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History of Gołuchów Castle

The idea of building the castle, which became a gem of the Wielkopolska Province, on the shore of the Ciemna River is attributed to Rafał Leszczyński, a provincial governor of Brześć-Kujawy, a member of the well-known noble family, a famous ideologist of Protestant movement in Poland and the founder of a Protestant cathedral in Gołuchów. In 1560 Leszczyński started building a brick villa, a typical noble estate of that period, on his premises. The castle was based on a four-storey rectangular keep equipped with defensive, octagonal corner towers. The additional protection of Leszczyński's residence was provided by a moat filled with water from a nearby river as well as pools and bogs stretching around the stronghold.

At the beginning of the 17th century the stronghold in Gołuchów was inherited by Leszczyński's son, Wacław, who was educated at a few European universities and had a great career on the royal court after he turned to the Roman Catholic religion. In the time of Wacław the construction work lasted many years in Gołuchów Castle. As a result, a castle complex appeared next to the old residence, it started with a small two-storey palace with a pentagonal tower in its south-west part. Later the building was completed with two narrow wings; as a result, the inner courtyard of the castle was built. Peristyles decorated with arcades as well as luxurious items of chamber’s furnishings such as stone portals and fireplaces, moulding on the ceilings and numerous wooden dadoes crowned with sophisticated carvings were fashionable elements of that period.

In 1695 the Leszczyński family sold their residence in Gołuchów to a Lithuanian noble family, the Słuszkowie, but nobody lived there permanently. A quick outbreak of the Northern War only sped up the decline of the desolate castle that was not renovated despite having several hosts. In the 1830s only picturesque ruins remained of Gołuchów stronghold. They aroused interest among poets, painters and history lovers who wrongly associated Leszczyński’s residence with the name of King Stanisław Leszczyński. Count Adam Tytus Działyński saved the castle from a complete decline. He gathered one of the richest library collections in Poland in his estate in Kórnik. Count Działyński bought the semi-destroyed castle, hoping that his only son, Jan, would live there after the wedding with Izabela Elżbieta Czartoryska. However, as luck would have it, after the January Uprising in which Jan Kanty Działyński participated actively, the Prussian government sentenced him to death. Jan spent several years in exile and did not come back to Poland until 1871, after receiving information about a pardon. Then Gołuchów Castle was owned by Izabela Działyńska who received the castle from her husband as a form of payment for the amount she had given for the uprising's purposes. From 1875 to 1885 a huge reconstruction took place in the castle, it aimed not only at rebuilding Gołuchów stronghold but also at establishing a completely new neo-Renaissance residence. The initial work was made by architect Zygmunt Gorgolewski but the owners were not delighted with the castle’s appearance that was too austere and ascetic. Thus, it served as a base for further work.

A group of French architects contributed to the castle’s final appearance such as Maurycy August Ouradou, Jean Louis Brenon and Charles Biberon. The castle was transformed by Izabela into a museum for her rich collections. The castle's hostess bought many items for the interior in European antique shops. Apparently, she inherited her love for collecting from her famous grandmother, Izabela Czartoryska, the founder of the first museum in Poland. A small palace was built for the castle's owners in the place of an old winery. During the reconstruction of the building, a huge English park was built, full of numerous species of rare trees and plants. After her death, Izabela Elżbieta Działyńska was buried in St John the Baptist Chapel situated in that park.

In 1899 Gołuchów Castle was inherited by a relative of its former owner, Witold Czartoryski, who also was famous for his love for collecting. The will included a note that all collections belonging to the deceased shall not be divided and everybody should have a free access to the castle's museum. Later, the castle fell into the ownership of Adam Czartoryski, who made plans for giving valuable collections to the National Museum in Poznań. However, the outbreak of World War II did not allow to implement them. During the war many exhibit items and collections of Czartoryski's were lost irretrievably and a military warehouse was established behind the castle's wall. In the 1950s the building was taken under the Poznań National Museum's wings. It was open as one of the department of this museum after the renovation work was finished.