Castle of Silesian Piasts, Brzeg
Narodowy Instytut Dziedzictwa pl

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Castle of Silesian Piasts

Brzeg

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The seat of Silesian Piasts in Brzeg is one of the most important Renaissance castles of Central and Eastern Europe. Its courtyard, with chamfered corners and with cloisters, is reminiscent of the art of Lombardy, while the sculpture decoration of the entrance gate, depicting the continuity of the Piast dynasty from Piast the Wheelwright, through Mieszko I, to Frederick II of Liegnitz and George William II of Liegnitz, constituting a family monument of the family - is replicated on a smaller scale e.g. in the decoration of the castle in Oleśnica.

History

The first manor house in this place was mentioned already in 1235. It was probably a wooden structure located between two town gates: Wrocławska Gate and Zamkowa Gate, circumscribed by a moat and connected with town fortifications. Subsequent conversions took place under the rule of Bolko I, Bolko II, Louis I the Fair, and the most significant conversion, initiated by Frederick II and continued by his son George II, during which the Gothic fortress was transformed into one of the most magnificent Renaissance residences in this part of Europe.

In 1675, the castle along with the whole duchy was taken over by Austrians. In 1682, it was taken over by the Habsburgs and earmarked for temporary ducal residences. Part of the castle was adapted for office purposes. In 1741, during the shelling of the town, the castle was destroyed, and the surviving remnants of castle buildings after a renovation (chancel of the chapel, ground floor of the eastern wing, and some cloisters, and the front façade of the gate house) were adapted for the purposes of food storage of a Prussian stronghold. In the years 1744-1746, another building in the place of the north-western wing was erected, and in 1801, the south-western wing was destroyed during a fire. After the fire, the castle was reconstructed on the basis of a design by Konrad Kirschstein (the wings were lowered by two storeys and a building was added in the place of the northern curtain wall).

During the 1920s, after the departure of the army, when the castle was taken over by the town authorities, the north-eastern wing was adapted to serve as a museum. The inventory and conservation works undertaken in 1935 were interrupted by war hostilities. After the war, roofs were reconstructed (1947-49), and in the 1960s the surveys and conservation works were resumed. The castle complex and the cloisters were thoroughly reconstructed.

Description

The castle is located in the north-western part of the old town. In its vicinity, there are: church of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, to the south: chapel of St Hedwig, and to the north, a park by the Oder. By the north-eastern and south-eastern wall of the church, within the former fortifications, there are gardens inspired by Italian Renaissance, created in the 1990s in the place of gardens from 16th century which have not survived.

In the 14th century, the castle was a four-wing complex with internal trapezoid yard and a quadrangular “Lviv” tower in the south-western corner. Currently, it is a three-wing complex, enclosed from the north-west by a curtain wall. On the south, there is a gate house, slightly projecting in relation to the front façade, and in the south-western corner there is the Lviv tower, and quadrangular towers constituting ending sections of the north-western and the south-western wings. The individual sides of the castle are built on a rectangular floor plan with a single-bay interior layout. The wings have basements underneath. The eastern and the southern wings have three storeys, and the western one is five-storeyed. All are covered with gable roofs. The gate house was originally topped with a hexagonal belvedere tower. Currently, it is covered with a terrace.

The external façades of the castle are covered with smooth plasterwork with irregularly arranged rectangular window openings in sandstone surrounds. The elaborated decoration of the front façade of the three-storey gate house, created in the years 1550-1554, is a significant architectural accent. The front façade, clad in sandstone and two-axial at the ground floor level, with axes defined by the arcades of the drive-way and the entrance, is three-axial in the upper section, with rectangular window openings. The sculptures and reliefs placed on it show a genealogical history of the Piast dynasty and constitute a monument of their glory.

Internal façades from the yard are articulated with three-storey cloisters, reconstructed on the basis of the preserved fragments. The cloisters at the ground and first storey level are arcaded, and at the second storey level - colonnaded, with external staircases in the corners. Lavish stone decoration of portals (semi-circular in rectangular surrounds) and window surrounds is also worth attention.

Accessible historic building. The castle houses the seat of the Museum of the Silesian Piasts which “as the only institution in Poland preoccupies itself - according to its statute - with the whole issue of the Silesian Piasts and Piast traditions in the historic area of Silesian Land”. zamek.brzeg.pl/

compiled by Aleksandra Ziółkowska, Regional Branch of the National Heritage Board of Poland in Opole, 25-05-2016.

Bibliography

  • Katalog zabytków sztuki w Polsce, t. VII: Województwo opolskie, z. 1: Powiat brzeski, red. T. Chrzanowski, M. Kornecki, Warszawa 1961, s. 13-22.
  • Zabytki sztuki w Polsce. Śląsk, Warszawa 2006, s. 156-159.
  • T. Torbus, Od Brzegu przez Güstrow do Szwecji. Komaskowie z rodziny Parrów i ich wpływ na rozwój architektury renesansowej w środkowej i północnej Europie [w:] Po obu stronach Bałtyku. Wzajemne relacje między Skandynawią a Europą Środkową, Wrocław 2006
  • M. Jagiełło, W. Brzezowski, Ogrody na Śląsku, t. 1, Wrocław 2014
  • strona internetowa muzeum http://zamek.brzeg.pl/ (25.05.2016 r.)

General information

  • Type: castle
  • Chronology: 1311 - 1570
  • Form of protection: register of monuments
  • Address: Plac Zamkowy 1, Brzeg
  • Location: Voivodeship opolskie, district brzeski, commune Brzeg
  • Source: National Heritage Board of Poland

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