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Circopedia was originally created with the support of the Big Apple Circus
and inspired and funded by the Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation.

In The Spotlight

Kludsky Portraits.jpg


Cirkus Kludský, the most famous Czech circus and one of Europe’s largest ever, was at its peak a colossal enterprise traveling with an 86 x 54 meters (approximately 280 x 178 feet) three-ring, four-pole big topThe circus tent. America: The main tent of a traveling circus, where the show is performed, as opposed to the other tops. (French, Russian: Chapiteau) that could seat 10,000 spectators. Its menagerie included a herd of 25 elephants, 160 horses, 74 wild animals (lions, tigers, leopards, etc.), and a vast assortment of exotic animals, among which three giraffes and a hippopotamus—an ensemble advertised at some 700 heads. Cirkus Kludský boasted two hundred performers from thirty-five nations, including two large bands, and two hundred wagons traveling by train were used to transport the circus equipment and house the personnel.

In 1929, when Cirkus Kludsky was invited to perform in Rome, Italy, for a run of fifty-two days, more than 600,000 spectators attended its performances. This gigantic organization belonged to the Czech Kludský family, and had been created before WWI by Karel Kludský (Carl Kludsky, as he became known in the West-European circus business). From humble beginnings, Karel Kludský had managed to build one of the biggest traveling circuses in Europe, which was subsequently continued and improved by his sons.

According to family lore, the founder of the Kludský Dynasty was an adjutant to Jan Sobiesky (1629-1696), the Polish King who saved Vienna from the Turkish invasion in 1683. (The Czech Kingdom—or Kingdom of Bohemia—was then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.) Whether the legend is true or not, the Kludskýs eventually became a family of traveling entertainers.

The Ottoman Empire had remained at odds with the Austro-Hungarian Empire and other Western European countries until its defeat in the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-78, and its ensuing rapid decline. Therefore, traveling entertainers from the Austro-Hungarian Empire (and the Holy Roman Empire in general) were not authorized to perform farther than Constantinople (today’s Istanbul). The first member of the Kludský dynasty who demonstrably obtained this authorization was Josef Kludský, from the village of Strážovice in South Bohemia, in 1789.... (more...)

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CIRCOPEDIA is a constantly evolving and expanding archive of the international circus. New videos, biographies, essays, and documents are added to the site on a weekly—and sometimes daily—basis. Keep visiting us: even if today you don't find what you're looking for, it may well be here tomorrow! And if you are a serious circus scholar and spot a factual or historical inaccuracy, do not hesitate to contact us: we will definitely consider your remarks and suggestions.

Dominique Jando
Founder and Curator