t the present stage of our knowledge of written sources and archaeological research, the establishment of the castle in Smoleń should be linked to the foundation of Sandomierz voivode Otto of Pilczacoat of arms Topór (d. 1384) or his father Jan (d. ca. 1360), castellan of Radom and the first source-confirmed lord of the local estates. The oldest document known to us about it dates from 1396, but the earlier existence of the stronghold may be suggested by a 1368 reference to the chapel of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Pilica, which is identified with the castle chapel, since no such church existed in the town at the time. From the beginning, the castle served as the seat of the Toporczyk family, which was among the richest and most powerful in the entire kingdom in the 14th century.
UPPER AND LOWER CASTLE BEFORE (LEFT) AND AFTER REVITALIZATION
hen Otto had died, the huge estate was inherited by his daughter Elisabeth (Elżbieta z Pilczy, d. 1420), who became the richest maiden in Polish Kingdom at the time. After two short marriages, the only 25-year-old double widow married in 1397 Wincenty Granowski
of Leliwa coat of arms, and when he had died in 1410 while staying in Toruń (probably poisoned by Teutonic Knights), she married again, becoming the protagonist of a scandal reaching the very heights of power. In fact, Elisabeth's fourth husband was the King of Poland himself,
Ladislaus Jagiełło (Władysław Jagiełło, d. 1434), who (according to a medieval chronicler) had a strange love for her. Due to Elisabeth's advanced age and thus little chance of giving birth to the royal descendant so expected by the court, the nobility mostly condemned the king's relationship with the 45-year-old woman and refused to take part in the wedding festivities. Even further in his criticism went Bishop Stanisław Ciołek, who wrote a virulent lampoon in which he compared Elizabeth to an old stinking sow exhausted by multiple births.
AT THE UPPER CASTLE
Elisabeth of Pilcza (born 1372) was the only child of Sandomierz voivode Otto of Pilcza and Jadwiga Melsztyńska (godmother of King Władysław Jagiełło). After her father's death, she became the heiress of a huge estate, which, accompanied by her extraordinary - as it was written - beauty, made her one of the most attractive maidens in the entire kingdom. For this reason, as early as the age of 17 she was to be kidnapped (along with her mother) from Pilcza Castle and later married to Vishl Chambor of the Bohemian-Moravian family of Wizenburg. The marriage was broken after less than two years by Jenczyk of Hiczyn, who, on Jagiełło's orders, released Elisabeth and then...married her, killing Czambor beforehand. The above story is confirmed only in the writings of the medieval chronicler Jan Długosz, which is why some historians question Elizabeth's first two marriages, explaining them as fabricated by Długosz for the purpose of discrediting her in the eyes of posterity.
What is historically confirmed, however, is her marriage to castellan Wincenty Granowski, who took her in October 1397. From the marriage, which lasted thirteen years, at least five children were born: Jadwiga, Otto, Elisabeth, Ofka and Jan - later the founder of the Pilecki family. The fourth (or only second) husband of Elisabeth became the Polish King Ladislaus Jagiełło (Władysław Jagiełło), who, after the death of Anna Cylejska, decided to marry a widow, which most of the nobility and the royal court resented, criticizing both the advanced age of the candidate and the "incestuous" nature of such a relationship - since Elisabeth's mother was also Jagiełło's godmother. The coronation of the new queen was held in an atmosphere of scandal, and many of the wealthy did not attend at all.
Elisabeth died on May 14, 1420, presumably of tuberculosis. Just how widespread the dislike of the queen was (at least according to Długosz) can be witnessed by reaction of the inhabitants of Cracow: [...] the news of her death deeply pleased the royal court and the entire Kingdom of Poland, for they all rejoiced together that the disgrace of their king had been wiped away, and at the time of the funeral they arranged a greater ovation than at the coronation [...]. They all dressed in more festive robes and took part in the queen's funeral festivities, laughing and rejoicing.
CASTLE IN SMOLEŃ, K. STRONCZYŃSKI "OPISY I WIDOKI ZABYTKÓW W KRÓLESTWIE POLSKIM 1844-55"
fter Elisabeth's death, the Pilica estate was taken over by Jan Granowski vel Pileckiof Leliwa coat of arms (d. 1476), stepson and trusted official of Ladislaus Jagiełło. The Smoleń castle remained in the possession of this family line for more than a century and a half, being modernized and expanded several times during that time. Jan Granowski married Jadwiga Kurowska (d. 1470), with whom he had three daughters: Zofia, Katarzyna and Barbara, and three sons: Stanisław, Otto and Jan. Following the division of his father's estate, Pilica, Smoleń and
Ogrodzieniec castle were given to Jan (II) Pilecki (d. 1496), castellan of Biecz, patron of the arts and owner of a large book collection kept in the Smoleń castle.
