e are not sure of either the founder of the castle or the date when it was built. However, we can assume with a high degree of probability that the first masonry fortifications were erected here by
Václav II (d. 1305), prince of Cracow since 1291 and king of Poland since 1300. The choice of this ruler as an investor is indicated, among other things, by
the silver coin of Václav found in castle cellars, minted in 1300-1305. Initially, the castle served as a customs and a watchtower on the trade route leading along the Dunajec River towards Hungary.
ON THE WAY TO THE CASTLE, IN THE FOREGROUND WE SEE A FRAGMENT OF THE MILITARY EXPOSITION
t the beginning of the 14th century, the castle consisted only of a brick tower, an earthen rampart and a wooden palisade. It wasn't surrounded by a stone wall until the reign of Duke and later King
Władysław Łokietek (d. 1333), or until the time of
Kazimierz Wielki (Casimir the Great, d. 1370), when Czchów became the seat of the starosty and the municipal court (1357). A year earlier, in 1356, the first burgrave of Czchów, a certain Imram, son of Żegota, was mentioned in documents. According to medieval Polish chronicler Jan Długosz, King Casimir the Great was a frequent guest at the castle, visiting his mistresses there.
RECONSTRUCTED WOODEN BRIDGE OF IMPRESSIVE LENGTH
uring the reigns of the Andegawens and Jagiellons, polish rulers often stopped at the castle on their journeys to Bohemia and Hungary. In 1372 the queen-regent Elżbieta Łokietkówna (d. 1380) stayed there for a short time, while in 1397, 1408, 1410, 1419 and 1423 King
Władysław Jagiełło (d. 1434) visited Czchów as part of his annual tour of the country. At that time the stronghold was already a fief leased by the owners of nearby Melsztyn: governor of Cracow Spytko the First of
Leliwa coat of arms (d. 1399), followed by his sons Jan (d. 1428) and Spytko the Second (d. 1439), castellan of Biecz.
GATE IN XV CENTURY TOWER (RECONSTRUCTED)
round the middle of the 15th century, a
massive gate tower was erected. Presumably, it was the building initiative of Jan (d. ca. 1480) and Spytek the Third of Melsztyn (d. 1502) or only Spytek the Third, who, after his brother had joined the Bernardine Order, became the sole heir to the family estate, including Czchów. In 1499 he pawned it for the equivalent of 200 kilograms of silver to his daughter Anna (d. 1521), the wife of governor of Cracow Mikołaj Kamieniecki,
coat of arms Pilawa (d. 1515). At that time the castle was expanded with an utility wing and a small edifice next to the tower. In 1519 Anna handed over the royal fief, along with Czchów, Wola Strońska and Siemiechów, to Jan Wieczwieński, a Płock voivode (d. 1525) and Mikołaj from Taszyce, a Cracow deputy judge (d. 1545). This date marks the end of the Melsztyńskis' lease of the Czchów royal estate.
IN THE CASTLE COURTYARD
fter 1525 Czchów belonged to Robkowski family, and later to representatives of the wealthy Cracow Boner family, owners of the magnificent
Ogrodzieniec castle: first to
Seweryn, burgrave of Cracow (d. 1549), and then to his son Stanisław (d. 1560). Their time saw the decline of both the castle and the town, presumably influenced by development of the neighboring town of Zakliczyn, which hosted competing fairs and markets. In 1561
Wawrzyniec Spytko Jordan of
Trąby coat of arms, castellan of Cracow (d. 1568), became starost of Czchów. Two years later, Anna Jordanowska (d. 1597), Wawrzyniec's wife, received the lease for life, followed by her daughter Elżbieta and her husband Mikołaj Ligęza of
Półkozic coat of arms (d. 1603). At the end of the 16th century the castle still served as the seat of the starosty, but its administrative and economic importance was already marginal by then.
uring the reign of starost Wojciech Grabkowski of
Jastrzębiec coat of arms (d. 1683), a land court ceased to function in the castle (1646). In the second half of the 17th century it was already abandoned and fell into disrepair, to which the Swedish Deluge and the invasion of Rákóczi György’s army contributed to some extent. Although still in the 18th century a chance for its reconstruction appeared, resulting from reactivation of the land court in Czchów and the granting of funds for this purpose, eventually, a court building was erected from scratch on the town square. From then on the castle, or rather its tower only, served no more than as a prison. After the first partition of Poland (1772), Austrian authorities abolished the starosty office and sold the ruin to the previous starostess, Zofia Grabowska.
