By using our site you agree to the use of cookies. We use them to increase the quality of this site especially for you, they help us understand your needs (help us collect statistics), help our partners deliver the right content displayed on our website. To learn more about the cookies please click here.


Ogrodzieniec Castle History

Both the time and the fact that during the Middle Ages people did not attach any significance to maintaining and keeping in-depth documentation caused that the background of Ogrodzieniec Castle is not clear enough, it sank in the mists of time. Today’s knowledge was affected by the findings on Birów Hill, where there probably was a town older than Ogrodzieniec. Some of the tales connected so far with the most famous Eagle Nest should be ascribed to that town. The stronghold was known as the "Wolf's Jaw" and was built from wood and earth. It was probably constructed in the time of Bolesław Wrymouth, who ruled Poland between 1102 and 1138. This first wooden town was most probably burnt during the first invasion of the Tatars in 1241, and the Mongolian forces that attacked Hungary plundered and ravaged the southern territory of Poland. The name of the town may derive from a wall or a fortification.

During the mid-14th century, a brick castle was built on the ruins of the town. The construction was funded by King Casimir the Great. The stronghold was erected in a new Gothic style by unknown builders, probably between 1350 and 1370. It was to serve a residential role, but above all a defensive one because it was located on the Silesian-Polish border and – as a link of the Trail of the Eagle's Nests – was to defend the territories of the Piasts against invaders from the Czech Republic. Its first leaseholder was knight Przedbórz of Brzezie, of Zadora Coat of Arms (he was the progenitor of the Lanckoroński family; the last member of the family – Karolina Lanckorońska, founder of the Polish Institute in Rome, died in 2002). At first Przedbórz served as the provincial governor of Sieradz, and next he became the royal marshal and the king’s closest collaborator.

In a chronicle written by Jan Długosz, under the year 1385, there is a note which mentions that the Castle belonged to the then cupbearer of Cracow, Włodek Charbinowic. It is the only source which confirms that, and it is known that when Długosz did not know some date from the past, he gave it anyway. King Władysław Jagiełło handed down the stronghold, under the law of succession, as a prize for successful negotiations concerning the Polish-Lithuanian Union. In addition to the Castle, two more towns (Włodkowice and Koczurów) and several villages were induced in the perpetual endowment. Some decades later, the Teutonic Knights' chronicles also mentioned the said property, which would confirm the words of the Polish chronicler. According to these documents, in 1454 Bartosz Włodek, the then owner, was captured at Chojnice and taken as a German prisoner. At that time the layout of the Castle consisted of a three-level, one-sectioned tower on a high eastern rock. It comprised the co-called inner bailey and a one-sectioned building with four rooms on the southern rock, a southern tower known as the Convicts' Tower, having two floors. The main entrance gate led through a crevice along the south side of the hill. In the north, the part that was not protected by the rocks was a wooden and earth embankment which protected the layout.

The Castle belonged to the family of Włodek until 1470, i.e. for a century. In 1470 the estate was bought for eight thousand florins by rich Cracow burgesses: Ibram and Piotr Salomonowicz.

Let us cite the chronicles: "The noble Mr Jan Bartosz of Ogrodzieniec states that the town of Ogrodzieniecz with the hereditary estates that belong to this town, namely Ogrodzieniec and Włodkowice with the following hereditary villages: Rudniki, Parkoszowice, Góra, Nadolicze, Podlewany, Parwa, Rodaki, Kiełkowice, Klucze, Wiesiołka, Wysoka, etc. We sell this castle, this town, the villages that belong to it in any manner, with all titles to all farms, valleys, manors, with all residents, castles, houses, pastures, meadows, fields, leas, farmlands and woods, etc..., for eight thousand Hungarian florins of pure gold and real weight (…), to the famous Ibram and Piotr Salomonowicz, Cracow burgesses, and we renounce these titles permanently."

In 1482 new owners arrived – the family of Rzeszowski. The first owner was Feliks Rzeszowski, a parish priest in Przemyśl and a Cracow cathedral canon. But he did not like the Castle because in the same year he exchanged it for the village of Zawiercie. His relatives stayed in the Castle, but ten years later – in 1492 – they sold it for another eight thousand florins to the Pilecki family. The first member of the Pilecki family who stayed in Ogrodzieniec was Jan Pilecki, son of Elżbieta Pilecka-Granowska, Jagiełło's wife. It is interesting, is it not? So his mother was queen of Poland, the third wife of King Władysław Jagiełło, and King Jagiełło was her fifth husband. When Jan died, the estate was handed over to his son Mikołaj. Having married in 1501, Mikołaj gave his wife three thousand Hungarian florins, which he secured in the Ogrodzieniec estate. In 1522 the family of Włodek returned to the Castle. Unfortunately, because of their poor assets and bad financial situation, which included numerous debts, a year later some Jan Boner took over the stronghold as a debt payment. He was one of the richest men in Poland at that time. He made a fortune by producing paper, leasing customs chambers and delivering silver to royal mints. He accumulated his assets multiple times by working with domestic and foreign merchants and by financing loan operations. Finally he became the closest collaborator of King Sigismund I the Old, he was his banker and the governor of Cracow. His position is confirmed by the fact that in the royal chapel known as the Sigismund Chapel the biblical King David is presented with Jan Boner's face. But Jan was so close to the monarch that he was also responsible for the verification of candidates for Prince Sigismund Augustus’s wife. In 1514 he was granted a noble title. He persecuted all misappropriation of funds in the Cracow court and it was his idea to separate the private royal treasury from the public one. He owned many tenements in Cracow, Lviv and Poznań, and a small royal town at the Mikołajska Gate in Cracow; he bought the Chapel of the Holy Spirit in Saint Mary's Church and turned it into a chapel for his patron, i.e. John the Baptist. When Jan died, his nephew Seweryn, who was as much gifted, took over his estate. He also became the mine administrator of Wieliczka and the owner of Rabsztyn and Ojców (next castles on the Trail of the Eagle's Nests).