CASTLE RUINS ON A WOODCUT BY ROMAN HUBICKI, 1858
ENGRAVING BY ALFRED SCHOUPPE FROM 1860
etween 1492 and 1516, the castle was home to
Biernat of Lublin, a Renaissance poet, translator and fabulist, who serves here as Jan Pilecki's personal secretary. The son of this Jan, Jan (III) Pilecki spent most of his life on war expeditions actively participating in campaigns against the Tatars, Wallachians and Russians, where he fought, among other things, in the famous Battle of Orsha (1514). He died childless in 1527, as a result of which the castle was inherited by as many as six sons of his brother Stanisław, and after 1560 it passed to the son of one of the six brothers - Jan (IV) Pilecki (d. 1574), royal captain and the last lord of Smoleń from Leliwita family line.
GENRE SCENES FROM THE WORK OF BIERNAT OF LUBLIN: "ŻYWOT EZOPA FRYGA", 1578
fter 1570 Smoleń became the property of the bishop of Cracow
Filip Padniewski, and after his unexpected death in 1572 it passed by inheritance to his nephew Wojciech Padniewski (d. 1610). The new owner, however, no longer lived in the castle, but in a manor house located at the foot of the castle hill, and then in neighboring town of Pilica, where he had erected a magnificent residence of the palazzo in fortezza type. Perhaps Padniewski's decision to leave the stronghold, dictated by changing trends in residential architecture, development of firearms and, above all, the need to increase the comfort of his home, was accelerated by its capture in 1587 and partial destruction by the Austrian troops of Maximilian Habsburg, as a result of which a modernization of the castle no longer made economic sense.
PILICA PALACE AND ITS FORTIFICATIONS ON POSTCARDS FROM THE EARLY 20TH CENTURY
fter the death of Wojciech Padniewski, his son Stanisławcomes de PilczaPadniewski (d. 1611) became the owner of Smoleń and Pilica for a short time (he died just one year after his father), then the estate passed to the Dukes of Zbaraż:
Krzysztof (d. 1627) and
Jerzy (d. 1631), and then to the rich Wiśniowiecki family. Further, through marriage with Helena Wiśniowiecka (d. 1650), it became part of the wealthy domain of Mazovian voivode
Stanisław Warszycki (d. 1680). By this time, however, the castle was almost completely abandoned, presenting little economic or military value. As late as 1655, Polish troops used it for defense against Swedish army, which, according to tradition, captured the stronghold and then burned it. After the Swedes left, Warszycki proposed to the Franciscans that they adapt the devastated castle into a monastery, but the latter rejected the proposal, which ultimately sealed the sad fate of the medieval building.
CASTLE IN SMOLEŃ, "TYGODNIK ILUSTROWANY" 1877
DRAWING BY BOLESŁAW OLSZOWSKI, 1879
tanisław Warszycki's great-granddaughter was
Agnes Emercjanna Warszycka (d. ca. 1736), a woman so eccentric that she was considered mentally ill. In 1730 the Pilica estate passed from her to King Jan III Sobieski's daughter-in-law,
Maria Józefa née Wessel (d. 1761), to be handed over just before her death to her nephew
coat-of-arms Rogala, Grand Treasurer of the Crown (d. 1791). As a result of the third partition of Poland, Smoleń came under the rule of the Austrian authorities, who ordered the partial demolition of the castle walls for the construction of a border chamber. Local residents and treasure hunters also had their share in the work of destroying the old stronghold; deluded by legends, they dismantled castle walls, accelerating their erosion.
It should be mentioned here that stories spreading among the local population about a treasure hidden in the castle were not unfounded, as in the 1990s a vessel filled with coins dating back several centuries was excavated near the castle.
