ack of any historical records makes it impossible to determine the exact date when Rabsztyn castle was built and who founded it. According to the most popular theory, the stronghold was erected by a representative of the knightly family of Toporczyk from Morawica. Alternatively, it is linked to the investment activity of Silesian duke
Henry the Bearded (d. d. 1238), who supposedly erected three castles in the area during the war waged against Konrad of Mazovia (d. 1247), or to the activity of bishop Muskata of Cracow (d. 1320), a political opponent of polish duke
Władysław Łokietek (d. 1333) and the alleged founder of several strongholds in western Małopolska.
CONDITION OF THE RUINS BEFORE RECONSTRUCTION (2009) AND PRESENT STATE, VIEW FROM THE NORTHWEST
he oldest known document concerning the castle dates back to the end of the 14th century and mentions a burgrave named Iwo of Karniów and a chaplain named Grzegorz. At the time, Rabsztyn belonged to Spytko the Second of Melsztyn, of
Leliwa Coat of Arms, a young voivode of Cracow and administrator of Podole, who died tragically in 1399 while fighting the Tatars in eastern Ukraine. After his death, Rabsztyn and the adjacent villages received his widow, Elżbieta Lackfi-Melsztyńska (d. 1424), and burgrave Jan Lorek administered the castle on her behalf.
he castle's owners only occasionally visited the castle, handing over direct supervision to the burgraves, an officials responsible for overseeing the guards and military organization in the region. We know by name almost all the burgraves managing the castle after 1400. At the beginning of the 15th century, this function was held, among others, by Peszek Momot of
Gryf coat of arms, who in 1412 supervised a reconstruction of the castle tower and a digging of a new well. After him, the office of Rabsztyn burgrave belonged also to: Jan Kożuszek of Mników, Mikołaj Siestrzeniec of
Kornicz coat of arms (d. 1445), and Jan of Parcz, a representative of the local nobility.
RECONSTRUCTED GATE TOWER AT THE MIDDLE CASTLE
n 1421, Spytko the Second's two sons divided their father's inheritance, whereby Rabsztyn was taken by the older of the brothers, Jan Melsztyński (d. 1427). After Jan's death, the estate came into the hands of his brother, Spytko the Third, the legal guardian of Jan's daughter Jadwiga. Soon after, Spytko became involved in the Hussite revolution and took up arms against royal authority. In 1437 he was killed in the Battle of Grotniki. In retaliation for his rebellion against the superior, his property was confiscated by king
Władysław III, and the entire Melsztyński family lost its titles of nobility.
IN THE CASTLE COURTYARD
nder insistence from the nobility, in 1441, the king mitigated this verdict: he gave back the castles of Rabsztyn and Książ to Spytko's widow, Beatrice of Szamotuły, and restored to his family the titles previously taken away. However, Melsztyńscy did not regain their former influence, and only a few decades later this previously wealthy and privileged family line died out. The last of its representatives, Jan Melsztyński (6th generation), a wastrel and outlaw, about whom we know only that he stole a silver cup, passed away in poverty and oblivion in the Bernardine monastery in Tarnów, probably in 1540.
VIEW OF THE CASTLE FROM THE EAST
owever, before this happened, Jan's daughter, Jadwiga (d. after 1449) married Andrzej Tęczyńskicoat of arms Topór (d. 1461) bringing him Książ Wielki, Żabno and Rabsztyn castle as dowry. A year after the wedding, that is in 1442, Tęczyński, at the king's behest but using his own funds, carried out some construction work on the castle, including the superstructure of the main tower and the erection of the first brick buildings in the lower castle. Andrzej's death was quite unusual - in fact, he was killed by Cracow craftsmen during a riot after he severely beaten up an armorer who improperly had made him the armor. His son Jan (d. 1498) took the surname derived from properties he owned and was henceforth called Rabsztyński. The last male representative of the Rabsztyński family, Andrzej, a canon of Cracow, died in 1509. The rights to his inheritance were given to his three sisters, who in 1511 sold the castle for 4,000 florins to Andrzej of Kościeleccoat of arms Ogończyk (d. 1515), treasurer of the crown.
