Jáchymov (in German: Sankt Joachimsthal or Joachimsthal) is a spa town in north-west Bohemia in the Czech Republic. It is situated at an altitude of 733 m above sea level in the eponymous St. Joachim's valley in the Ore Mountains.
Jáchymov is about 126 km far from Prague.
The first use of spring was purely practical. Thermal water served to run the water wheel which set in motion an iron ore mine built close to the spring. It was around 1006 A.D.
At the beginning of the 16th century silver was found in this area. The exploitation of this valuable resource caused the place to grow rapidly, and coincidentally made the Counts von Schlick, whose possessions included the town, one of the richest noble families in Bohemia.
In 1523 the Reformation began. In the Schmalkaldic War (1546–47) Jáchymov was occupied for a time by Saxon troops. When in 1621 the Counter-reformation and re-Catholicisation took effect in the town, many Protestant citizens and people from the mountains migrated to nearby Saxony for that reason.
In the 19th century the town was the location of a Regional Headquarters (Bezirkshauptmannschaft) and Court and of an administrative office responsible for mines and iron production. Mining was still significant in this period. There were also other industries: an enormous tobacco factory employed 1,000 women. In addition, there was the manufacture of gloves and corks and of bobbin lace.
On 31 March 1873 the town was almost entirely burnt down.
At the beginning of the 20th century, Marie Curie discovered in a piece of pitchblende ore containing uraninite from Jáchymov the element radium, for which she won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Until the First World War this was the only known source of uranium in the world.
The first radon spa in the world was founded in Jáchymov in 1906.
After the Communist party took control of Czechoslovakia in 1948, a large prison camp was established in Jáchymov. Opponents of the new regime were forced to mine uranium ore under very harsh conditions: the average life expectancy in Jáchymov at this period was 42 years.
Uranium mining ceased in 1964. The radioactive thermal springs which rise in the former uranium mine workings are used under the supervision of doctors for the treatment of patients with nervous and rheumatic disorders.
Last update: 2008-12-17