RUINS ON A LITHOGRAPH BY NAPOLEON ORDA, 1881
emolition of the castle was halted only in the 1840s by
Roman Hubicki (d. 1861), owner of the Batawia factory producing shotgun pellets. He used the castle well to draw raw material for his production, but at the same time, as a lover of history and enthusiast of national monuments, he tried to clean up the ruins. In 1845, on his order, the southern slope of Castle Mountain was being cleared, with the intention of setting up a vine plantation. During this work, considerable quantities of human bones, bladed weapons and fragments of war equipment such as spurs, stirrups and axes were discovered, probably left here after some siege of the stronghold from medieval times. Around this time, the castle tower was partially restored, and in one of the bailey, workers discovered relics of a cemetery dating back to the Lusatian culture period.
CASTLE MOUNTAIN, WORLD WAR I POSTCARDS
uring World War I, the ruins were fired upon several times by Russian and Austrian troops fighting in the area. They were protected only in the 1950s and 1960s, but later, deprived of regular care,
deteriorated more and more over time. In 2013-16, an extensive revitalization of the castle was carried out on the initiative of the Pilica town council, which brought it back to the region's top tourist attractions.
WESTERN LOWER CASTLE, A VIEW BEFORE AND AFTER REVITALIZATION
In 2014, during revitalization of the lower castle, two World War I graves were discovered, with incomplete remains of at least three soldiers and possibly a few more. These remains were badly dismembered, which may indicate that those buried here died as a result of artillery fire. Also found at the site were pieces of military equipment and uniforms, including a military buckle and buttons with Austro-Hungarian coat of arms, as well as ammunition, spoons and oilers used to store grease for weapon conservation.
UPPER CASTLE AND A FRAGMENT OF THE LOWER (EASTERN) CASTLE WALL, A VIEW BEFORE AND AFTER REVITALIZATION
moleń Castle represents a type of mountain fortress with a clearly defined upper castle built on a hard-to-reach limestone rock and two independent lower castles. Its dominant feature is a cylindrical tower with a diameter of 7.5 meters, from which walls run along the edge of the rock. Its function in the past was to defend the bridgehead after attackers occupied the rest of the stronghold, and it also served as an observation and signaling platform. In the eastern part of the upper castle stood a building of two or three stories, connected to the tower via a footbridge that led to the wooden platform of the tower, from where stairs could be used to reach the top of it. A small space separating the building from the tower was occupied by a courtyard with a water cistern carved into the rock. The only entrance to the upper castle led through a wicket in the northern section of the perimeter walls.
AT THE UPPER CASTLE
he economic life of the stronghold took place in the eastern lower castle, enclosed by walls 2 meters thick, topped by a crenellation and equipped with a wooden porch for guards. The southeastern part of these walls was flanked by a half-tower, presumably connected to a wooden building, the existence of which is evidenced by archaeological findings. The entrance to the area led from the west, through a sharp-arched gate, where recesses were preserved for the mechanism used to lower the portcullis. The approach to the gate was impeded by a dry moat and a naturally shaped rampart formed by rocks. A drawbridge crossed over the moat, which, when raised, provided additional protection for the gate.
EASTERN LOWER CASTLE
GATE LEADING TO THE EASTERN LOWER CASTLE, VIEW BEFORE AND AFTER REVITALIZATION
t is likely that in the 2nd half of the 15th century a second lower castle was erected on the flattening
in the western part of the mountain. At first, the main building here was a quadrangular
residential tower with two floors above ground and a vaulted basement - there is a hypothesis that it housed the chambers of Biernat of Lublin, who lived and worked in Smoleń for 25 years. At the turn of the 15th and 16th centuries, the western part of outer fortifications was remodeled and, based on their new plan, the so-called
palace was built, having two or three stories, connected by wooden galleries. Historians assume that this palace housed the famous Pileckis' library, and possibly also an armory and living chambers, as indicated by numerous remains of stove tiles that have been found here.
WESTERN LOWER CASTLE
MEDIEVAL RESIDENTIAL TOWER AT THE EASTERN LOWER CASTLE
he entrance to the western lower castle led through
a gateway in the southern wall, although due to its narrow width it was more of an entrance for pedestrians or, eventually, those moving on horseback. A well was carved near the gate, the depth of which is as yet unknown, but it is believed that it may have originally reached up to 100 meters. The upper castle could only be accessed from the western lower castle.
