Zelný trh: One of the Most Popular Attractions in Brno Reveals its Heritage and Charms
The farmers’ market in Zelný trh [Cabbage Square] is closing today, November 10, for the winter season. A Christmas market will replace it from November 23 to December 23. Zelný trh is one of the oldest squares in Brno, attracting both locals and tourists with its farmers’ market, rich and interesting history, and mysterious atmosphere… Title photo: Parnas Fountain in Brno. // Photo credit: @BrnoDaily.
The History of Zelný trh and The Labyrinth
Brno, Nov 10 (BD) – Zelný trh, also previously known as the Upper Market (Horní trh), was established in the 13th century. There were once shops in this marketplace, such as shoe-makers, poultry markets, butchers’ shops, and shops selling freshly-baked bread. Merchants used to store their products in the cellars situated under the square.
In summer, the Zelný trh farmer’s market is one of the most popular attractions in Brno, with its fresh organic products. The square is also well-known for the mysterious labyrinth beneath it. Zuzana Drápalová, one of the guides at “Labyrinth pod Zelným trhem” explains: “Our cellars were typically used as storage units for food, for the maturation of beer and wine. They were often used as cool storage rooms for the busy marketplace above. There are cellars from different time periods under the whole old town of Brno.” Some of the private cellars are still used as storage units even today, and others have turned into exhibition spaces, galleries, wine cellars, or pubs.
The individual cellar units of Zelný trh were not originally inter-connected; on the contrary, they were separate and private. The oldest cellars in the labyrinth were forgotten and remained unknown for centuries until they were discovered recently during ongoing research projects. In 2009, the cellars underwent a complete renovation to enable their current use. In doing so, the cellars were connected into a unique network of cellars and corridors which are open to the public, and are therefore now named ‘Labyrinth’.
The passageways in the Labyrinth lead to medieval cellars hidden 6-8 metres below ground, which house an exhibition explaining how food and drinks such as wine and beer were stored in the past.
Watch our video from the Labyrinth!
Crime and Punishment on Zelný trh
The square also has a history of crime and punishment. People convicted of crimes would end up chained to the pillory originally placed in the square, which is now a part of the Labyrinth exhibition. “[The pillory] was placed in the lower part of Zelný Trh and was used as an instrument for punishing offences like theft, cheating, infidelity, drunkenness, and quarrels. The convicted person was chained to the pillory, and silenced with a wooden pear. Then people around would throw rotten food and trash, or spit on them. The worst part of this punishment was the shame. The whole town knew what he or she had done,” says Drápalová. “Visitors to the Labyrinth exhibition can learn about punishments and torture, but none of our cellars was actually used as a torture chamber,” she adds.
Must-See Sights in the Square
Parnas Fountain [kašna Parnas] in the square is one of the best-known water fountains and baroque architectural monuments in Brno. Designed by Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach and built by Adam Tobiáš Kracker around 1690, the fountain is richly decorated with allegorical characters and fabulous animals.
Drápalová from Labyrinth recommends some other must-see attractions in Zelný trh: “The oldest and best-preserved parts of the square are the cellars, but there are other interesting places in the square, such as Malý Špalíček (The Little Chopping Block), a picturesque building in the upper part of the square. The Little Chopping Block was originally a complex of four ancient Gothic and Renaissance houses.”
Photo: Malý Špalíček. // Photo credit: Eda Yildiz.
“Another very interesting building is the Reduta Theatre in the lower left corner of Zelný trh. The theatre was first mentioned in 1608 and is the oldest theatre building in Central Europe,” Drápalová says.
Photo: Reduta theatre. // Photo credit: Eda Yildiz.
The Zelný trh farmers’ market is open from Spring to Autumn, selling fragrant flowers and fresh organic fruits and vegetables. During the winter, a charming Christmas market is set up in the square for a month, selling refreshments and traditional hand-crafted Christmas products and gifts.
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