ONE OF THE OLDEST KNOWN VIEWS OF RABSZTYN CASTLE, WATERCOLOR BY ZYGMUNT VOGEL FROM 1792
n 1515 Rabsztyn was taken over by
Jan Boner (d. 1523), a representative of a wealthy Cracow bourgeois family and owner of
Ogrodzieniec castle. After Jan's death, the estate went into the hands of
Seweryn Boner of
Bonarowa coat of arms (d. 1549), a Cracow magnate, who belonged to the richest people of Małopolska. Despite the fact that Rabsztyn starosty was quite poor in terms of income compared to the others, the Boners' wealth, which came from many sources, made it possible to expand the castle, which by the end of the 16th century already occupied the entire hill. During this period Rabsztyn represented a thriving center of Reformation - among other things, in 1556
Jan Łaski, the most prominent Polish Protestant theologian, stayed here. In 1574, polish king-elect
Henri de Valois, the future ruler of France
Henri III, stayed overnight at the castle.
At the end of the 16th century, king
Stefan Batory bred his lions near the castle. This was one of four places where the royal kennels of these beautiful animals were located. The others were in: Cracow, the Warsaw vicinity and an unspecified location in Lithuania.
LANDSCAPE PAINTED BY ALFRED SCHOUPPE, 1860
n 1587, the commander of the castle's military garrison, colonel Gabriel Hołubek (d. 1588), accompanied by Olkusz miners, battered near Rabsztyn a unit of several hundred men transporting supplies of food and ammunition given by the bishops of Olomouc and Wrocław to the army of archduke
Maximilian Habsburg (who invaded Poland hoping for the royal crown). After the death of the last of three successive Boners, Seweryn the Younger (d. 1592),
Mikołaj Wolski of
Półkozic coat of arms (d. 1630) became starost of Rabsztyn, followed by
Zygmunt Gonzaga Myszkowski of
Jastrzębiec coat of arms (d. 1615). At the beginning of the 17th century, one of them erected in lower castle a grand palace with 40 comfortable chambers. As a result of this expansion, the rock fortress lost some of its fortified character and acquired the features of a fashionable residency.
RUINS OF THE XVII-CENTURY PALACE
n 1612 Anna Myszkowska (d. 1621), Wincenty's daughter, married greedy and wastefulMikołaj Komorowski (d. 1633), bringing him, among other things, the castle in Rabsztyn as a dowry. When Komorowski died, the position of starost was assumed by grand crown chancellor
Tomasz Zamoyski of
Jelita coat of arms (d. 1638), followed by Samuel Rylski of
Ostoja coat of arms, crown chamberlain and royal treasurer (d. 1659). In 1649, Rylski ceded the castle to his cousin Aleksander Płaza of
Topór coat of arms (d. 1657), and the latter sold it four years later to Stefan Korciński, a young and ambitious crown chancellor (d. 1658). Toward the end of his life Rabsztyn was invaded and then burned by Swedish troops retreating from Silesia (1657). This catastrophe caused a rapid decline in the splendor of this magnificent residence.
t the beginning of the 19th century, the castle was already in such poor condition that the owners decided to abandon it definitively. From then on, the local population dismantled its walls, thus acquiring cheap building material. At the end of the 19th century there was still a castle tower, but in 1901 it collapsed due to detonation of explosives put by treasure hunters. Although the idea of rebuilding the stronghold appeared in the interwar period, because of a lack of funds it was not realized. The present appearance of the castle is due to the costly, large-scale revitalization carried out in years 2008-2020.
he Gothic castle was built on top of a high rock. From the south and west, access to it was limited by cliffs and from the north and east (where the slope is gentler) by earthen ramparts. It consisted of a high tower and an attached residential building, which were surrounded by defensive walls running on the edge of the rock. The shape of the tower is not entirely known to us; it was probably slightly quadrilateral at the base and elliptical above (the tower originally may have been up to three times as tall as it is today). The east wing of the residential building housed a hallway and a large, probably representative hall, where
fragments of an original brick floor and relics of a hypocaustum-type stove have survived. The western part, on the other hand, contained smaller chambers arranged in single-track. Stairs led to the upper castle from the south, in the lower part - carved into the rock, and wooden ones above (which could be burned if necessary).
