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Ruins of the castle of the Dukes of Mazovia - Zabytek.pl

Address
Ciechanów

Location
woj. mazowieckie, pow. ciechanowski, gm. Ciechanów-gmina miejska

The castle ruins in Ciechanów are relics of a fortress erected by the Dukes of Mazovia for defence of the north-eastern borders of the duchy.

The castle was the centre of administrative and judicial powers; is also served as a refuge providing shelter for residents of the city.

Location and description

The castle is situated in the northern part of the city, in Zamkowa Street. It was erected to the north of the chartered town, on a floodplain in the meander of the Łydynia river.

Peripheral walls built on a rectangular floor plan with dimensions of approx. 48 x 57 m and two cylindrical corner towers on the southern side have been preserved to the present day. The western wall has a gate, above which the wall bears identifiable traces of a foregate structure. The second gate was restored in the southern wall. The western tower, former watchtower, consists of five storeys, and the eastern prison tower — of six storyes. Their current appearance is the results of the sixteenth-century alterations. During the widely discussed revitalisation, which began in 2010, a museum pavilion, the so-called Dom Mały (Small House), was built in the yard along the northern wall.

History

Before the brick castle was built, a wooden fortified settlement dating back to the last decade of the 13th century was functioning on the island in the marsh area along the edge of a river. The brick castle was funded by Duke Siemowit III around 1355. It was extended around 1370. After 1420, during the reign of Janusz I the Old work began to convert the fortress into a duke’s residence. Written sources from the second decade of the 15th century make mention of the name ‘Niklos’ who built the castle under his reign. The description of the treasury of Duke Janusz II located in the castle in Ciechanów dates back to 1494. After 1526, with the acquisition of the castle by royal governors (starosta) it was gradually declining in importance. In 1547 the castle was granted to Queen Bona as part of her widow’s seat. In 1646, Marie Louise Gonzaga, the future wife of King Władysław IV, stayed there. Records from the late 16th century and early 17th century describe the progressive degradation of the building. Following partial destruction by Swedish troops in 1657, the castle gradually fell into ruin. In the early 19th century it was partially demolished.

Condition and results of archaeological research

Post-war research was undertaken in 1955. Archeological investigations were carried out intermittently between 1966 and 2011. Recent research seasons (since 2006) involved the preparation for revitalisation of the castle. Recent investigation conducted by Marek J. Piotrowski since 2003 has fundamentally changed the knowledge of the structure. Research excavations were undertaken at the southern gate and in the yard, as well as within the moat, outside the western curtain wall.

Excavations of the yard have revealed layers made at the time of the existence of a wooden fortified settlement which preceded the construction of the castle. Moreover, excavations uncovered a level of fascine, which is a bundle of birch rods bound together, used in construction for filling in marshy ground, an adze dating from 1290, as well as a large number of shoes and belts.

The brick castle was a rectangular fortification with brick walls on stone foundations. The entrance was defended by flanking fortified towers. The walls and the fortified tower was about 5 high at that time. Around 1370 the foot of the walls was surrounded with a 6-metre-wide clay rampart, surmounted by a double palisade. The moat was approx. 18 metres wide. It was quite shallow (up to 1.4 m) but muddy. Archeologists have uncovered wooden structures used to strengthen its banks to the west of the curtain walls. Archeological investigation of the site have also revealed foregate and bridge structures from that time. Archeologists have found a triangular structure made of wooden pales — a fortification used for the defence of the bridge abutment. Using a dendrochronological method, i.e. based on the analysis of the annual increment of the tree stock (growth rings), researchers have established that the construction of the structure can be traced back to 1377-1410. The yard provided shelter during invasions. A gate building which also served as a staff room was located on the southern side. A stone and wooden tower, which extended over the edge of the wall, point of observation and the last point of defence existed next to the building in the 14th century. The west gate served an ancillary function at that time. After 1420, Dom Duży (Large House) was built and the yard was paved. The stone base of the demolished tower was used as a container or trough for horses. As a result of repeated alterations between 1420 and 1526, the tower was extended up to about 21 metres, and the walls up to 13 metres.

During archeological investigations researchers found numerous movable monuments, mostly fragments of pottery. An investigation of the moat that surrounds the castle revealed an axe, mace head, remains of a leather jerkin and two swords from the early 15th century. Two last monuments may be connected with a Teutonic Knights’ attempt to gain the castle in 1409.

The castle, which is part of the Mazovian Nobility Museum (Muzeum Szlachty Mazowieckiej) in Ciechanów, is open to visitors. The pavilion erected in the yard houses exhibitions illustrating the history of the castle and the region. Every year in September ‘Meetings with History (‘Spotkania z historią’) which generate great public interest take place in the green area of the castle. The meeting attendees get learn about the history, while admiring tournaments, craft shows, concerts, dance performances; can see weapons, everyday objects, furniture and medieval costumes. As part of the events, attendees were able to participate in colorful processions moving through the streets of the town, riding tournaments, fashion shows, and could try medieval dishes. The castle hosted reconstruction groups from Russia, Belarus and the Czech Republic.

Compiled by Agnieszka Oniszczuk, National Heritage Board of Poland, 07.09.2015 r.

Bibliography

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Category: castle

Architecture: gotycki

Protection: Register of monuments, Monuments records

Inspire id: PL.1.9.ZIPOZ.NID_N_14_BK.170507, PL.1.9.ZIPOZ.NID_E_14_BK.22494