hen we admire the picturesque ruins of Krzyżtopór Castle, it is hard to believe that this magnificent building, which was the largest residence in Europe before the creation of
Versailles, functioned in its full glory for only eleven years! It was the magnum opus of the Sandomierz chamberlain and later the voivode
Krzysztof Ossoliński, coat of arms
Topór (d. 1645), who, after gaining wealth from military deliveries, built a residence more splendid than any other magnate palaces, including
the castle in Ossolin, which belonged to his stepbrother
Jerzy Ossoliński (d. 1650). The idea for this project came from the love of Italian architecture, and its archetype is generally considered to be
the Villa Farnese, the pentagon-shaped summer residence of Cardinal
Allesandro Farnese, later Pope Paul III. Construction work, whose total cost is estimated at a 30 million zlotys, began in 1620 and continued under the supervision of the architect Lauretius de Sente until 1644. According to some historians, de Sente was also responsible for the architectural design of the palace, but the lack of other similar concepts in his biography leads to the conclusion that he was entrusted only with the supervisory work, while the author of the concepts and plans was someone else. It is possible that the founder himself was the creator or at least co-designer of the project - Ossoliński had appropriate education and shown some literary and artistic talents. He may also have been assisted by Italian architects Matea Castello of Melide and Agostin Locci the Elder.
BRIDGE AND RUINED GATE ON WATERCOLOUR BY ZYGMUNT VOGEL, THE END OF THE XVIII CENTURY
Krzysztof Ossoliński was born on April 28, 1587 in Bukowsko in the Podkarpacie region. He was the son of Jadwiga Sienieńska and the royal secretary
Jan Zbigniew Ossoliński. At the age of nine he began his studies at the Jesuit college in Lublin, and in 1604 left for the German university in Wurzburg. He continued his education at the universities of Bologna, Padua and Paris, where stayed until 1612. When returned to the homeland, took part in military expeditions against the Tatars and the Turks. Later he was a deputy several times, took part in the election of polish King Władysław IV Vasa and ran (unsuccessfully) for the position of marshal of the Sejm.
His first marriage in 1615 was to Zofia Cikowska, daughter of Stanisław Cikowski coat of arms Radwan, chamberlain of Kraków. After her death in 1638 Krzysztof married Zofia Krasińska, a widow of Mikołaj Spytek Ligęza of Półkozic coat of arms. His third wife was the daughter of the Sandomierz voivode
Mikołaj Firlej, Zofia Elżbieta, whom he married in 1642. All these marriages and subsequent dowries brought substantial income to the Ossoliński family treasury and contributed greatly to development of its economic power.
The owner of Krzyżtopór was known for his wide artistic interests. He was also a fierce adversary of the Reformation - on his initiative, the Arians were expelled from the local towns: Skrzelów, Raków and Iwaniska. Kazimierz Ossoliński died on February 24, 1645.
WOOD ENGRAVING BY J. STIFI BASED ON A DRAWING BY WOJCIECH GERSON FROM AROUND 1860
onstruction work began with levelling the terrain and laying solid foundations - according to legend, some of this work was done by Turkish and Tatar prisoners of war. The castle walls were built of
quartzite sandstone and
dolomite, while the bricks needed for finishing were manufactured from nearby clay deposits. The project in its basic form was probably completed in 1644, as suggested by the inscription on the wall of the palace in elliptical courtyard. It seems, however, that some work on the façade, interior decoration and garden design took much longer, so the founder probably didn't live to see the full boom of his work - because he died in February 1645. A year earlier he gave Krzyżtopór to his only son Krzysztof Baldwin (d. 1649) as a present on the occasion of his wedding with the castellan of Wiślica, Teresa Tarło (d. 1648). Krzysztof Baldwin didn't live here very long, because already four years after his father's death was killed by the Tatars in the battle of Zborów. His body was never found; Krzysztof's second wife Anna Zebrzydowska (d. 1655) regarded his corpse as a stranger when brought to Ujazd.
