he oldest background information about the castle in Chęciny comes from a document issued in 1306 by Sandomierz Duke
Władysław Łokietek (d. 1333), in which he promises to give the bishop of Cracow castrum Chancin together with the surrounding villages. Taking into account the content of this statement and the date of its issuance, it can be assumed that the stronghold was built in the period when Małopolska belonged to Czech, i.e. around the turn of the 13th and 14th centuries. Therefore, among its founders it is most often mentioned the Bohemian and Polish King
Vaclav II (d. 1305) or the Bishop of Cracow Jan Muskata (d. 1320). However, it is not known whether Muskata, who was in political opposition to the Piast Duke Władysław, ever held an office in the castle - opinions on this matter are extremely divergent. What is certain is that on 22 September 1307 Władysław Łokietek signed an act in castris ante castrum Chancin revoking the privilege granted a year earlier, and from then on the castle remained under Polish rule. The first historically documented starost of Chęciny was Wrocławburgrabius de Thanczin (1308).
ON THE CASTLE HILL, VIEW FROM THE WEST
t was still during the reign of Vaclaw II and his faithful ally, the bishop of Cracow Jan Muskata, that the mining district of Chęciny was created and quickly developed, based on relatively rich and easily accessible mineral deposits of lead. It is quite likely that a well-fortified castle could in this context have acted as an official center for the area providing protection for exploration, and combining this function with administrative oversight of the entire region. After Władysław Łokietek took over Małopolska, the fortress also gained political significance. It was here, in the presence of the ruler, that in 1310, 1318, 1331 and 1333 the conventions of Małopolska and Wielkopolska knights were organized, considered by historians to be the origins of Polish parliamentarism. Of particular importance was the convention in the summer of 1331, described by the chronicler Jan Długosz as generalis omnium terrarum conventus, during which Łokietek handed over the administration over Wielkopolska to his son Kazimierz (later Polish King Casimir the Great). After this event part of the Polish army set out for the Kujawy region to face the Teutonic Knights' army in a battle on 27 September 1331, known as the Battle of Płowce.
VIEW OF THE LOWER CASTLE FROM THE WEST; IN THE BACKGROUND WE CAN SEE THE UPPER CASTLE WITH HIGH TOWERS
n the times of Duke Władysław the stronghold in Chęciny was considered one of the most important and best fortified in the whole country. Łokietek, appreciating its defensive values, decided to deposit the crown treasury here in fear of the threat coming from the Teutonic Knights. The same goal was shared by
bishop Janisław (d. 1341), who in 1318 kept in Chęciny the treasures of Gniezno Cathedral, also due to the fear of looting them by Teutonic invaders. When Łokietek died,
Kazimierz Wielki (the Great, d. 1370) expanded the castle, making it even more powerful and inaccessible to the enemy. The strength of its fortifications was proved by the fact that for the next 250 years no army was able to take the castle hill either by assault or by trick.
VIEW OF THE LOWER CASTLE FROM THE PRISON TOWER, ON THE PHOTO ABOVE WE CAN SEE THE RUINS BEFORE REVITALIZATION
ing Kazimierz, however, did not like Chęciny very much, since he settled here his wife, Adelaide (d. 1371), who had been expelled by her husband due to alleged infertility. The queen spent two years in the castle, after which she was moved to Żarnowiec, because she annoyed him with bitter remarks. After the king's death
Elżbieta Łokietkówna (d. 1380), his sister but also the mother of the Polish and Hungarian King
Ludwik (Nagy Lajos, d. 1382), stayed in Chęciny. During the reign of
Władysław Jagiełło (d. 1434) his fourth wife
Sonka Holszańska (d. 1461) together with her son Władysław (d. 1444) lived in the castle for some time sheltering from the plague. Presumably, since her time the starosty of Chęciny has been treated as a property of royal wives and widows.
THE OLDEST PRESERVED VIEWS OF THE CASTLE, ENGRAVINGS BY JOHANN GOTTLOB IMMANUEL BREITKOPF FROM A WORK BY JAN FILIP CAROSI 'REISEN DURCH VERSCHIEDENE POLNICHSE PROVINZEN, MINERALOGISCHEN UND ADEREN INHALT', 1781
uring the reign of King Władysław Jagiełło, that is in the late 14th or early 15th century, a harsh prison for the nobility was set up in Chęciny castle. Among those who served their sentences there was Andrius Algirdaitis (d. 1399), the king's step-brother, convicted of helping the Russian army to invade Lithuania. Less than 20-year-old Jan Hińcza (d. 1473), accused of having an affair with Jagiełło's wife Sonka, was also imprisoned in Chęciny. German prisoners of war, among them
Michael Küchmeister von Sternberg (d. 1423) - later Grand Master of the Teutonic Order, were kept here while awaiting ransom. Other famous prisoners of the castle included Knyaz Georgius Langwinowicz (d. 1456), who was caught after Švitrigaila lost the battle with Grand Duke of Lithuania Vytautas in 1432, and probably Duke Konrad VII of Oleśnica (d. 1452) and Duke Casimir V of Szczecin (d. 1435), both captured by the Polish army on the battlefields of Grunwald.
