Castles in Poland
THE WAWEL CASTLE
Address: Wawel 5, 31-001 Kraków, Poland
The Wawel Castle is a castle residency built at the behest of King Casimir III the Great, who reigned from 1333 to 1370, and consists of a number of structures situated around the central courtyard.
In the 14th century it was rebuilt by Jogaila and Jadwiga of Poland. Their reign saw the addition of the tower called the Hen’s Foot (Kurza Stopka) and the Danish Tower. The Jadwiga and Jogaila Chamber, in which the sword Szczerbiec, was used in coronation ceremonies, is exhibited today and is another remnant of this period. Other structures were developed on the hill during that time as well, in order to serve as quarters for the numerous clergy, royal clerks and craftsmen. Defensive walls and towers such as Jordanka, Lubranka, Sandomierska, Tęczyńska, Szlachecka, Złodziejska and Panieńska were erected in the same period.
The Wawel Royal Castle and the Wawel Hill constitute the most historically and culturally important site in Poland. For centuries the residence of the kings of Poland and the symbol of Polish statehood, the Castle is now one of the country’s premier art museums. Established in 1930, the museum encompasses ten curatorial departments responsible for collections of paintings, including an important collection of Italian Renaissance paintings, prints, sculpture, textiles, among them the Sigismund II Augustus tapestry collection, goldsmith’s work, arms, ceramics, Meissen porcelain, and period furniture. The museum’s holdings in oriental art include the largest collection of Ottoman tents in Europe. With seven specialised conservation studios, the museum is also an important centre for the conservation of works of art.
THE CASTLE OF THE TEUTONIC ORDER IN MALBORK
Address: Starościńska 1, 82-200 Malbork, Poland
It’s the largest castle in the world by surface area. It was originally constructed by the Teutonic Knights, a German Catholic religious order of crusaders, in a form of an Ordensburg fortress. The Order named it Marienburg in honour of Mary, mother of Jesus. In 1457, during the Thirteen Years’ War, it was sold by the Bohemian mercenaries to King Casimir IV of Poland in lieu of indemnities and it since served as one of the several Polish royal residences and the seat of Polish offices and institutions, interrupted by several years of Swedish occupation, and fulfilling this function until the First Partition of Poland in 1772. From then on the castle was under German rule for over 170 years until 1945.
The castle is a classic example of a medieval fortress and, on its completion in 1406, was the world’s largest brick castle. UNESCO designated the “Castle of the Teutonic Order in Malbork” and the Malbork Castle Museum a World Heritage Site in December 1997. It is one of two World Heritage Sites in the region with origins in the Teutonic Order. The other is the “Medieval Town of Toruń”, founded in 1231 as the site of the castle Thorn.
Malbork Castle is also one of Poland’s official national Historic Monuments (Pomnik historii), as designated September 16, 1994. Its listing is maintained by the National Heritage Board of Poland.
It is not known when exactly the abbey was founded. Probably it happened in 1040, by King Casimir the Restorer, who decided to rebuild the newly established Kingdom of Poland, after a Pagan rebellion and a disastrous Czech raid of Duke Bretislaus I (1039). The Benedictines, invited to Tyniec by the King, were tasked with restoring order as well as cementing the position of the State and the Church. First Tyniec Abbot was Aaron, who became the Bishop of Kraków. Since there is no conclusive evidence to support the foundation date as 1040, some historians claim that the abbey was founded by Casimir the Restorer’ son, King Boleslaw II the Generous.
In the second half of the 11th century, a complex of Romanesque buildings was completed, consisting of a basilica and the abbey. In the 14th century, it was destroyed in Tatar and Czech raids, and in the 15th century it was rebuilt in Gothic style. Further remodelling took place in the 17th and 18th centuries, first in Baroque, then in Rococo style. The abbey was partly destroyed in the Swedish invasion of Poland, and soon afterwards was rebuilt, with a new library. Further destruction took place during the Bar Confederation, when Polish rebels turned the abbey into their fortress.