VIEW OF THE PALACE FROM THE ELLIPTICAL COURTYARD ON OLSZYŃSKI'S DRAWING FROM THE MID-XIXTH CENTURY AND THE PRESENT STATE
he castle was inherited by his uncle
Jerzy Ossoliński, Grand Crown Chancellor, who died of a stroke in 1650. After him, the estate was taken over by his daughter Urszula Brygida and her husband Samuel Jerzy Kalinowski (d. 1652), the son of the Lithuanian princess Helena Korecka. However, the curse hanging over the owners of the palace was felt again, and only two years later Kalinowski died fighting with the Cossacks at the Battle of Batoh. In October 1655, when Krzyżtopór was probably in the hands of the Wiśniowiecki family, Swedish troops under the command of General
Robert Douglas (d. 1662) entered the castle without a fight. Here the Swedes arranged a comfortable quarters, where the regional governor Johann von Essen (d. 1661) was stationed with a group of 400 reiters. Two years later King
Carl Gustav visited Ujazd and personally admired its monumental walls while waiting for a meeting with Prince of Transylvania
Rákóczi György: Here His Royal Highness, as he was inspecting the beautiful castle Krzyżtopór, received a message that the Prince of Transylvania, Rákóczi, was ready to come to kiss the royal hand. The residence also made a great impression on
Erik Dahlberg, the quartermaster of the Swedish army and a brilliant draughtsman, who drew a sketch of Krzyżtopór and accompanied it with a comment Elegantissima iet bene munita arx, which which can be translated as The most beautiful and well fortified stronghold.
PLAN OF THE CASTLE BY ERIK DAHLBERG, SAMUEL PUFENDORF DE REBUS A CAROLO GUSTAVO GESTIS, 1656
he Swedes left Krzyżtopór in the autumn of 1657, but before that they robbed it of its valuable furnishings, decorations and rich book collection. Despite considerable devastation, the building was still inhabited, first by the Wiśniowiecki family, and in 1720 it was settled by the Morsztyn family of
Leliwa coat of arms. None of the subsequent owners of Ujazd had neither the will nor the funds for renovation of the huge palace, so it slowly began to collapse. In the middle of the eighteenth century
Jan Michał Pac (d. 1787),
Gozdawa coat of arms, restored the southern part of the residence, which he used for accommodation. He even made some of the castle's chambers available to the participants of the Bar Confederation, however, after the fall of this uprising he quickly left for France leaving the building devastated and burnt out as a result of battles with the Russians. In consequence, at the end of the century Krzyżtopór was just a beautiful, majestic ruin. After Michał Pac's departure for Marainville in France (where he bought a castle and lived), in 1782 the Ujazd estate was purchased by the Bishop of Kraków,
Kajetan Ignacy Sołtyk (d. 1788), and bequeathed to his relative
Stanisław Sołtyk (d. 1833), a Crown Chamberlain. In 1810, Stanisław Sołtyk presented Krzyżtopór as a gift to his daughter, Konstancja née Sołtyk Łempicka (d. 1836), wife of Ludwik Stanisław Łempicki (d. 1871). The Łempicki family, although very wealthy, did not intend to carry out any construction works here, considering the ruins as a romantic attraction.
CASTLE ON A DRAWING BY ALFRED SCHOUPPE, 1860
VIEW FROM SOUTH-EAST, NAPOLEON ORDA'S LITHOGRAPH FROM THE 1870S
he last pre-war owners of the castle were members of the Orsetti family, who bought it in 1858 and kept it until 1944, while they lived in the nearby manor house. At that time the ruin was used several times as a place of defence or shelter during battles fought in the area. After the outbreak of the January Uprising (1863) one hundred partisans hid there from the Russian. During World War I the inhabitants of the manor found refuge in the ruins from the battles taking place in the vicinity. During the German occupation, meanwhile, the partisan troop "Jędrusie" tested weapons in the basement of the castle, whereas the inhabitants of the village tried to survive the Soviet offensive waiting for the end of the front fights. In late 1944, the ruins were used as food warehouses for the Red Army as part of a huge logistical support before a major offensive on Germany. After the war Krzyżtopór was nationalized on the basis of the so-called land reform. Later, various plans and projects for its development were put forward, including full reconstruction and more modest concepts focusing on permanent protection of the ruins and their adaptation for tourism. Today we know that the second option was chosen, although the (at least partial) reconstruction of this beautiful monument is still an open question.