THE WELL AT THE LOWER CASTLE, VIEW BEFORE AND AFTER REVITALIZATION
PLAN OF SMOLEŃ CASTLE: A. UPPER CASTLE, B. EASTERN LOWER CASTLE, C. WESTERN LOWER CASTLE,
1. MAIN TOWER, 2. RESIDENTIAL BUILDING IN THE UPPER CASTLE, 3. HALF-TOWER, 4. ARTILLERY GUN EMPLACEMENTS,
5. GATE, 6. RESIDENTIAL TOWER, 7. PALACE, 8. WELL, 9. TOWER, 10. GATE, 11. REMAINS OF WOODEN BUILDINGS,
12. ENTRANCE TO THE UPPER CASTLE
he ruins are located on the top of a conical mountain covered with dense forest. Almost complete outer walls of the lower castles and the upper castle have been preserved to the present day, which, thanks to successful restoration, are now close to their original height. Walls of the residential buildings have also been partially reconstructed, and wooden porches have been built for tourists at some sections of the eastern courtyard walls, which imitate medieval guard gallery.
RECONSTRUCTION OF THE WOODEN GALLERIES AT THE LOWER CASTLE
he reconstruction has not erased remains of old portals, openings for ceiling beams and relics of the furnace, which, after cleaning the limestone walls, are now clearly visible. A solid wooden staircase leads from the western courtyard to the upper castle with a tower, which was inaccessible until recently. Today there is a viewing platform on top of it, from where one can enjoy a vast panorama of the picturesque Kraków-Czętochowska Upland.
IN THE WEST COURTYARD / CONTEMPORARY STAIRCASE TO THE UPPER CASTLE
A 4.3-hectare Smoleń Nature Reserve was established on the castle hill. It is home to a beech-hornbeam and larch forest with beautiful specimens of sycamore and larch, often 200 years old. Its flora is represented by more than 200 species, while its fauna includes among others 34 species of snails. The reserve also features beautiful rock formations shaped in karst processes: Zawisza, Wypaleniec, Gaj and Symulowa Rock in Złożeniec. Approximately 1.5 kilometers south of the castle are Zegarowe Rocks with caves where remains of human settlements 40,000 years old have been found.
WESTERN LOWER CASTLE
Admission fee (ticket office is located at the parking lot at the foot of the castle hill)
A visit to the castle, including the climb up the hill and back, will take at least 1 hour.
It is forbidden to bring dogs into the reserve.
The site is not equipped to handle people with physical disabilities.
VIEW FROM THE MAIN TOWER LOOKING SOUTH
HOW TO GET THERE?
moleń can be reached by local buses that run here from the towns of Pilica and Wolbrom. You can also make a day trip on foot or by bicycle from Ogrodzieniec via Ryczów and Bydlin, through forests and meadows of the beautiful Jura region.
There is free parking near the castle hill.
Bicycles can be brought into the ruins.
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2. M. Antoniewicz: Zamki na Wyżynie Krakowsko-Częstochowskiej...
3. B. Czwojdrak: "To jest rzecz niesłuszna i być nie może!" Skandale w rodzinie, Pomocnik Hist. 5/2017
4. L. Kajzer, J. Salm, S. Kołodziejski: Leksykon zamków w Polsce, Arkady 2001
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, CB
8. A. Wagner: Murowane budowle obronne w Polsce X-XVIIw., Bellona 2019
9. J. Zinkow: Orle gniazda i warownie jurajskie, Sport i turystyka 1977
CASTLE PARKING LOT
Pilica - palazzo in fortezza type castle, 4 km Ryczów - ruins of a royal watchtower from the 14th century, 7 km Udórz - relics of a knight's castle from the 14th century, 9 km Bydlin - ruins of a knight's castle from the 14th century, 12 km Podzamcze - Ogrodzieniec castle ruins from the 14th-16th centuries, 13 km
Morsko - castle ruins from the 14th century, 22 km Rabsztyn - ruin of a royal castle from the 14th century, 23 km Pieskowa Skała - royal castle from the 14th-17th centuries, 28 km
Wysocice - fortified church from the 12th-13th centuries, 30 km
Sławków - castle ruins from the 13th century, 32 km Ojców - ruin of a royal castle from the 14th century, 34 km Siewierz - ruin of the bishops of Cracow castle from the 15th century, 38 km Bobolice - royal castle (reconstruction), 39 km Korzkiew - knight's castle from the 14th century, 41 km Mirów - ruins of a knight's castle from the 14th century, 41 km