In 1816, Austrian authorities liquidated the abbey, and in 1821-1826, it was the seat of the Bishop of Tyniec, Grzegorz Tomasz Ziegler. The monks, however, did not return to the abbey until 1939, and in 1947, remodelling of the neglected complex was initiated. In 1968, the Church of St. Peter and Paul was once again named the seat of the abbot. The church itself consists of a Gothic presbytery and a Baroque main nave. Several altars were created by an 18th-century Italian sculptor Francesco Placidi.
Czocha Castle (German: Tzschocha) is a defensive castle in the Czocha village (Gmina Lesna), in Lubań County, Lower Silesian Voivodeship (southwestern Poland). The castle is located on the Lake Leśnia, near the Kwisa river, in what is now the Polish part of Upper Lusatia. Czocha castle was built on gneiss rock, and its oldest part is the keep, to which housing structures were later added.
Czocha Castle began as a stronghold, on the Czech-Lusatian border. Its construction was ordered by Wenceslaus I of Bohemia, in the middle of the 13th century (1241–1247). In 1253 castle was handed over to Konrad von Wallhausen, Bishop of Meissen. In 1319 the complex became part of the dukedom of Henry I of Jawor, and after his death, it was taken over by another Silesian prince, Bolko II the Small, and his wife Agnieszka (see Duchy of Silesia). Origin of the stone castle dates back to 1329.
In 1909, Czocha was bought by a cigar manufacturer from Dresden, Ernst Gutschow, who ordered major remodeling, carried out by Berlin architect Bodo Ebhardt, based on a 1703 painting of the castle. Gutschow, who was close to the Russian Imperial Court and hosted several White emigres in Czocha, lived in the castle until March 1945. Upon leaving, he packed up the most valuable possessions and moved them out.
Recently, the castle has been used as the setting of the College of Wizardry, a live action role-playing game (LARP) that takes place in their own universe and can be compared to Harry Potter.
Niedzica Castle also known as Dunajec Castle is located in the southernmost part of Poland in Niedzica (Nowy Targ County in Lesser Poland). It was erected between the years 1320 and 1326 by Kokos of Brezovica on the site of an ancient stronghold surrounded by earthen walls in the Pieniny mountains. The Niedzica Castle stands at an altitude of 566 m, on a hill 300 m upstream from the Dunajec River mouth, measured from the center of the dam on Czorsztyn Lake. The outline of Niedzica Castle can best be viewed from the ruins of Czorsztyn Castle on the other side of the lake. It is known as one of the most picturesque castles in the country and adorns the covers of many books.
The legend: Before the Czorsztyn reservoir was built, the castle had a very Dracula-like setting, perched high on a wall above the Dunajec River. It was a place rich in tales and legends with some of the former residents resembling characters from gothic novels. In the post-World War II period Polish newspapers wrote at length about Sebastián Berzeviczy (one of Niedzica’s owners) who traveled to the New World in the 18th century. According to a popular legend, he fell in love with the alleged Inca princess. Their daughter Umina married the nephew of an Inca insurrection leader Túpac Amaru II, whose assumed name implied descent from Inca kings. Túpac Amaru was eventually executed by the Spaniards after rebelling against the colonial government. The legend goes on to claim that the sacred scrolls of the Incashad been handed down to his surviving family members. His nephew, Andrés Túpac Amaru a.k.a. Andreas with wife Umina and his father-in-law Sebastián Berzeviczy fled to Italy, where Andrés was killed in suspicious circumstances. Consequently, Umina with son and her father fled to Hungary and settled at the castle. Sources claim that Umina was assassinated there some time later. Her testament to son Anton, written in 1797 and stored there, allegedly contained information about the lost treasure of the Incas. There was a leaden case found at the castle with some “quipu” writings, but it was lost in Krakówin the following years. Later, news appeared about expeditions searching for fantastic treasures at Lake Titicaca in Peru. The notion that the Inca treasure map could be hidden somewhere in the depths of the castle is still cherished today.
Other tales follow the exploits of a motley crew of the castle’s other former owners. They include stories of counts and jesters who tortured village folk, stabbed priests and misbehaved.
