The town is located near the south-western border between Moravia and Bohemia, in a region that was thickly forested until the 13th century. The origins of the settlement are unclear: there was an early medieval settlement at Stare Město to the south-east of the present town, but there is no mention of Telč in documentary records before 1333-35, when reference is made to the existence there of an important castle (and presumably also a church and settlement). The town itself was probably founded in the mid-14th century. It developed on a hilltop round a market square in the form of an elongated triangle. The town was surrounded by stone walls, further strengthened by a network of ponds. Until a fire in 1386 most of the houses were wooden, but they were reconstructed in stone. The parish church of St Jacob, built 1360-72, also had to be rebuilt. The Gothic castle was reconstructed in High Gothic style in the later 15th century. The second half of the 16th century was a period of great prosperity under Zacharias of Hradec, who began work on the Renaissance castle. He also rebuilt the market place in the same style following another devastating fire. The resulting town is an outstanding example of Renaissance town planning and architecture. Baroque elements were introduced by the Jesuits, who built a college (1651-65) and the Church of the Name of Jesus (1666-67). At the same time Baroque gables were added to the facades of some of the houses in the marketplace; Rococo and classical elements also followed in later remodelling. The Industrial Revolution of the early 19th century saw considerable cultural awakening in the region and increased prosperity. Nevertheless, the town of Telč retained its traditional character.

The town centre is the Renaissance chateau, which retains substantial evidence of its Gothic precursor. The Golden Hall to the north of the castle complex is notable for its fine gilded ceiling of 1561 which shows considerable Italian influence. The latest phase of reconstruction was under the charge of Baldassar Maggi of Arogno, and dates to the late 16th century. The houses in the market place, although embellished with facades from various periods, are basically Renaissance and conform to a standard plan. The Parish Church of St Jacob has a twin-aisled layout dating from the early 14th century: a Renaissance choir was added in 1638 and the Gothic tower was crowned with a Baroque dome in 1687. Telč was not affected by the mania for over-restoration of the 19th century and so both the individual buildings and the townscape retain authenticity in materials and design.
The outstanding nature of Telč in terms of the quality and authenticity of its cultural elements, the tangible evidence of its origins and evolution represented by its layout, and its dramatic setting is unquestionable.

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