In 1530 Seweryn Boner began to rebuild Ogrodzieniec Castle in a new Renaissance style, making it look like a magnate's palace. The Boner family arrived in Cracow by the end of the 15th century from the Rhineland. Jan Boner Senior traded intensely with Nuremberg and cooperated with King John Albert and King Alexander Jagiellon. As a result Boner opened many doors for his descendants.

What did the Castle look like when it was rebuilt by Boner, in its new Renaissance style? Seweryn removed the defensive embankment on the northern side of the hill and in its place, on a rock, he built a four-level wing with utility rooms, where a one hundred-metre deep well was sunk. He extended the middle bailey and added two more floors to the southern tower. He built a tower known as the Kredencerska Tower and the Gate Tower with a drawbridge on arcade abutments immersed in the moat. His son Stanisław extended the west wing, adding private chambers and a library there. Additionally, he funded the Hen's Foot, just like the one in Wawel, a beluard and a curtain wall. A system of galleries, loggias, balconies and porches was added to the courtyard, for this reason the Castle was named “another Wawel”. During that time a defensive wall was built, it surrounded the outer castle. A brewery and a distillery were constructed behind the wall.

The expansion took place between 1530 and 1545. The result was a residence with a capacity of 32,000 cubic metres, including over a three-hectare outer castle. Even today there are legends about the palace's furnishings which matched a monarch's residence because the owner was excessively proud. It is said that the dishes were made from rock crystal, and the cups and beer mugs from coconut with a golden frame, the mahogany chairs were covered with silver, and Flemish tapestries hung on the walls.

Seweryn Boner gave the Castle to his four sons, but in the end it was Stanisław that became the owner. But Stanisław did not have any offspring. The property went into the hands of his sister Zofia in 1562. Zofia married Jan Firlej, the governor of Lublin. This way the estate had new owners. In his will, Jan handed down the Castle to his son Mikołaj, the governor of Cracow and a close friend of Jan Kochanowski’s. Jan built a knights' courtyard and his son added modern fortifications: a beluard bastion, a dry moat and a tournament courtyard. In 1587 Sigismund Vasa – supported by his aunt Queen Anna Jagiellon and Hetman Jan Zamoyski – and Habsburg Archduke Maximilian fought for the crown of Poland. The latter in fact did not win the Polish throne but took and plundered Ogrodzieniec Castle and stole many valuables.

When Mikołaj died, his son Jan took over his assets. As Jan did not have any children, he gave the Castle to his cousin Andrzej Firlej, the castellan of Lublin, who decorated the interior in the Baroque style and added a marble hall above the bastion.

When Andrzej Firlej died, his property was taken by his wife Zofia Petronela of the Tarnowski family, and she gave the property to her nephew Mikołaj Firlej. In the same year, in 1664, Mikołaj sold the estate to the castellan of Cracow, Stanisław Warszycki.

Warszycki bought the estate, which was heavily damaged by the Swedes as between 1655 and 1660 they occupied the territory of Poland. The Castle was pillaged, plundered and partially burnt. During the rebuilding, he surrounded the Castle by a wall, added a new entrance gate which was preceded by a moat and a drawbridge nearby today's ticket office, and a stable and a coach house were built just nearby.

The owner aroused mixed feelings among local residents. It is said that the castellan overburdened his subjects with work and too high expenditures, he tormented and beat them, he did not respect priests, despised saints, and had his wife flogged in public. But during the Swedish invasion of Poland, he showed a great courage and chivalry. He defeated enemy forces in Pilica, Dankowo and Krzepice. He actively participated in the defending of Częstochowa, which was commemorated by Sienkiewicz on the pages of "The Deluge". In Dankowo which he owned – it was a huge fortified stronghold, he had guests such as King John Casimir and Queen Marie Louise Gonzaga, Hetman Stefan Czarnecki and many senators with whom he debated over how to rebuild the destroyed homeland.

After Stanisław, the property was passed to his son Jan Kazimierz, and next into the hands of his daughter followed by his granddaughter, Barbara Warszycka. The latter married the starost of Wieluń, Kazimierz Męciński, and gave the Castle to her new family as a dowry.