FRIEDRICH PHILIPP USENER 'ANSICHTEN VON KRAKAU UND DEN GEGEND. MDCCCV. ANSICHTEN AUS POLEN', 1843-67
One of the prisoners in Chęciny stronghold was the knight Warcisław of Gotartowice, who in 1409 commanded a royal crew at Bobrowniki castle in Dobrzyń land. When, at the beginning of the Great War (1409-11), the Teutonic Knights invaded Bobrowniki, its small garrison initially resisted fiercely, despite the fact that they had neither sufficient food supplies nor suitable weapons. However, when the Teutonic cannons made a breach in the castle walls, Warcisław, through the intermediary of the archbishop of Gniezno, negotiated a one-day truce counting on help from the Mazovian Prince Ziemowit. But the relief did not come, and as a result the commander - who saw no chance to defend - surrendered the castle. His decision met with great anger of Władysław Jagiełło, who ordered to imprison Warcisław and Bartosz from Płomykowo in the tower (of the castle in Chęciny). However, they were soon released and washed away their shame by fighting against the Teutonic Knights at Grunwald.
'RUINS OF CHĘCINY CASTLE FROM THE EAST', TEODOR CHRZĄŃSKI, MID XIXTH CENTURY
n the middle of the 14th century the king established the starosty of Chęciny. It was supervised by a functionary called the starost, who, with his garrison of 150 people, was responsible not only for defending the fortress itself but also for public safety in the entire region. The first starost known by name was Grzegorz from Młodziejowice, mentioned as capitaneus de Chancyn in document signed by Kazimierz Wielki in 1363. In the 15th and 16th century the office belonged to the Szafraniec family, among others to Piotr (d. 1437), Stanisław (d. 1525) and his son Hieronim (d. 1556). During their reign the stronghold was modernized and extended with a lower castle.
CASTLE ON LITHOGRAPH BY JULIAN CEGLIŃSKI FROM 1860
PAINTING BY HENRYK PILLATI WITH A VIEW OF THE CASTLE RUINS, 1857
n 1512 the revenues from the starosty became the property of Queen
Barbara Zapolya (d. 1515) and then - of
Bona Sforza d'Aragona (d. 1557), the wife of Polish King Zygmunt Stary (the Old). After the king's death (1548), Bona kept her money and valuables in Chęciny, which were guarded and looked after by a trusted courtier Camillo Brancaccio. She took them away a few years later, when as a result of conflicts with her son and the Polish nobility, she decided to leave for good to Italy. According to legend, these treasures were transported on 24 carts pulled by 140 horses.... Bona's departure far far away... to the principality of Bari in 1556 can be considered as the symbolic beginning of the fortress fall. At that time it was seen as not very modern and from decade to decade lost more and more significance due to its outdated construction.
JÓZEF SZERMENTOWSKI 'VIEW OF CHĘCINY', 1857
CASTLE ON A PAINTING BY ALFRED SCHOUPPE, 1860
n 1607 the castle in Chęciny was conquered for the first time in its history. The fortress was invaded by the troops of
Mikołaj Zebrzydowski of
Radwan coat of arms (d. 1620), the governor of Cracow and political opponent of King
Sigismund III Vasa, which first plundered it and then burned it down. The reason for the assault (apart from plunder goals) was Zebrzydowski's personal aversion to the starost of Chęciny Stanisław Branicki of
Gryf coat of arms, the king's supporter and a beneficiary of his rule in the country. Branicki rebuilt the castle in 1607-13 with his own money and estimated the cost of the renovation at 5446 zlotys and 16 groschen. By decision of the Sejm of 1616 this expense was to be refunded to him but most probably due to empty vault it did not happen or he received only a part of the promised money. As compensation, his son and grandson were allowed to draw income from property belonging to the town.
