Man has lived in the Brno basin since prehistoric times, and there was a settlement on the site of today's city at the time of the Great Moravian Empire. In around 1000 a settlement was established on a ford across the River Svratka, now known as Staré Brno (Old Brno), and it was this that gave the city its name. From the 11th century, Břetislav's castle stood here, and was the seat of the non-ruling Premyslid Prince. Around the castle several Czech market villages grew up, both in Old Brno and around Horní trh (today Zelný trh/Vegetable Market). Foreign colonists started to arrive from the 13th century: Germans, Flemish and Walloons, who settled around the Lower Square (today's Náměstí Svobody). A Jewish quarter was also formed in the area that today forms the lower end of Masarykova Street. Legal support for the development of the city came with the large and small privileges that were conferred upon the city in 1243 by Václav I, King of Bohemia. The city was then surrounded by fortifications which had five gates (Měnín, Zidovská (Jews' Gate), Starobrněnská (Old Brno Gate), Veselá (Merry Gate), and Běhounská). There were two parish churches – St. Peter's and St. James', and several monasteries: Benedictine in Komárov, Premonstrate in Zábrdovice, monasteries for mendicant orders such as the Dominicans, Minorites, Heburgs, Johannites in Old Brno, and a convent for Cistercian nuns also in Old Brno, which was founded by Queen Eliska Rejcka. The Spilberk castle was rebuilt in a Gothic style in the 13th century. In the 14th century the city became the seat of the Moravian Margraves, and underwent a period of great expansion; at this time there about 1000 buildings and 11 000 inhabitants. Thanks to the right that the city possessed of holding annual markets, international trade grew. This meant that in-depth knowledge of legal regulations had to be gained, and so in 1355 Jan, the town hall scribe, compiled a book of regulations for the city aldermen, which became the legal norm for several other cities. The city was led by a magistrate and a city council of twelve aldermen. From the mid-14th century Brno became a centre for Moravian regional assemblies, which took place alternately in Brno and Olomouc. These regional authority organs made decisions on political, legal and financial questions and were responsible for the upkeep of regional records.
During the Hussite Wars the city remained faithful to King Zikmund, and the Hussites twice laid siege to the city, in 1428 and 1430, both times in vain. The first diplomatic talks were held in Brno, which led to the Treaty of Basle. In 1454 King Ladislav Pohrobek expelled the Jews from the city, and they resettled in the area that is now Křenová Street. During the reign of King Jiří of Poděbrady Brno supported his adversary Matthias Corvinus, who in Moravia was acknowledged as King of Bohemia. During both civil wars in the 15th century, the number of buildings fell and business dropped.
In the mid-16th century Brno began to lean towards Protestantism, whose representatives had a majority on the city council. In an attempt to re-Catholicise the city, new Catholic orders came to Brno, of whom the Jesuits and the Capuchins were to gain a great influence. The number of inhabitants in the pre-White Mountain period remained at a similar level as it had been two hundred years previously. In 1619 the city contributed to the Estates Rebellion, for which it was punished. In 1643 and 1645 Brno was the only city to successfully defend the Swedish besiegements, thereby allowing the Austrian Empire to reform their armies and to repel the Swedish pressure. During the defence of the city, the military leader Radoit de Souches and the Jesuit Rector, Father Martin Středa, both played important roles. In recognition of its services the city was rewarded with a renewal of its city privileges which included a new symbol. During the Thirty Years' War Brno became the only capital of Moravia, and from 1641 the regional Moravian records were held in Brno. Following the Thirty Years' War the city became an impregnable baroque fortress. In 1742 the Prussians vainly attempted to conquer the city, and the position of Brno was confirmed with the establishment of a bishopric in 1777.