SOUTH-WESTERN ELEVATION OF THE CASTLE ON A VERY OLD PHOTOGRAPH FROM 1872 AND A CONTEMPORARY VIEW
In April 1944 in the nearby Haliszka village an attack by Polish partisans on the car of Opatów Landrat Otto Ritter took place, which resulted in the death of the Nazi's pregnant wife. In retaliation, on May 25, German military policemen shot at the castle walls 55 prisoners from the arrest in Ostrowiec. Relatives of the victims, who were informed about the execution, came to Ujazd and at night secretly exhumed the corpses of the murdered Poles. This tragic event is commemorated today by a modest grave standing where centuries ago the magnificent French-style gardens were spread out. It holds the remains of 19 people whose identities have not been confirmed.
BASTION WYSOKI RONDEL IN THE NORTHERN PART OF THE CASTLE, PHOTOGRAPHS FROM THE 1930S AND 2020
he pentagonal castle represents the rare in Poland type called palazzo in fortezza, a magnate residence combining sophisticated presentable features with a defensive function. Its shape was inspired by the Farnese
cardinal residence built in Caprarola, Italy, and, as I mentioned earlier, at the time of completion it was the largest building of its kind in Europe. The palace, outbuildings and bastion-type fortifications covered an area of about 1.3 hectares, and the cubature of all the premises was 70 thousand cubic meters. Krzysztof Ossolińs&ki's passion for the magic of numbers, mysterious symbols and astrology probably had a great influence on the layout and spatial arrangement of the palace building, which, according to tradition, was to have 4 towers, 12 halls, 52 chambers and 365 windows - analogically to the number of seasons, months, weeks and days in the calendar year (however, research did not confirm such regularity, e.g. there were certainly fewer halls). The main decoration of the castle gate were two massive bas-reliefs, which gave the name to the place:
the Cross (Krzyż) symbolizing the counter-reformation views of Ossoliński and
the Axe (Topór) coat of arms. Years ago there was a plaque hanging over the entrance, with the inscription: Krzyż obrona/krzyż podpora/dziatki naszego Topora - unfortunately the inscription has not survived.
The gate tower is topped by a quadrilateral storey with the remains of clock faces on each side. It accentuated the entrance to the castle, raising the status of the residence and distinguishing it from other aristocratic seats.
SOUTH-EASTERN ELEVATION OF THE CASTLE WITH A GATE TOWER (CLOCK TOWER), IN 1937 AND AT PRESENT
he compositional axis of the castle is formed by the mutual arrangement of the entrance gate, the elliptical courtyard and the central bastion with an octagonal tower, called Wysoki Rondel. The axis cuts in half the symmetrical body of the palace wing, which refers to ancient Roman architecture. The façade of this building is decorated with recurring
motifs of a triumphal arch with recesses that years ago housed the images of Krzysztof Ossoliński's ancestors and representatives of families related to him. The three-storey palace was complemented by the
topped with an octagonal tower, built at the place where a local little spring called Krzyżtopożanka flows out. A
large vaulted tunnel led to it from the elliptical courtyard, above which there were two representative halls - the dining hall on the second floor, and the ballroom over it. Two-storey, one-bay
side wings (outbuildings) adjoined the palace on both sides, form a complex pentagonal layout with two small and one large trapezoidal courtyard. Their ends are crowned with four
quadrilateral towers, that are higher than the side wings by one storey, thanks to which perfectly emphasize the regularity of the whole composition. The above-ground part of the outbuildings contained utility rooms and servants' quarters, while their cellars housed the stables, which, according to tradition, were equipped with marble mangers and crystal mirrors in ornamented frames to illuminate the gloomy interiors. The complicated spatial layout of the Ossoliński residence was supplemented by the - once rich, now preserved only in fragments - decor of the interiors and the castle elevations accented with
window openings of various sizes and forms.
