The town Zbraslav, affiliated to Prague in 1974, is mentioned for the first time in 1115. In 1268 King Přemysl Otakar II acquired the settlement by exchange from Jan III of Dražice and he established here a manor house for hunting. His son Wenceslas II founded a Cistercian Monastery on the site. The first monks settled here in April 1292 from the Sedlec Monastery near Kutná Hora. The Cistercian Order was at this time the standard bearer of the new Gothic culture and learning. Its clergy were in close contact with the Royal court, indicated by the Latin name of the Zbraslav Monastery - Aula Regia (Royal Hall).
The monks lived initially in the hunting manor house, soon however they started to build a new monastery. The most famous part of it was the monastery Church of the Virgin Mary, an extensive four nave structure which was later the scene for the burials of Wenceslas II, Wenceslas III, Eliška Přemyslide and temporarily also Wenceslas IV. Charles IV was a great patron of the monastery. The venerable Zbraslav abbot, Petr Žitavský, author of the memorable Zbraslav Chronicle, was in the first years after the arrival of Prince Charles in Bohemia a prudent adviser to him. The rising importance of the monastery however was soon ended by the Hussite Wars.
The majority of the monastery buildings, in particular the Church of the Virgin Mary, was destroyed on 10 August 1420, when a crowd of Taborites and Praguers attacked the unprotected buildings. The furious attackers desecrated even the temporary grave of King Charles IV. They apparently placed the King's corpse on the altar, put a crown on his head and poured him beer (which he so liked to indulge in when alive) with the invitation: “drink a bit”.
The monastery stagnated after the Hussite Wars and was plundered a few times during the Thirty Years War. A further flowering did not come until the beginning of the 18th century. In 1739 plans were drawn up by the architects Giovanni Santini and František Maximilián Kaňka, to build a new Baroque monastery with costly decorations. However in 1785 the monastery was dissolved and within its walls a sugar refinery, was established the first of its kind in Bohemia. The owner of the refinery divided the main hall into three floors, without regard for the exquisite frescos and severely damaged the monastery in other ways. There was even a chemical factory set up here. In the second half of the 19th century, the buildings were gradually transformed into a chateau, and dignity was restored to the monastery with the renovation by the new owner Cyril Bartoň of Dobenín between 1912-1926. This generous benefactor of Czech culture, in 1940 lent the monastery for the use of the National Gallery. It currently houses an extensive collection of Czech sculpture from the 19th and 20th centuries.
The whole complex is located in a park, which itself displays some sculpture exhibits. The monastery of Giovanni Santini is among the most outstanding works of Czech Baroque architecture. The main room is called the Krňlovský sál (the Royal Hall), finished in 1727, and richly decorated with frescos by Václav Vavřinec Reiner from 1728. In front of the monastery is the Church of St. Jakub (St. Jacob), Gothic in its core, and between 1650-1654 rebuilt in the early Baroque style. On the altar in the south nave is a copy of the famous Gothic painting of the Zbraslav Madonna, whose original is now in the National Gallery. In the church nave is a bronze monument to Přemysl Oráč (Přemysl the Ploughman) by the pupils of Jan Štursa and Pavel Janák from 1924. In 1991 the remains of Wenceslas II and Eliška Přemyslide were buried in new caskets in the presbytery with all due ceremony.