It was in 1697. Two years later one of the first in-depth inventories took place in Ogrodzieniec Castle. What did the Castle look like in 1699? One entered the estate through a gate which had a viewing terrace. The gate's oak frame was covered by iron bars. High towers stood in the corners of the defensive wall. The first courtyard housed a guardhouse and two small shops with descents to the cellars. In the inner bailey were galleries, the windows were covered by bars. Inside the Castle, one went through the entrance hall to the chapels and rooms, walking on a brick floor. Most chambers were empty and had no furnishings. Let us read a document which describes a chamber: "There is no floor, the wall is badly damaged. The chamber has no door, no windows, no hearth, and the wall is badly damaged. As one goes down from this chamber to the entrance hall, on the lower gallery, there are no balusters in some places, and in some other places the balusters are damaged".

The dining room was in a slightly better condition. One entered the dining room through a door which hung on S-shaped hinges. It had a tiled stove, a small blue table, and a painting of the Black Madonna of Częstochowa in a simple green frame. The marble floor was half-destroyed, but the entire marble stove survived.

As you can see, despite the numerous attempts to renovate Ogrodzieniec Castle, it was still a ruin. The year 1702 was the final straw. King Augustus II the Strong got involved into the Great Northern War. The following countries were engaged in warfare: Denmark, Sweden, Saxony and Russia, and all military actions took place in Poland which was not a side in that war. Then the Castle was retaken by the Swedes and was again occupied. They plundered the estate, stole the rest of the treasure and put the stronghold on fire.

It is said that Kazimierz Męciński owned gems of a great value that belonged to Jerzy Rakoczy, Poland's ally in the fight against the Swedes, but he was bribed and took the enemy’s side. It is believed that when fleeing from the Austrian emperor from Poland Rakoczy left a great treasure which the Swedes gave to him from the plunder. The entire treasure was first hidden in Ogrodzieniec Castle, later moved to Władowice Palace, and in 1702 it was moved to Jasna Góra in a safe deposit, where it stays today, but only partially. Meanwhile, as a result of various failures, political disturbances and other misfortunes, the Męciński family began to quickly lose its fortune in the mid-18th century, and they could not bounce back because they did not regain the deposit in Jasna Góra. This situation also had a negative impact on the stronghold whose technical condition was getting worse and worse. Finally in 1784 the semi-ruined castle was sold to a deputy judge of Cracow Tomasz Jakliński. But he was satisfied with a partial restoration only; he did not care to keep it as a whole, he built a new church from the Castle’s stone in nearby Ogrodzieniec. After his death in 1810 the middle part of the stronghold was still inhabited by Jakliński's sister, Mieroszewska, but due to the risk of collapse, she moved her residence to a nearby manor. When Mieroszewska's son August gave the ruin to Ludwik Kozłowski, the latter began to systematically demolish it to build a line of farm buildings and a sheepfold, and sold the remains of the preserved heritage to the Jews. The last pre-war owner of the stronghold was Jan Michajłow Wołczyński’s family, which lived in a nearby village. Wołczyński bought Ogrodzieniec Castle from Fiersch Tandziełowicz Appel in 1899.

Some time earlier, in 1885, 19-year-old Aleksander Janowski visited the Castle. Inspired by the look of the medieval stronghold rebuilt in the Italian Renaissance style, which shows the splendour of former Poland – and such views made a great impression on the Poles who lived in the occupied territories – he established the Polish Tourist Society in 1906, later it was changed into PTTK. The ruins of the Castle became the symbol of PTTK and were placed in the PTTK’s logo. Here is how Janowski remembered his first stay in Ogrodzieniec Castle: "The castle was so astonishing that I rushed towards it... In the afternoon a storm came: how it changed the castle when the flashes of lightning ripped the grey clouds. I stayed overnight. It was a moonlit night. The silver shine illuminated the ruins again. How many people had the opportunity to see that magic? Millions of Poles didn't know that Ogrodzieniec Castle exists or where to find it".

As I already mentioned, throughout the 19th century the Castle fell into ruin because of the ill-considered activities of its owners. The last straw was laid in the early 20th century by a Kozłowski, a peasant who sold stones from the Castle’s walls to local people for a few zlotys as building materials.

Like most estates in Poland, after World War II Ogrodzieniec was also nationalised. By 1949 activities that intended to secure the walls in the form of a permanent ruin had already begun. Further conservation work was conducted between 1959 and 1975 and it was combined with comprehensive archaeological work. The work was documented, numerous parts of the floors and architectural rubble, many movable historical objects, including 168 cannonballs, forged weapons and numerous coins, were found. Many organic remains were found in the western part of the Castle, including animal bones.

In 1973 the secured ruins were opened to public.

In 2001 director Andrzej Wajda shot an adaptation of a comedy by Aleksander Fredro entitled "Revenge" on the Castle’s premises. When the adaptation was completed, much of the set was left. On the one hand the set may arise interest among visitors; but on the other hand, it obscures a large part of the old castle walls.