"CZCHÓW W GALICYI W CYR. BOCHEŃSKIM", EDWARD WALENTY KAINKO 1843
hanks to the popularization of romantic ideas, in the 19th century the ruins became an object of interest to the wider public - they were written about in the press and often captured in prints and paintings. The castle at the time was covered by a thick layer of rubble and earth, above which
only a cylindrical tower protruded, leading historians of the time to believe that the medieval stronghold consisted only of a tower. Archaeological research and reconstruction work on the castle hill was started at the end of the 19th century by the painter and art historian
Władysław Łuszczkiewicz (d. 1900), and more were carried out in the 1920s and after 1945. The current appearance of the castle is due to extensive revitalization realized in the early 21st century.
RUINS AT THE TURN OF THE XIXTH AND XXTH CENTURIES
During archaeological investigations carried out on the castle hill in 1993-2001, several levels of cobblestone in the courtyard, a Gothic stone portal as well as foundations of defense walls and a previously unknown gate tower were uncovered. A large number of various artifacts were also found, including fragments of metal armor and remnants of medieval weapons: axes, swords, arrowheads, spears, and equipment for a rider and his horse: spurs, stirrups, bits and horseshoes.
The research also yielded several coins, including a denarius of Władysław Jagiełło, a Cracow denarius of Queen Jadwiga, a Riga penny of Sigismund III Vasa, two Lithuanian pennies, and a crown shilling of Jan Kazimierz. An old granary was also found at the castle, which still contained (burned) grain.
BITS AND FRAGMENTS OF A MEDIEVAL GAUNTLET FOUND AT CZCHÓW CASTLE
ORIGIN: A. SZPUNAR, M. GLINIANOWICZ: "UZBROJENIE ŚREDNIOWIECZNE Z ZAMKU W CZCHOWIE"
ccording to archaeological research, the oldest structure in the castle is a free-standing tower from the early 14th century, built of sandstone in the southwestern part of the hill. The diameter of the tower at the base is 12.5 meters, and its current height is about 20 meters. It was certainly higher in the past, with its upper part having an octagonal plan. In the Middle Ages, the entrance to the tower was located on the second floor, and accessed from the courtyard by a wooden staircase or ladder. In the early days, the only fortifications of the castle were some ramparts and a wooden stockade.
NORTHWEST ELEVATION OF THE CASTLE, THE DASHED LINE MARKS THE OUTLINE OF THE TOWER, WALLS AND RESIDENTIAL BUILDING BEFORE THE FALL OF THE CASTLE, ORIGIN: A. MARTYKA "RUINY ZAMKU W CZCHOWIE"
TWO TOWERS: CYLINDRICAL MAIN TOWER AND GATE TOWER
n the first half of the 14th century, a stone wall, 1.2 to 2.4 meters thick and up to 10 meters high, was built around the tower. In its western section, on the side of the town, an entrance gate was located. Approximately at the same time, in the northeastern part of the courtyard, a one-story residential house was erected (9.6x21 meters) with vaulted chambers and a hallway that served as a staircase.
FOUNDATIONS OF OUTBUILDING AND RESIDENTIAL HOUSE (IN THE BACKGROUND)
CELLARS OF RESIDENTIAL HOUSE
he gate tower, built on a rectangular plan with sides of 6x7 meters, with two massive buttresses on the western side, dates from the 15th century. Years ago it was probably topped by machicolations. A drawbridge led to the tower over a dry moat.
GATE TOWER (ON THE LEFT) AND THE DRAWBRIDGE LEADING TO IT
IN THE TOWER
uring the last expansion of the castle, dating to the late 15th and early 16th centuries, a single-story outbuilding with a stone floor was erected adjacent to the dwelling house to the south, as well as an annex, known as a guardhouse, located between the main tower and the western wall.