CHĘCINY ON POSTCARDS FROM THE EARLY XX CENTURY
he castle was severely damaged by the invasion of
Rákóczi György in 1657, and then by the Swedes in 1707, during the Third Northern War. As a result of these damages, as early as at the end of the 17th century starost Stefan Bidziński (d. 1703) moved his seat to the nearby Podzamcze Chęcińskie, leaving only the office and the chancellery here, which functioned until about the middle of the 18th century. The decline of the fortress coincided with an increasing interest in the ruins in a historical context. The first to pay more attention to it was
Jan Filip Carosi, a Roman-born Polish geologist and miner, who, at the request of King
Stanisław August Poniatowski, investigated the Chęciny starosty for the possibility of renewed marble exploration. The result of this and other of his expeditions was one of the first Polish guides entitled Journeys through some Polish provinces. After 1795 the Austrian authorities ordered a further demolition of the castle walls in order to build a road towards Cracow. Local peasants and townspeople, who found a source of cheap and easily accessible building stone in the ruins, also played their part in this process.
PHOTOS FROM THE INTERWAR PERIOD PERFECTLY ILLUSTRATE THE VERY POOR CONDITION OF THE CASTLE RUINS
he first cleaning work was carried out here in the 1870s. At that time the idea of rebuilding part of the castle and placing a prison in it was also considered. In 1910, during the celebrations of the 500th anniversary of the Grunwald battle, a social movement was initiated, aimed at revitalizing the castle ruins. One of the patrons of the fundraising efforts became the Nobel Prize winner in literature,
Henryk Sienkiewicz (d. 1916), who published an open letter to support the project, and pledged 10 silver rubles for the preservation works. However, these plans did not come to fruition, and even worse, because during World War I
the central tower was destroyed by Austrian cannon fire. The process of destruction was only stopped in the 1940s and 1950s, when the walls were secured as a permanent ruin and the towers were restored, and one of them became available to tourists as a viewing point. The last major project at Chęciny Castle was its thorough revitalization carried out in 2013-2015.
THE RESULT OF A PARTIAL RECONSTRUCTION CARRIED OUT IN THE 1950S...
...AND REVITALIZATION FROM 2013-15
In the late 1960s, battle scenes for the movie Pan Wołodyjowski by
Jerzy Hoffman were shot in Chęciny. For the purpose of this large-scale film production, a model of Kamieniec Podolski fortress was erected in the eastern part of Castle Hill, which was defending itself here against a siege by a "Turkish army" consisting mainly of local youths and students of local high schools. This huge decoration was built with wooden logs covered with bags imitating stone and brick walls.
UNUSUAL VIEW OF TWO CASTLES IN CHĘCINY
'TURKISH ARMY' IS BESIEGING THE FORTRESS IN 'KAMIENIEC POLSKI', SET PHOTOGRAPH
he castle was built on the ridge of a high hill, 355 m above sea level. Initially, i.e. at the turn of the 13th and 14th centuries, it consisted of a cylindrical tower (bergfried) with a diameter of 8 meters, standing at the highest point of the hill, and stone walls surrounding it, and perhaps a gate building. During the reign of Kazimierz Wielki, the previously small watchtower gained the shape of an elongated rectangle measuring about 10x50 meters with rounded corners on the northern side, surrounded by a curtain wall measuring up to 9 meters high and equipped with wooden defensive porches. At the outermost points of the castle, two tall cylindrical towers were erected that flanked it from the gently sloping sides. They replaced the 13th century bergfried, which was demolished. The eastern tower was connected with a one-storey, rectangular building, which, according to tradition, performed the function of a treasury. Next to it a gate leading to the courtyard has been built, to which a wooden drawbridge stretched over a dry moat.
DONJON AT THE GATE LEADING TO THE LOWER CASTLE, IN THE DISTANCE WE CAN SEE A QUADRANGULAR TOWER
VIEW OF THE PRISON TOWER (EASTERN), ON THE LEFT THERE IS A FRAGMENT OF THE GREAT HOUSE WALL
n the second half of the 14th century, a large Gothic building called the Great House was erected by the northern curtain wall. It housed, among others, the starost's living quarters and the archive. The dark brick upper part of both castle towers, a kitchen in the northeastern part of the courtyard, a second residential building standing nearby (which was equipped with a hypocaust stove) are also believed to date from this period.
VIEW OF THE CASTLE FROM THE MAIN GATE (FROM THE EAST)
n the second half of the 14th century too, in the western part of the castle hill a lower castle was built. A defensive wall with a crenellation, which formed a rectangle 60 meters long and 30 meters wide, surrounded it. In its northwestern part stood a quadrangular tower, presumably topped by a wooden structure with hoardings, and next to it, in the southwestern corner, a brick one-story building. The rest of the buildings in the lower castle courtyard consisted of wooden farm huts (smithy, stables, granary, bakery, etc.) located along the perimeter walls. In the central part of the field there is a well, which, according to legend, linked through an underground passage with
St. Bartholomew's Church.