ONE OF THE CASTLE'S OUTBUILDINGS ON A PHOTOGRAPHS BEFORE AND AFTER RECONSTRUCTION OF THE CEILINGS
THE PICTURE BELOW SHOWS THE FORMER STABLES IN THE LOWER STOREY
Years ago, the façade of the palace in the elliptical courtyard (with a plan similar to the shape of a keyhole) was decorated with the motifs of a triumphal arch and niches in which forty portraits of representatives of magnate families related to Krzysztof Ossoliński were placed, accompanied by an inscription dedicated to each of these persons. Although the paintings faded a long time ago, some inscriptions have survived to the present day, among them:
PODCZASZEMU KRAK. PÓŁKOWNIKOWI DZIELNEMU 1590
W HONOR DOMU IEGO Y PAMIĘĆ
KRZYSZTOFOWI Z BRZEZIA NA
DZIADOWI MEMU 1561
W HONOR DOMU IEGO Y PAMIĘĆ
CONSTANTEMU KSIĄŻĘCIU NA ZAŁOŚCACH
WIŚNIOWIECKIEMU WOIEW. RUSKIEMU
SZWAGROWI ZE KRWI TARŁÓW Y MNISZKÓW
SYNOWEY MEI 1635
W HONOR DOMU IEGO Y PAMIĘĆ
STEPHANOWI NA PRZECŁAWIU KONIEC-
POLSKIEMU PÓŁKOWNIKOWI DO SKONU
SWEGO BRATU MEMU 1629
W HONOR DOMU IEGO Y PAMIĘĆ
In the central part of the elliptical courtyard, opposite the clock tower, there is an inscription indicating the owner of the residence and the year of its construction:
OJCZYZNIE MEY POLSKIEY | WOJEWÓDZTWU SENDOMIRSKIEMU |
BRACI MEY MIŁEY | W HONOR DOMÓW ICH |
KRZYSZTOPH NA TENCZYNIE OSSOLINSKI |
WOJEWODA SENDOMIERSKI | WYSTAWIŁ 1644
MAIN COURTYARD WITH A SOUTHERN ELEVATION OF THE BAROQUE PALACE
VIEW OF THE PALACE FROM THE NORTHWEST, IN THE FOREGROUND THERE IS AN OCTAGONAL TOWER SURROUNDED BY A BASTION WYSOKI RONDEL
he fortification line was formed by an earthwork built on a pentagonal plan. It was linked by five bastions with imaginative names: Szary Mnich (der grawe Munch), Smok (der Drache), Korona (die Croone), Oto dla Ciebie (Siehe dich fuhr) and Wysoki Rondel (das hohe Rondel). The bastions were filled with earth with the exception of Wysoki Rondel, which was equipped with casemates containing two levels of gun windows. On the top of the embankment there was a rampart path and brick parapets with overwatch positions, from where the whole foreground could be effectively fired. The 600 meter long line of stone and earth fortifications was surrounded by a dry moat carved in the rock. Communication with the outside world was provided by an arcaded single-span stone bridge, connected to a wooden drawbridge.
BASTION SMOK IN THE EASTERN PART OF THE CASTLE FORTIFICATIONS
STARTING FROM THE LEFT WE SEE THE BASTIONS: WYSOKI RONDEL, KORONA AND SZARY MNICH
CASTLE ARCHITECTURE IN NUMBERS
cubic capacity: 70,000 cubic meters
total area: 1.3 hectares
total length of walls: 600 meters
length x width: 120 x 95 meters
owadays Krzyżtopór is a picturesque ruin lost among the fields of Opatów, far from the main roads and tourist trails. It is the most representative building in the Sandomierz region and the largest fortified magnate residence in Poland. Despite destruction that has taken place here since the castle was abandoned by its last inhabitants, the spatial layout of the ruins is still surprisingly clear. As much as 90 percent of its walls have survived, but unfortunately only 10 percent of its vaults. What is very important, the building has never been rebuilt according to new trends in architecture, so we can admire it in almost its original shape, not affected by later changes. In many places you can still see the remnants of sgraffito or stone details representing the original decoration of windows and portals. The building was officially opened to tourists in 1991 and since 2008 it is managed by Institution of Culture Krzyżtopór Castle in Ujazd. Among the long list of investments carried out here in recent years, the most significant are replacing the roofs, partial reconstruction of the gatehouse, marking out new sightseeing routes, and installing the long-awaited lighting in the castle cellars.