CASTLE RECONSTRUCTION ACCORDING TO JAN SALM
PLAN OF CZCHÓW CASTLE: 1. MAIN TOWER, 2. GATE TOWER, 3. DWELLING HOUSE, 4. OUTBUILDING, 5. GUARDHOUSE
he castle is now mostly a reconstruction, which represents a vision of what it might have looked like in the past. It consists of a reconstructed gate tower, a wooden bridge - also raised from scratch, a perimeter wall, a cylindrical tower and a small building called a guardhouse. It was not decided to reconstruct a dwelling house and outbuilding, but only to expose their foundations and clean cellars. The courtyard of the castle and its immediate surroundings provide space for a historical exhibition of artillery and siege weapons. The tower serves as a vantage point.
EXHIBITION IN THE CASTLE COURTYARD
Admission to the courtyard is free, to the tower – paid.
The duration of the tour depends only on you. It can be assumed that, including the walk from the parking lot and the way back, it should not exceed 1-1.5 hours.
Dogs are allowed in the courtyard, but not in the tower.
At the entrance to the gate tower there are several stairs. Further on, one can move freely only within the courtyard. More stairs lead to the viewpoints (on the foundations of the buildings and on the tower).
No restrictions on recreational flights
AT THE TOP OF THE TOWER
zchów is located near national road 75, about 30 kilometers north of Nowy Sącz. The castle is rising on a hill, 400 meters east of the town square.
A large, free parking lot on Węgierska Street (gentle climb to the castle) or a smaller one, also free, on Basztowa Street (you will have to climb stairs).
1. L. Kajzer, J. Salm, S. Kołodziejski: Leksykon zamków w Polsce, Arkady 2001
2. A. Martyka: Ruiny zamku w Czchowie..., Wiadomości Konserwatorskie 64/2020
3. K. Moskal: Grody i zamki nad Dunajcem i Popradem, Koliber 2011
4. K. Moskal: Leliwici z Melsztyna i ich zamki, Koliber 2007
5. A. Szpunar, M. Glinianowicz: Uzbrojenie późnośredniowieczne z zamku w Czchowie w Małopolsce, Acta Militaria Mediaevalia II, 2006
6. A. Wagner: Murowane budowle obronne w Polsce X-XVIIw., Bellona 2019
Wytrzyszczka - knight's castle from the 14th century, 8 km
Gnojnik - fortified church from the 14th century, 11 km
Melsztyn - ruins of a knight's castle from the 14th century, 11 km
Rożnów - ruins of a Renaissance castle from the 16th century, 15 km
Rożnów - ruins of a knight's castle from the 14th century, 16 km
Dębno - Renaissance castle from the 15th century, 20 km
Wielka Wieś - relics of a knight's castle from the 14th century, 21 km
Nowy Wiśnicz - Baroque castle from the 14th-17th centuries, 22 km
Wieruszyce - fortified mansion from the 15th/16th century, 30 km
Bochnia - castle relics from the 14th century, 31 km
Nowy Sącz - ruins of a royal castle from the 14th century, 34 km
Tarnów - relics of a knight's castle from the 14th century, 38 km
Jeżów - Renaissance fortified mansion from the 15th century, 42 km Stary Sącz - monastery of the Poor Clares from the 14th-17th centuries, 42 km
Historic small-town buildings with a charming Market Square, the central part of which is occupied by a square with the fountain of St. Kinga, the statue of St. John of Nepomuk from the 18th century that is presumably a vote of thanks for saving Czchów from war damage, and the
statue of St. Florian founded to protect the town against fire. At the foot of St. Florian is the medieval statue of a lion moved here from the nearby church.
MARKET SQUARE IN CZCHÓW
ROMANESQUE LION BY THE FIGURE OF ST. FLORIAN
In the northeast corner of the Market Square stands the 14th/15th century parish church built on the site of a Romanesque temple. It is a Gothic, single-nave building with a chancel, a Baroque chapel and a cylindrical stair turret. Formerly, the church also had a tower, but this, fearing collapse, was lowered to the height of the main structure. The interior preserves polychromes from before 1375 and Renaissance tombstones.