LOWER CASTLE COURTYARD
A MODEL OF THE ROYAL CASTLE BEING A PART OF THE EXHIBITION OF THE TENEMENT HOUSE CALLED NIEMCZÓWKA:
1. DRAWBRIDGE, 2. CHAPEL, 3. GATEHOUSE, 4. PRISON TOWER, 5. GREAT HOUSE, 6. RESIDENTIAL BUILDING
(WITH HYPOCAUSTUM), 7. DONJON, 8. QUADRANGULAR TOWER, 9. SOUTH-WESTERN BUILDING
t the beginning of the 17th century, the then starost Stanisław Branicki rebuilt the castle in the late Renaissance style. The building of a new kitchen by the western tower and a gate connecting the upper and lower castle date from this period. The great house was also rebuilt and a chapel then placed in it. A new stone bridge stood at the entrance to the castle from the east, and a gate with a wicket leading to the town was added to the western walls. The castle also received Baroque helmets crowning its tall towers, which gave it a slightly "more modern" appearance.
PLAN OF THE CASTLE IN CHĘCINY ACCORDING TO B. GUERQUIN: 1. DRAWBRIDGE, 2. CHAPEL, 3. GATEHOUSE, 4. PRISON TOWER,
5. GRAND HOUSE, 6. COURTYARD OF THE UPPER CASTLE, 7. RESIDENTIAL BUILDING (WITH HYPOCAUSTUM), 8. DONJON,
9. COURTYARD OF THE LOWER CASTLE, 10. WELL, 11. QUADRANGULAR TOWER, 12. SOUTH-WESTERN BUILDING (GATEWAY)
he full perimeter of defensive walls, two tall cylindrical towers and one lower northwestern tower have been preserved to the present day, as well as
walls of the eastern buildings, relics of the Gothic
great house and well. A few years ago, the ruin underwent revitalization that included restoration of the western tower, partial reconstruction of the chapel with treasury, renovation of the upper and lower castle courtyards, as well as the arrangement of pedestrian trails and installation of night illumination. The immediate vicinity of the stronghold also underwent some changes: the northern slope of the hill was cleared of wild bushes, the roads and paths leading to its gates were rebuilt and decorated with
symbolizing people of great importance to the history of the town. These changes made the castle more beautiful and attractive for tourists.
COURTYARD OF THE LOWER CASTLE BEFORE AND AFTER REVITALIZATION
here are no museum exhibitions in the ruins. Only
a small treasury, an exposition of wooden weapons and a gallery of historical engravings and old photographs are available. A tour of the castle consists mainly of walking through the courtyards and admiring the beautiful views from viewing platforms located on the outermost towers, where a magnificent panorama of the town and the picturesque ranges of the Chęciny Hills spreads. The castle has a souvenir store and stalls offering handicrafts, and during the season there are often workshops organized by role-play groups. Chęciny belongs to the most popular tourist destinations in the region, so on clear weekends it can be very crowded. To avoid the crowds, it's best to come here after the season or plan to visit the castle just after it opens.
VIEW FROM THE PRISON TOWER TO THE WEST
IN THE WESTERN TOWER
Admission to the castle is paid. The ticket office is located in the lower courtyard, by the western gate. Traffic in the castle is one-way, i.e. you enter through the western gate and leave through the eastern gate.
Photography for personal use free of charge.
You should plan at least 1,5 hour for the tour of the castle including the walk (from parking lot) and return.
It is forbidden to bring animals to the ruins.
Drone flying is not allowed over the castle. Fortunately, there is plenty of open space surrounding castle hill that can be used for sky photography. No local air corridors restrict your freedom to fly.
The royal castle in Chęciny
Małogoska Street 7, 26-060 Chęciny
tel.: +48 41 308 00 48
North-west of Chęciny is Miedzianka Hill, which has an amazingly diverse geological structure. One of the formations that make it up is limestone formed by organisms living in coral reefs. The hill is a favorite study area for geologists looking for interesting rock and mineral specimens here. As its name suggests (miedź=cooper, it contains copper deposits, which were intensively exploited as early as in the Middle Ages. Remnants of those times are the relics of adits and mining shafts.
Slightly further to the north are the gentle Bolechowickie Hills with Czerwona Góra (Red Mountain), known for its red conglomerate called zygmuntowski. This material was used in 1644 to build the Warsaw column of King Sigismund III Vasa.
When the column was destroyed by the Germans during World War II, it was reconstructed in 1949 using granite from Strzegom's quarries.
