The town Mšeno lies in a moderately undulating landscape, on the very edge of an agricultural region located in the central part of the Jizera plain, churned up by numerous long (and mostly waterless) hollows. The town occupies a summit of a flat mound, which shelves down northwards into a relatively precipitous trench harboring sandstone glens. In these there are several ponds dispersed within. Mšeno seems to have originated far back in the past, as its locality adjacent to the significant Slavonic stronghold ”Hradsko” near Kanina suggests. Its contemporary parish church is alleged to have replaced the former Romanic church of St. Wenceslas’. The first known reference to the village (or rather a dorp) of Mšeno dates from 1348. In the course of the 13th century, Mšeno holds a landowner’s property position; the year of 1304 settles the village onto the hands of Hynek, the lord of Dubá, as a dispensation granted to him by Wenceslas II. As early as 1352, Mšeno is referred to as a "market town with church." Later the town undergoes a separation into two parts - the regnal and the manorial (with a stronghold), which did not unify their properties until late 1621. Preceding to the Hussite wars, Mšeno had already enjoyed an abundance of privileges (these were extended in 1545).
The issues concerning the town‘s urban development still have not been clarified satisfactorily, with the exact location of the original settlement having not been localized up to the present day. The medieval Mšeno comprised of two town ends: the ”rural”, a spindle-shaped part (a subsidiary built-up area) called ”Podolec”, in what today is the northern part of the town. The second, being an ”urban borough” located uphill with a rather small three-cornered square and a parish church of St. Martin’s. During the medieval times, Mšeno is protected by a stronghold.
Later Mšeno suffers considerable damages caused during the Thirty Years’ war, while the 17th and 18th centuries bring times of prosperity. In this period, the houses more than double in number, since the space inlying the common of ”Podolec” had been built upon, and a thickly populous crofter and cottager built-up area is springing upon the easy slopes of the vale in the northeastern part of the town. In its vicinity, a manor ”Romanov” had grown up together with an adjoining church.
The overall edifice character of the town is formed predominantly by wooden structures until the first half of the 19th century - the houses are mostly story buildings, both timbered and half-timbered; this being a specific trait of the Kokořín region folk architecture. To this day, a great degree of these timbered and half-timbered buildings have been preserved, within the peripheral locations of town in particular. A great deal of these buildings in the town’s square are consumed during a disastrous fire in 1867. The period following the fire gives rise to many a late classical row houses in the square and the main streets of the town, providing it thus with a certain historicist notion. This built-up area continues to shape the physique of the predominant premises in town up to the present day. As early as 1842 the new town hall is built, rebuilt and later in 1864 leveled up in a neo-Gothic style. Between 1876 and 1879, a new parish church of St. Martin’s is built, its conspicuously lofty tower becoming the landmark of the surrounding landscape. The First Republic era buildings, such as the school and the public open-air baths, have also a great share in the town’s landmark value.
In the course of the late 20th century, the town, owing to its peripheral location away from the main routes of communication, maintains to rather stagnate than develop. Due to this fact no significant industrial branches develop in the town. Additionally, any occurrences of modern tectonic tendencies have been restricted to a particularly small area of family residences. Mšeno thus, apart from some individual facade face-liftings, retains its intact material structure, unimpaired by neither demolition nor lately erected new buildings. The town’s visual aspect is still determined by both wooden provincial edifice, and the late classicist or eclectic urban buildings. Furthermore, Mšeno’s engaging skyline is worth of notice due to its slight uphill position, well-leveled roof scenery and the two predominant skyline features - the church and the town hall spires. Also, the town’s picturesque landscape layout within the broken terrain together with the delicate ties to its pristine surroundings and long-range scenic views are much appreciated by the beholder. From the historical buildings perspective, Mšeno belongs to a particularly valuable and an entirely undervalued town organism - (so far there have been no immovable assets registered as cultural treasures, or a heritage).
Substantiation of the Municipal Treasured Buildings Zone (MTBZ) proposal
Mšeno continues to hold an exemplary position of an intact town with medieval foundations. The division of town into two separate parts, each of which was owned by a different lord, influences its interesting and a rather complex urban structure. A largely valuable complex of timbered and half-timbered architecture has been preserved, the fact remaining that the contemporary visual appearance of the main public area is still determined by the late classicist and eclectic estates; all well-preserved, including the fine facade details. Mšeno maintained a certain architectural stagnation during the second half of the 20th C and owing to this, practically no new buildings, which could be perceived as disturbing to the whole visual aspect of the town, have been erected (not even off the town’s historical center). Mšeno is distinct for its picturesque skyline, noticeable more importantly for its predominant skyline body - the neogothic town hall, the church and the schoolhouse. From the view of historical-buildings-appreciation, Mšeno appears to lack full appreciation and attention on the part of the care of historical monuments, since its whole organism should be considered an extraordinarily valuable town structure.
Elaborated by Jan Pešta C.E., 2002
Expert content: National Preservation Institute - regional expert workplace of central Bohemia in Prague, Jan Pešta C.E.