National geopark

Svatoš Cliffs

Photo by P. Beran
Photo gallery: 
Photo by P. Uhlík

A petrified wedding procession

A group of granite rock towers, columns and spires in the canyon of the Ohře River between Loket and Karlovy Vary create romantic rock formations, which are linked with legends. They have been a popular picnic destination with the guests of the Karlovy Vary spas since the mid-19th century. The remarkable rock formations were declared a nature reserve as early as in 1933, and are now a national nature monument. During the Romantic Era, the legends inspired the literary and dramatic works of many artists (J. W. Goethe, C. T. Körner, Ch. H. Spiess, A. E. Mužík, and the brothers J. and W. Grimm). Heinrich Marschner used the theme of the legend in his most well-known opera Hans Heiling.

The petrified wedding stands in a forest valley of the Ohře River between Karlovy Vary and Loket to this day. People call it the Svatoš Cliffs.


Legend of Jan Svatoš (Hans Heiling)

At the time, when the region of Loket was still ruled by the Vohburg family, a poor peasant, on his way to toil at Loket Castle, found a crying newborn boy between two rocks in a place in Horní Slavkov, where a church stands today. Filled with compassion, he took the child with him. In the castle, he stepped before Margravine Jana and told her: “It is a custom to present a gift when entering a castle. On the way to the castle, I found this child, which I am giving you as a gift. Please accept it with affection and look after it better than its mother did“. The words pleased the Margravine, she took charge of the boy, and had him christened Jan. The boy was given his finder´s last name of Svatoš.

Under the watchful eye of the noble foster mother, Jan developed into a handsome young man, who was much fonder of science than of knight tournaments. He loved solitude, constantly roamed the forests, and yearned to understand the nature of all things.

Once, while sitting in a reflective mood on the shore of the Ohře River gazing into its dark coloured waves, there suddenly emerged in front of him a fairy so beautiful and lovely that Jan´s eyes only saw her and the rest of the world ceased to exist. The fairy spoke to him: “My dear, I know the sorrow in your heart, you long to master the world of magic. I will teach you everything that you long for – but only on the condition that you will never become betrothed to another woman!“

Svatoš, enchanted by the beautiful water fairy and seeing that his wishes could be fulfilled, accepted the strange offer without any thought. The fairy kept her promise and showed Jan the deepest secrets of the hidden sciences and made him very happy.

Several years passed by. During his travels around the world, Svatoš met a beautiful girl and fell deeply in love with her. The promise he had made to the fairy began to weigh him down like a rock. Relying on his knowledge of magic spells, with which he hoped to break the power of the supernatural being, Svatoš set his heart on his beloved girl and arranged a spectacular wedding. The wedding procession already stood before the altar, the happy couple ready to say their vows – when suddenly from the stormy waves of the Ohře River the angered fairy emerged and, with one spell, turned the entire wedding procession into stone: the priest, both lovers, the wedding guests, the musicians and the wedding chariot.

(According to St. Burachovič: “Magic Harp. Legends of the Karlovy Vary Region“)