VIEW FROM THE TOWER TO THE SOUTH
THE TOWN IS LOCATED NORTH OF THE CASTLE, IN THE BACKGROUND THE ZELEJOWSKIE AND BOLECHOWICKIE HILLS
The town of Chęciny is situated about 15 km southwest of Kielce, on the E77 road leading to Kraków.
Two parking lots for tourists are located on
Jędrzejowska Street (paid and free, 400 m). Despite a relatively large area there may be a problem with availability of free spaces and then I recommend a large parking lot on
Armii Krajowej Street (free, 1.2 km). Alternatively, you can leave your car at the church parking lot on
Alei Miłości Street (free, 800 m) or at
the Market Square (free, 800 m).
Bicycle parking is located on Jędrzejowska Street. You will not be allowed to enter the ruins with a bike.
1. Cz. Hadamik: Najstarszy zamek w Chęcinach, Architektura 7-A/2011
2. Cz. Hadamik: Zbiór fragmentów kafli [...] z badań zamku…, Acta Universitatis Lodzensis 27/2010
3. T. Glinka, M. Piasecki, R. Szewczyk, M. Sapała: Cuda Polski, Publicat 2008
4. W. Gliński, Cz. Hadamik: Zamek w Chęcinach - zarys problematyki badawczej...
5. R. Jurkowski: Zamki świętokrzyskie, Wydawnictwo CM 2017
6. L. Kajzer, J. Salm, S. Kołodziejski: Leksykon zamków w Polsce, Arkady 2001
7. T. Poklewski-Koziełł: Studia o zamkach średniowiecznych, IAE PAN 2012
8. R. Rogiński: Zamki i twierdze w Polsce, Instytut Wydawniczy Związków Zawodowych 1990
9. R. A. Sypek: Zamki i warownie ziemi sandomierskiej, TRIO 2003
10. A. Wagner: Murowane budowle obronne w Polsce X-XVIIw., Bellona 2019
11. Various authors: Zamek królewski w Chęcinach na tle Europy Środkowej, Wydawnictwo Uniwersytetu Jana Kochanowskiego w Kielcach 2018
A FOOTPATH TO THE CASTLE
Podzamcze Chęcińskie - the fortified manor house from the 17th century, 4 km Kielce - the Bishop's palace with bastion fortifications from the 17th century, 13 km Podzamcze Piekoszowskie - the ruins of a magnate's palace from the 17th century, 13 km Sobków - the nobleman's fortalice from the 16th century, 14 km
Bolmin - the ruin of a 16th century fortified manor house, 15 km Mokrsko Górne - the ruin of a nobleman's castle from the 14th century, 17 km
Chełmce - the ruin of a 16th century fortified manor house., 20 km
Saint Bartholomew's Church, located at the foot of Castle Mountain. It is the oldest church in Chęciny. It was built on the initiative of Władysław Łokietek before 1325.
West of the Market Square, in Małogoska Street, there is the Bernardine convent founded in the middle of the 16th century by the mayor and town councillors. It consists of a church, a monastery, a garden and a granary. The complex is surrounded by a stone wall. You can visit the church.
In the northern part of the town there is the church and Franciscan monastery founded by Kazimierz Wielki. The building was remodelled in the 17th century in the Baroque style and converted to a prison in the 19th century. Later it housed a school, a meat processing plant, a Polish Tourist Country-Lovers' Association hostel and a restaurant. Currently, it belongs to the Franciscans again.
The former synagogue in Długa Street, built in 1683. Its premises are covered with barrel and cross vaults and a hipped roof. The building can be viewed only from the outside.
While being in Chęciny do not forget to visit a Renaissance tenement house popularly known as Niemczówka, which is located on Małogoska Street next to a Bernardine convent. The house was probably erected in 1570 on the initiative of Walenty Wrzesień and his wife Anna née Niemcza as a three-storey building with a spacious hallway and a stylish courtyard. Its largest and most representative room is the Great Hall covered with
a beamed ceiling
and a remarkable inscription: This building (hall) was built by a famous inhabitant of the town and mayor of Chęciny, Walenty Soboniowski, in the year of Our Lord 1634.
Not long ago, there was a café and a public library here. Currently, after a thorough renovation, the tenement houses the Tourist and Historical Information Center of the Chęciny Municipality. In several rooms we can see an exhibition of replicas of the Polish army's weaponry from the 11th to the 17th century, as well as a gallery of photographs and props related to the movie Pan Wołodyjowski. The central place of the exposition is occupied by a model of the royal castle, which is an interpretation of its visual appearance at the beginning of the 17th century.