortified it with walls, towers, ramparts, and moats. As time passed, the castle became the symbol of security and authority of the Lords of the region. Despite being a secure place, however, Hrad Rabí fell twice to the opposing forces during the Hussite wars.

Hrad Rabí exterior
Xenia + Holger

A story, or a legend, comes from these times as when the Hussite commander “one-eyed” Jan Zizka took over the castle, it is believed that he suffered a horrible injury which made him leave the castle. Zizka was a cruel commander who even burned 8 monks at the stake after conquering the castle. However, towards the end of the second battle for the castle, Zizka was shot with an arrow through the eye. This completely neutralized Zizka because he already had only one eye. While the castle fell into despair in the following centuries after the battle, some renovations brought Hrad Rabí back from the dead.

the town houses
Hrad Rabí during evening
the castle and the surrounding area
the castle in fog