UPPER CASTLE, VIEW FROM THE SOUTH
UPPER CASTLE, INTERIORS
PLAN OF THE MAIN FLOOR OF THE UPPER CASTLE: 1. TOWER, 2. HALLWAY, 3. STAIRCASE,
4. REPRESENTATIVE HALL, 5. WEST WING
o the south of the upper castle a farmyard was situated, which over time evolved into a middle castle. Initially, it was surrounded by a wooden palisade, and from the mid-15th century - by a solid stone wall with a gate in its eastern curtain and a drawbridge spanned over a dry moat. The structure of this part of the stronghold consisted of two buildings (west, south), mainly of an economic nature, formed into an L-shape. Between them stood a slightly taller corner tower. In 1412, a well was dug in the northwestern part of the courtyard, with a horizontal corridor several meters deep. It was probably an escape tunnel allowing the crew to discreetly get outside the castle.
REMAINS OF A CASTLE WELL FROM THE XV CENTURY
MIDDLE CASTLE COURTYARD, ON THE LEFT THERE ARE RUINS OF THE RENAISSANCE PALACE (LOWER CASTLE)
ack in the 15th century, the first wooden and masonry buildings appeared on a lower castle. A faint remnant of those times are the square holes in the rock under the tower, which are relics of wooden beams that formed a roof structure of the stables. At the turn of the 16th and 17th centuries, presumably on the initiative of starost Mikołaj Wolski, a large Renaissance palacee was erected on the eastern side of the hill, which consisted of two residential wings with three floors each. Its courtyard was surrounded by cloisters that provided communication between forty living chambers.
PLAN OF THE CASTLE AND VIEW OF THE RUINS FROM THE SOUTH: 1. TOWER, 2. UPPER CASTLE - SOUTH WING, 3. STAIRCASE, 4. GOTHIC WINDOW, 5. STAIRCASE, 6. FIREPLACE NICHE, 7. COURTYARD OF THE MIDDLE CASTLE, 8. BUTTRESSES, 9. UTILITY BARRACKS, 10. MANOR HOUSE, 11. STABLES, 12. FORMER GATE, 13. MAIN GATE, 14. COURTYARD OF THE LOWER CASTLE, 15. CLOISTERS, 16. BAKERY, 17. STAIRCASE, 18. LIVING CHAMBERS, 19. SIDE ENTRANCE TO THE PALACE
ragments of original defensive walls have survived, as well as modest remains of the upper castle, picturesquely incorporated into the rock, and
exterior walls of the palace up to the height of its third story. Sections of the moat, embankment and bridge abutment leading to the gate are also still visible. For many decades the castle stood abandoned and neglected. Only after it had been taken over by the Olkusz municipality was it cleared of debris, a well was discovered, as well as the remains of a castle's bathhouse and a kitchen. In 2009, renovation work began here, culminating in
restoration of the entrance gate, partial reconstruction of the outer walls and rebuilding of the upper castle with tower. Both courtyards were also cleaned up and a controversial new exhibition pavilion raised in place of the former west wing of the middle castle.
RABSZTYN CASTLE, CURRENT STATE
UGLY EXHIBITION PAVILION AT THE MIDDLE CASTLE
urrently, the castle is one of the region's top tourist attractions. Its cellars house a tourist information center, a café and restrooms, while the former guardhouse and a newly built pavilion exhibit architectural details found during reconstruction. Terraces located at the main tower and the tower of the middle castle offer a wide panoramic view of the picturesque hills of Cracow-Częstochowa Upland.