In the 18th century development of industry and trade began to take place, which continued into the next century. In Brno there was a concentration of textile and engineering industries, which rapidly adopted the most modern technology. In 1839 the first train arrived in Brno. Together with the development of industry came the growth of the suburbs, and the city lost its fortress characteristics, as did the Špilberk castle, which became a notorious prison to where not only criminals were sent, but also political opponents of the Austrian Empire. The fortifications were gradually demolished; these were replaced in the Viennese style by green areas and buildings, which formed the city ring road. In 1850, 32 neighbouring communities were added to the city, and the population reached 46 000. Gas lighting was introduced to the city in 1847 and a tram system in 1869. Grammar schools, secondary schools and higher education establishments were also built. (German Technology School est. 1873, Czech Technology School est. 1899). At the turn of the 20th century the problem of nationalism reached its height between the Czech and the German inhabitants; the majority German representation in the city administration ended in 1919.
During the First Republic Brno was the second city after Prague – both in terms of its population (1921: 210 000, 1937: 300 000), and also in importance, as it was the capital city of the Moravia/Silesia Province. It was during this period that the Masaryk University was established (1919), and the Brno Fairgrounds were opened in 1928 with an exhibition of contemporary culture. The city was not only a centre of industry and commerce, but also of education and culture. Famous personages who have worked in the city include Leoš Janáček, Viktor Kaplan, Jiří Mahen and Bohuslav Fuchs.
The Second World War caused serious damage to Brno. During the Nazi occupation many Czech citizens were executed in the city at the Kounicové Koleje (a student residence); the result of these atrocities was the evacuation of the German inhabitants in 1945. The subsequent period of Communist rule brought the city economic and political stagnation, the consequences of which we are still finding difficult to overcome.
Augustinians in Brno:
The Augustinian monastic order has been present in Brno since 1356. The foundation charter of the Brno monastery was issued by the Moravian Margrave Jan Heinrich of Luxemburg. This was confirmed in 1356 by the Pope and, because Brno fell under the Olomouc diocese, the Bishop of Olomouc also had to give permission for the monastery to be established in the city by the elected Moravian Margrave. The monastery was built outside the city fortifications in the vicinity of the Rhine Gate (at the entrance of today's Běhounská Street), and is now known as the Mistodržitelský (Governor's) Palace. During the Josephine reforms in 1782 the monastery was removed to the former Cistercian Convent in Old Brno.
Augustinian Thurn foundation:
In 1653, when the Augustinians were still based at their monastery on what is now Moravské Náměstí (Moravian Square), a foundation known as the Augustinian Thurn foundation was set up by the Brno noblewoman Sibylla Poyxena Francesca von Montani, née Countess von Thurn und Walsassin, for the support of musical development. The main contribution of this foundation was the significant enrichment of the contemporary musical and musical education scene in Brno. The activities of this foundation were so wide-ranging and important, that one could say that the Augustinians gave the city a truly specialist musical school. In 1865 it was one of the sources of funding for the young Leoš Janáček, who was to later act as director of the Old Brno choir at the Augustinian church.
The Old Brno Madonna – PANNA MARIA SVATOTOMSKÁ. According to tradition this picture was painted by St. Luke. It was brought to Constantinople by St. Helen, and then via Genoa to Milan by the Bishop of Milan Eustorgius. Emperor Friedrich gave the picture to Vladislav, King of Bohemia, who brought it to Prague. According to chronicles the picture's journey continued when Charles IV gave it to his brother, Margrave Jan, in 1356. He probably donated the picture to the Brno Augustinians in 1373. At present the picture is situated above the "Silver" altar in the Old Brno basilica.
The Augustinian convent, founded in the mid-14th century, was promoted to the position of Abbey, thereby creating an integral part of the Order of St. Augustine, by Pope Benedict XIV in 1752. The sixth Abbot was the world-famous researcher Johann Gregor Mendel; the present Abbot, Lukáš Evžen Martinec, is the eleventh since the foundation of the Abbey. An abbacy was needed because, amongst other reasons, the Brno bishopric was established in 1777. As the Abbot had the right to use pontifical regalia (crosier, mitre, pectoral), he had to represent the church not only in Brno, but also in Moravia as a whole. It should also be mentioned that for practically the entire existence of the Augustinians in Brno, their priors have had the privilege of wearing pontifical regalia.