POOR REMAINS OF ORIGINAL ARCHITECTURAL DETAILS OF THE CASTLE
he castle can be visited individually or with a guide, at certain times night tours are also possible. The tourist offer includes
several sightseeing routes, but choosing one of them does not mean giving up the attractions of the others. These routes can be freely combined and crossed with each other, and the only restriction here is the obligation to move in a strictly defined direction: one-way traffic is required. You won't find any exhibitions or furnishings at the castle - it's worth knowing this in advance to avoid disappointment. In fact, we see
only naked walls, but their size, form and state of preservation is already quite an attraction and the lack of equipment
in the underground and cellars is even a certain advantage, making them more gloomy and mysterious (it's worth taking a flashlight to the underground!). Visitors have access to halls and rooms up to the height of the second floor, stables and cellars, as well as
the crown of defensive walls, where a separate walking route around the wings of the former palace has been marked out.
EXPLORING THE KRZYŻTOPÓR CASTLE: THE OVAL COURTYARD, IN THE TUNNEL LEADING TO THE TOWER, THE OUTBUILDINGS
You cannot enter the ruins with a dog. The entrance is only for guide animals belonging to disabled people.
The ruin looks rather inconspicuous from the street perspective, losing much of its charm. The full majesty of the castle can only be seen when observing it from the air. It is not difficult, because there is a lot of free space around, especially on the side of the former gardens, where there are now only meadows and fields. Flights directly over the ruin require manager's permission.
RUIN OF THE DINING HALL IN THE MAIN PART OF THE PALACE
IN THE CASTLE TOWER
FACTS AND MYTHS ABOUT KRZYŻTOPÓR CASTLE
According to tradition, the ceiling of the dining room was to be made of glass. Above it was supposed to be a huge aquarium. Presumably, however, this widespread theory has little to do with the truth. This is because the bottom of the aquarium gets dirty very quickly, so the guests standing under it would not see much anyway.
There is a spring in the cellars of the northern tower, which supplied the castle with running water. The spring is called Krzyżtopożanka and is believed to be curative.
In one of the underground chambers you can see 300 hundred years old small stalactites and stalagmites.
The former castle stables have excellent acoustic properties. The conditions there are so good that it is possible to organize small concerts in these premises.
In the 1960s, rumors circulated in the area about a mysterious U.S. citizen who wanted to buy the ruin, cut it into blocks, and then transport it to his property in Texas and reassemble it there.
HOW TO GET THERE?
he castle is situated by road no. 758 connecting Iwaniska with Klimontów, about 15 km southwest of Opatów. The village is reached by bus, but rarely, so it is not worth counting on it. The best way to visit Ujazd is by individual transport.
Two parking lots are located directly next to the ruins:
the first one by the southwest curtain wall (entrance directly from road 758) and
the second one, smaller but paved, a bit east of the castle. Parking is free (2020).
1. R. Jurkowski: Zamki świętokrzyskie, Wydawnictwo CM 2017
2. L. Kajzer, J. Salm, S. Kołodziejski: Leksykon zamków w Polsce, Arkady 2001
3. T. Kuls: Krzyżtopór, Zabytki Heritage nr 3/2006
4. J. Myjak: Opatów i okolice. Zamek Krzyżtopór w Ujeździe, PAIR 2008
5. A. R. Sypek: Zamki i warownie ziemi sandomierskiej, TRIO 2003
6. A. Wagner: Murowane budowle obronne w Polsce X-XVIIw., Bellona 2019
KRZYŻTOPÓR, VIEW FROM THE WEST
DUCKWEED-COVERED KRZYŻTOPOŻANKA FLOWING OUT OF WYSOKI RONDEL
Castles nearby: Konary - relics of the knight's castle from the 14th century, 8 km
Tudorów - relics of the knight's castle from the 14th century, 15 km Ossolin - relics of the aristocratic castle from the 17th century, 18 km
Ptkanów - fortified church from the 14th century, 18 km
Rembów - relics of the knight's castle from the 14th century, 20 km
Międzygórz - relics of the royal castle from the 14th century, 25 km
Rytwiany - relics of the knight's castle from the 14th century, 31 km Kurozwęki - knights' castle from the 14th century, rebuilt in the Baroque style, 33 km Szydłów - ruins of the royal castle from the 14th century, 34 km