PANORAMA OF RABSZTYN SURROUNDING AREA SEEN FROM THE MAIN TOWER
Admission fee. Tours can be individual or guided (only on weekends).
Tour time: 45-60 minutes.
The castle is adapted for people with disabilities.
Dogs (on a leash) welcome. Only ticket office/café can not be entered with a dog.
Lots of open space and no restrictions make the area around ruins a great place for bird's eye shots.
TOWER STAIRCASE / DESCENT TO TICKET OFFICE AND CAFÉ
LAPIDARIUM ON THE FIRST FLOOR OF THE GUARDHOUSE
he castle ruins are located on the left side of the road leading from Olkusz to Wolbrom. The nearest train station is in Olkusz, 4 km far from the castle. BP buses (direction: Polesie) also commute here from the town.
A paid parking lot with a capacity of about 50 cars is located east of the ruins. It is equipped with video surveillance and toilets. From here a paved path leads to the castle.
CASTLE PARKING LOT, YOU CAN SEE THE CASTLE IN THE BACKGROUND (THIS BRIGHT SPOT)
1. O. Dziechciarz: Rabsztyn od końca XVI do końca XVIII w., Przegląd Olkuski
2. L. Kajzer, J. Salm, S. Kołodziejski: Leksykon zamków w Polsce, Arkady 2001
3. R. Krajewski, R. Kubiszyn: Orle gniazda i warownie jurajskie, Orla Baszta 1997
4. J. Laberscheck: Uwagi i uzupełnienia do genealogii Melsztyńskich herbu Leliwa, ŚPiP, 2(6) 2010
5. K. Moskal: Leliwici z Melsztyna i ich zamki, Koliber 2007
6. R. Rogiński: Zamki i twierdze w Polsce - historia i legendy, IWZZ 1990
7. R. Sypek: Zamki i obiekty warowne Jury Krakowsko-Częstochowskiej, Agencja Wydawnicza CB
8. J. Sypień: Historia zamku Rabsztyn
9. J. Zinkow: Orle gniazda i warownie jurajskie, Sport i Turystyka 1977
10.A. Wagner: Murowane budowle obronne w Polsce X-XVIIw., Bellona 2019
Castles nearby: Bydlin - ruins of a 13th/14th century knight's castle, 13 km Ryczów - remains of a royal watchtower from the 14th century, 15 km
Sławków - relics of a 13th-century bishop's castle, 17 km Pieskowa Skała - a royal castle from the 14th-17th centuries, 19 km Podzamcze - ruins of Ogrodzieniec castle from the 14th-16th centuries, 22 km Smoleń - ruins of a 14th century knight's castle, 23 km
Młoszowa - a fortified mansion from the 16th century, rebuilt, 24 km Wielka Wieś (Biały Kościół) - relics of a 14th century knight's castle, 26 km Ojców - ruins of a royal castle from the 14th century, 27 km
Pilica - a knight's castle from the 14th century, rebuilt, 27 km Udórz - relics of a 14th century knight's castle, 27 km
Rudno - ruins of Tęczyn castle from the 14th century, 28 km
Wysocice - a romanesque fortified church from the 12th/13th century, 28 km Korzkiew - a knight's castle from the 14th/15th century, 32 km
Babice - ruins of the bishops' castle Lipowiec from the 13th/14th century, 34 km
Morsko - a castle ruin from the 14th century, 35 km Będzin - a royal castle from the 14th century, 36 km Sosnowiec - Sielecki castle from the XV-XVII centuries, 36 km
A wooden cottage from the mid-19th century, standing near the castle parking lot on the road leading to the ruins. It is a partial reconstruction of of Antoni Kocjan's family house (d. 1944), an award-winning glider engineer and head of the Polish air intelligence service, who discovered the secrets of German V1 and V2 weapons. Inside you'll find memorabilia of the outstanding aircraft builder, as well as equipment and household furnishings from more than a century ago. Admission included in the price of the castle ticket.