The Moszna Castle (Polish: Pałac w Mosznej) is a historic castle and residence located in a small village of Moszna. The castle is one of the best known monuments in the western part of Upper Silesia. The history of this building begins in the 17th century, although much older cellars were found in the gardens during excavations carried out at the beginning of the 20th century. Some of the investigators, including H. Barthel, claimed that those cellars could have been remnants of a presumed Templar castle, but their theory has never been proved. After World War II, further excavations discovered a medieval palisade.
The central part of the castle is an old baroque palace which was partially destroyed by fire on the night of April 2, 1896 and was reconstructed in the same year in its original form by Franz Hubert von Tiele-Winckler. The reconstruction works involved an extension of the residence. The eastern Neogothic-styled wing of the building was built by 1900, along with an adjacent orangery. In 1912-1914, the western wing was built in the Neo-Renaissance style. The architectural form of the castle contains a wide variety of styles, thus it can be generally defined as eclectic. The height of the building, as well as its numerous turrets and spires, give the impression of verticals. The whole castle has exactly ninety-nine turrets. Inside, it contains 365 rooms with a total floor size of 7,000 sq. m. and a cubic capacity of about 65,000 m
Książ (pronounced: Ksyonsh [ˈkɕɔ̃ʂ], Polish: Zamek Książ, German: Fürstenstein) is the largest castle in the Silesia region, located in northern Wałbrzych in Lower Silesian Voivodeship, Poland. It lies within Książ Landscape Park, a protected area located in the Wałbrzyski Foothills. The castle overlooks the gorge of the Pełcznica river and is one of the Wałbrzych’s main tourist attractions.
During World War II, the castle was seized by the Nazi regime in 1944 after Count Hans Heinrich XVII of Hochberg, Prince of Pless, had moved to England in 1932 and became a British citizen; moreover, his brother Count Alexander of Hochberg, also a Polish citizen and owner of Pszczyna Castle, had joined the Polish army in 1939. Supervised by SS and Organisation Todt personnel, the building complex at Fürstenstein became part of the vast underground Project Riese complex, presumably a projected Führer Headquarter and a future abode for Adolf Hitler. Construction works were carried out under inhumane conditions by forced labourers and inmates of Gross-Rosen concentration camp. The castle was subsequently occupied by Red Army forces in the wake of the Vistula–Oder Offensive in 1945. A memorial marks the site of the Fürstenstein subcamp. Parts of the historic building structure were demolished during reconstruction; numerous artefacts were stolen or destroyed during the Soviet occupation.
After the war the castle complex was used as a recreation home and cultural centre by the communist authorities. In recent years, large parts of the interior have been elaborately restored. Parts of the tunnel complex beneath the castle are currently used by the Polish Academy of Sciences for gravimeter measuring, while several tunnels are accessible to the public on guided tours.
Ogrodzieniec Castle is a ruined medieval castle in the Kraków-Częstochowa Upland. Rebuilt several times in its history, the castle was originally built in the 14th–15th century by the Włodkowie Sulimczycy family. The castle is situated on the 515.5m high Castle Mountain (Polish: Góra Zamkowa), the highest hill of the Kraków-Częstochowa Upland. Located on the Trail of the Eagles’ Nests, the ruins are opened for visitors.
According to some investigators of paranormal phenomena, the Ogrodzieniec Castle is a place haunted by mighty dark powers. There have been locally famous reports of the “Black Dog of Ogrodzieniec” being seen prowling the ruins in the night-time. Witnesses have claimed that the spectre is a black dog much larger than an ordinary dog, and is supposed to have burning eyes and pull away a heavy chain. The dog is believed to be the soul of the Castellan of Cracow, Stanisław Warszycki. Interestingly, his soul also haunts the ruins of the Dańków Castle, where it appears as a headless horseman.
On the bottom floor, fragments of the renaissance frescos of lilies are still visible.
Close to the castle, on the market of Podzamcze village, there is a chapel built out of the castle’s architectural elements (portal, volutes, cornice). Inside the chapel, there are original elements of the castle chapel: the vault keystone, round shot, which is said to have fallen into the castle during the Swedish Deluge (1655–1660) and the renaissance Our Lady sculpture. Unfortunately, the sculpture has been painted in the folk style (with oil-paint) by the locals, which makes it rather difficult to notice its original beauty.