To Guard the Crown - Mark Iandolo

Sometimes, it’s the little things that have the largest impact—a seed of an idea of a moment with a muse that echoes in your thoughts long after.

That was witnessing Karlštejn Castle for me…

While I was in Prague this October, I made a trip outside the city to a little village called Karlštejn. I wanted to see what was supposed to be the most impressive castle in the Czech Republic—indeed, it was supposed to be one of the most impressive in all the world. I hopped off the train and rambled through the charming town; toward the end of it, a tower slowly came into view. Soon, the whole castle appeared behind the village, as if it ascended from the hills, its turrets mimicking Prague’s famous thousand spires.

Before scouting for photography compositions, I embarked on a tour of this castle. Once inside the fortress, a tour guide overflowed my brain with the region’s history. In situations like this, it’s hard to remember all the info, but a few historical gems resonate. I learned that the castle’s knights were divided into two groups, knights of lower rank, who contributed to most of the castle’s defenses, and knights of higher rank, who guarded the crown jewels kept in the great tower. Forty honorable souls, devoted to a single, protective mission. A mission of the utmost importance to which they dedicated almost every waking minute of their lives. How profound their devotion must have been.

After visiting the castle, I meandered through the surrounding landscapes for a few hours to snap photos. Afterwards, I headed back to the train. But before I did, I turned around for one last brief, yet exquisite view of Karlštejn Castle. And, in a moment I was spellbound. It was as if in an instant the spirit of the castle managed to travel across the hills and through my thoughts to imprint its image in my mind. That’s the moment that will resonate with me forever. I looked up at the fortress, its majestic tower resplendent in the afternoon light, and thought about the knights and their noble directive. How impacted I was from the souls of strangers—knights unknown to me but who anonymously left their mark on history because of their ardent devotion to a single focus.

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