From swamps to the first spas
The place where Mariánské Lázně is now located used to be full of swamps and entirely desolated in previous times.
In 1197, the powerful nobleman Hroznata founded the monastery in Teplá, under whose administration also belonged the land of today’s spa town. Monks were the first to note the salty spring in the forests, and they even started to exploit the salt here. This salt was later successfully sold as a laxative.
The obstacle for using medicinal waters was the operation of tin mines, because the monastery could not freely utilise the land. But the abbot Ebersbach was very interested in the springs, and so in 1606 a doctor from Slavkov recommended a drinking cure to the first patient. The first written study on Teplá’s acid waters was elaborated by Bohuslav Balbín in 1679, who described six springs and their effects.
In the meantime, various rumours about the medicinal effects of mineral waters spread, and the first ill people headed for the springs. Representatives of the monastery had the springs cleaned and made paths leading to them. Monks started to fill barrels with medicinal water and sent them to other monasteries. But the first attempts to found a spa location failed, as local inhabitants did not trust the spas.
During the reign of Habsburg monarch Maria Theresa, mineral waters were again analysed, and during this period the name Marienbad appeared for the first time.
Origins of Mariánské Lázně
The origin of the spas was established by Josef Jan Nehr – a monastery doctor who convinced an abbot and several monks to try a spa cure in 1779. He found that a small amount of water drunk several times a day regulated digestion, stimulated appetite and brought refreshing sleep both to the abbot and to the monks. Doctor Nehr also did a chemical analysis of the springs and following this decided to cure ill people.
However, until 1786 the monastery had to fight to gain all the necessary permits to build a spa building. In 1818, Marienbad received the status of a spa location.
The first patients stayed in one small building near Mary’s Spring, where they took baths. Later, the first settlers started to arrive and built the first spa buildings.
The spa received its name, Marienbad, from Mary’s Spring. This spring used to be called "Smelly", due to its pungent smell. It received its present name after a picture of the Virgin Mary, allegedly put up near the spring by a solder returning from war, as gratitude for healing his injuries.
Teplá Monastery’s abbot Karel Kašpar Reitenberger deserves credit for the further development of the spas. He began to build spa houses and pavilions at the beginning of the 19th century.
Goethe – a prince of German poets and the Godfather of Mariánské Lázně
In 1820, Johann Wolfgang Goethe visited Mariánské Lázně, and came twice more thereafter. He was thrilled with the local natural conditions and encouraged the abbot Reitenberger to continue building spa houses.
He also recommended that local doctors introduce modern medical methods in addition to traditional spa care.
The presence of Goethe in Mariánské Lázně had a very favourable impact on the number of visitors. The spas began to be visited by wealthier clientele.
Famous celebrities also arrived. We can recall names such as Fryderyk Chopin, Nikolaj Vasiljevič Gogol, Richard Wagner, Ivan Sergejevič Turgeněv, Gasparo Spontini and Karl Maria von Weber.
The spas lived through many booming years, but its golden era was still yet to come.
The king's spa
In 1897, the future British ruler Edward VII visited Mariánské Lázně for the first time. Why he decided to visit exactly this spa town is not known. However, King Edward, acting as the Duke of Lancaster, immediately fell in love with Mariánské Lázně and he visited it nine times altogether.
The British king turned the world’s attention to Mariánské Lázně, which had to expand every season to accommodate the ever-growing number of guests. The majority of buildings were rebuilt and extended during this period, and new hotels were constantly opened.
Mariánské Lázně also became a site of several political meetings. In 1904, Edward VII met his Austrian counterpart – the emperor Franz Joseph I. Over the following years, negotiations between Great Britain and Austria and Bulgaria took place here.
King Edward VII died in 1910, and after that the First World War followed and further development of the spas ceased.
Czechoslovak Mariánské Lázně
After the First World War and creation of the Czechoslovak Republic, guests returned to the spas. The rapid growth of transport attracted more visitors and the spa town had to solve problems with accommodation.
However, economic crises occurred soon after, and further development of the town again stopped. The Second World War fortunately spared the town and so the spa character of the town remained preserved.
After the post-war displacement of German citizens and the change in Mariánské Lázně's population, the town began to decay. Its turn-around came after 1989, when the town returned to the spa industry in full.