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- RNDr. Beatrice Patzeltová, Ph.D.
(altered according to the records written by Alfréd Koch, a chronicler in the first half of the 20th century)
The village of Brtníky belongs to the oldest settlements in the area of Šluknovský výběžek (Šluknov Hook). One of the notes recorded in Oberlausitzer Kirchengalerie states that by 1084 Wipprecht von Greitsch, the Lower Luž margrave, brought to Bohemia a lot of Germans from the areas of Thüringen and Frank. In the area now known as Lipová, they founded several settlements, such as Lipová, Mikulášovice or Lobendava, and Brtníky was probably among them.
Supported by recent archaeological evidence found near the Brtnický potok (Brtníky Brook), the first settlements appeared here in the New Stone Age, the Neolithic Period. The archaeological findings discovered here consist of a number of rough-worked flints.
The information about the settlement in the Slavonic Period is completely missing. In the Middle Ages the Šluknov and Lipová areas, as well as the Tolštejn Castle, belonged to the House of Berka. The Houses of Schleinitz, Slavata and Salm-Reifferscheidt followed later. The village was also mentioned in writing during the reign of Petr Berka in 1116. It was stated there that Petr Berka established a great bee-keeping farm between Plešný and Vlčí hora, which was called Zeidelweide. The bee-keepers, who kept the hives and colonies of bees, were called Zeidlers, a bee father- Bienvater, Bienweide. That is where Zeidler, the original name of the village, came from. After World War II and the displacement of German settlers, the village was given a Czech name of quite a similar meaning, Brtníky.
The mention of building a village chapel under the canon law comes from 1140-1146. According to another historical source, the first wooden church was built in 1240.
In the Middle Ages, during the reign of the House of Berka, several guardcastles were built in the surrounding rocks. The Brtnický hrádek (Little Brtníky Guardcastle), which is visited by tourists quite often, also belongs to these. The castle squads guarded the trade routes and, later on, also some glass works and furnaces built deep in the forest. Some remains of places to make charcoal and tar remind us of another way to make a living in this area at that time.
During the Hussite Wars people from Brtníky hid from infiltrating troops in the surrounding forest. There is a christening stone in the forest near the village which comes from that time. The written records of it spring from no later than the year 1423. This place served as a religious and spiritual site for many following centuries. There is also a stony altar carved in a rock near here.
The very first notes of the school in Brtníky come from 1579.
In 1642, Swedish troops swept through Brtníky. On their way to the settlement of Panský, an innocent gardener called Engel was caught and, as he was a spy, he was cut into pieces as a warning to others. In the place where the inhabitants of Brtníky buried him afterwards, a shamrock-shaped peace-offering cross can still be seen these days.
During the Thirty Years War, as well as during the Seven Years War (1756) and the Austro-Prussian War (1866) the local people hid nearby in a large rock cornice called Velký pruský tábor (Great Prussian Camp) (it is on a green marked path for tourists).
The plague column was erected in 1682. At that time most inhabitants of the village died of plague. Today the column is a part of a corner of a garage on a green marked path for tourists leading from Brtníky to Šternberk. It was moved and put by Klinger, a manufacturer, after it had been found during some building work at the beginning of the 20th century. According to different sources, it may be the Column of Holy Trinity made under order of the Brotherhood of Holy Trinity. The mission of this Brotherhood was to keep catholic traditions alive during the reformation.
In the centre of the village St. Martin, there used to stand a beautiful baroque church built in 1714-1717. Its octagonal tower was really unique. At that time there were 1,200 inhabitants in the village who helped self-sacrificingly build the church. After the year 1945 the church fell into disrepair and in 1975 it was pulled down under communist representatives' instructions.
Near the church on the crossroads, there used to stand the historical Pruský dům (Prussian House). This unique wooden building was built in 1600 and it was protected as a historical monument at the beginning of the 20th century. Unfortunately, this house, as well as most sights, was doomed to destruction in the postwar period. It was completely dismantled and used as firewood. Its replica is kept in the Folk Art Museum in Dresden. The National Park is aspiring to construct a replica of the house in its original place, which would serve as an information point for tourists.
The settlement of Kopec (formerly Hemmehübel) used to be a part of Brtníky. It had a long tradition of bell casting at address number 36. For instance, Zachariáš Dittrich, a renowned bell-founder who left for Prague in 1740 and acquired reputation there, came from here.
In the place of a former windmill (Mühleberg, Křížový vrch - Cross Hill today), a chapel was built up by the Brotherhood of Holy Trinity in the year 1768. The Calvary settled here in 1801. After 1945, the Calvary was brought to ruin and the little chapels completely dilapidated. Thanks to some local people, several holiday cottagers, and later on with the initiative of the Local Council of Staré Křečany, the Chapel of Holy Trinity, Little Chapel of the Holy Sepulchre and Calvary were rebuilt and restored in the late nineties of the 20th century.
In 1771 Count F.V.Salm-Reifferscheid had the Manor of Šternberk built for his wife, the Countess of Šternberk, in the woods near Brtníky. Originally a hunting lodge, this used to be a trip destination for visitors of Brtníky for centuries. The state enterprise Česká pošta, which owned the property up to the end of the nineties of the 20th century, let this protected national monument be dismantled - paradoxically, after a complete restoration - in 1995.
In the year of 1839 Johan Klinger founded a traditional knitting manufacture in Brtníky. The knitted products of finest quality produced by the Klinger´s family in Brtníky, Mikulášovice, Křečany, as well as in Wienna, became famous all over Europe. In that time Brtníky was going through its great prosperity period and had a population of almost 3,000 people. At the beginning of the 20th century a railway called Severní česká průmyslová dráha (North Czech Industrial Railway) was built by Italian constructors. In the settlement, there were three big factories and, aside from that, it was also a well-renowned and frequented summer resort, which helped the local people make living.
After the year 1945 the sort of local inhabitants changed in grain. The original German population was displaced and replaced by a disparate population from many different parts of former Czechoslovakia. A lot of houses were left empty. The time period after 1948 meant a decline in all its respects for Brtníky. All the manufacturing, as well as tradesmen, disappeared bit by bit. The school and nursery were also closed down. The number of inhabitants has fallen to 261 at present. In the settlement of Kopec, there are 7 permanently registered inhabitants. After 1948 more than one hundered houses were demolished, one by one, including some rare cultural monuments and two big factories. Brtníky had not even seen such bad times during the wars and pestilence as it did under the forty-year sway of Communists.
Nowadays, at the beginning of the third millenium, Brtníky represents the starting point for the visitors of a new national park called České Švýcarsko (Bohemian Switzerland). After several decades of decline the historical monuments are being restored (e.g. chapels, the Calvary and small sacral monuments such as wayside crosses), plenty of houses, mainly holiday houses and cottages, have been nicely rebuilt and repaired while maintaining the original design. That is the way the village is returning among frequented summer resorts. The visitors´ favourite destinations are the picturesque Brtnický potok (Brtníky Brook) and Vlčí potok (Wolf Brook) valleys, the Křinice valley, the Brtnický hrádek (Little Brtníky Guardcastle) and Vlčí hora (Wolf Mountain) with its look-out tower. In winter the area of icefalls is a very popular and attractive place to visit.