In the baroque period the noblemen demonstrated their wealth and power with attractive palaces. The most powerful aristocrats even tried to match the royal residence.
As Malá Strana (Lesser Town) is dominated by the Waldstein Palace, Hradcany is dominated by the Cernín Palace. Also this building stands free and provocatively towers above the other buildings. It demonstrates the status of its owner.
The palace in Loretánské námestí (Loretto Square) was built in the 17th century by Humpert Cernín z Chudenic, who was the imperial representative in Venice. It was built after Venetian models. Of course everything was competently scaled up, as is shown by the 30 pillars as high as the fasade. Also the two balconies are very similar to the balcony on the villa of de Medici. The count wished for the architect Berninin but he was not interested. The building was therefore entrusted to Francesco Carrati.
The palace is remarkable because of its size. The main hall is two storeys high. Later the family started a picture gallery in it, which was admired by all visitors. Count Frantisek Josef, grandson of the founder, had the palace renovated in baroque style. The architect Frantisek Maxmilián Kanka also made French gardens on the north side.
Next to the west balcony he decorated a circular room with ornamental figures in blue and white plasterwork. A new staircase was built, decorated with many sculptures. At that time the palace was also decorated with tapestry from Paris and Brussels, french furniture, chinese silk upholstering, czech glass and many paintings of great artistic value.
The palace was twice plundered when it was occupied by foreign soldiers and the owners had to renovate it at great expense. The costs exceeded the financial capabilities of the Cernín family in the year 1851. They sold it to the military treasury which changed it into barracks. The utilitarian renovation completely ruined the place. Subsequently it was not renovated until this century, between 1928 and 1932, according the original designs of Carrati. Since then it has belonged to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It was also the place where the popular politician Jan Masaryk worked and, tragically, died. He was the only diplomat, who did not need an appointment for an audience at the British Court. The American writer Marcia Davenport, who was his close friend and lived in Hradcany from the year 1948, gave a striking portrait of his personality and the turbulent events of that time through her writing.