Castle Chapel, the so-called Rotunda, of St Nicholas and St Wenceslaus, Cieszyn
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Castle Chapel, the so-called Rotunda, of St Nicholas and St Wenceslaus



The structure is the older of two known examples of a hillfort chapel in the form of rotunda, modelled on Early-Romanesque religious architecture of Bohemia, Moravia, and Poland. At the same time, it is one of the oldest church buildings in the country. Its historical, artistic, and scientific value lies in its well-preserved 11th-century form, including its complete structure, the floor plan, and the wall and ceiling construction.


It is assumed that the rotunda was constructed c. in the mid-11th century as an element of a hillfort which functioned as an observation point and the seat of a castellan. At the end of the 13th century, the hillfort became the seat of the Cieszyn Piasts and their successors. From the very beginning, the rotunda functioned as a hillfort chapel combined with the seat of the hillfort’s leader. It was also a local centre of church administration and a parish church. Its original design, approximating the present form, is associated with Bohemian influences. It is also known that there has been a matroneum inside the chapel since the very beginning. Until the 14th century, i.e. the time of the construction of a Gothic castle, the rotunda was the only structure in the hillfort which was made of stone, which suggests that it may have been the most important point of resistence of the hillfort garrison in times of war. In the 14th century, the structure was incorporated into the castle fortification system. In the same period, the chapel underwent minor alterations. The hill was levelled out; the level of the flooring inside the rotunda was raised and the window openings in the apse were modified. However, the form and function of the chapel remained basically unchanged until the 19th century, despite the fact that the town ceased to be a hillfort of dukes in the mid-17th century; there was only an administration unit of the Habsburg Teschener Kammer on the former castle hill. There are assumptions, backed up with images of the rotunda from c. 1720 and views of the town from the early 19th century, that starting from the 17th century, the conical roof of the chapel may have been surmounted by a lantern. It was only in the 2nd quarter of the 19th century that the chapel was modified substantially in connection with the dismantling of the Medieval castle buildings, another levelling-out stage, and modifications to the character of the hill. The rotunda was buried in earth more or less to half its height. The visible part was given a new, Neoclassical character, reminiscent of a newly-erected hunting lodge designed by Joseph Kornhäusel. In 1941, German restoration and maintenance authorities commenced the first architectural and archaeological works at the site. The exterior and interior plaster, which had been applied at some later stage, was peeled off and the original flooring level was uncovered. Starting from 1947, the works were continued by Polish specialists. In the years 1950-1955, restoration works aimed at the reconstruction of the original, Romanesque appearance of the chapel were carried out.


The chapel is situated in the south-western part of Góra Zamkowa (Castle Mountain) in Cieszyn, in the immediate vicinity of the so-called Piast Tower and remains of a 14th-century castle. It is an oriented Romanesque chapel built of armour stone faced with cut limestone. It consists of a high, round nave covered with a conical roof of wood shingles and a lower, semi-circular apse with a similar roof, adjoining the nave on the east side. The entrance to the chapel, located on the west side, is accentuated by a stone, round-arched portal. The interior of the nave, covered with a dome made of rows of concentrically arranged stones bonded by lime mortar, is lit by two (originally — probably four) Romanesque double-splay window openings located in the upper parts of the walls. On the north side, there are a walled-up Romanesque portal and a small window opening. In the western part of the nave, there is a stone matroneum supported by two columns and four engaged columns with bases of the Attic type, covered with a groin vault and communicated by means of straight stairs partially embedded in the thick wall and a bay window; it was reconstructed on the basis of preserved sections. Three steps lead from the nave to the altar apse, separated by means of an arch embedded in the wall and a slight wall bend. The interior of the apse, covered with a spherical conch, is lit by two small, Romanesque, splay windows, between which there is a niche where there used to be another window opening, headed by a segmental arch, made in the 19th century. In the southern part of the apse arch, there is a small wall niche intended for storing holy oils and three round holes for extinguishing candles, and in the apse, there is an altar stone.

The historic monument is accessible. It can be visited during the opening hours of the Piast Tower.

compiled by Agnieszka Olczyk, Regional Branch of the National Heritage Board of Poland in Katowice, 10-10-2014.


  • Chojecka E., Gorzelik J., Kozina I., Szczypka-Gwiazda B., Sztuka Górnego Śląska od średniowiecza do końca XX wieku, Katowice 2009, s. 30-32.
  • Dzieje sztuki polskiej, T. I: Sztuka polska przedromańska i romańska do schyłku XIII wieku, red. M. Walicki, Warszawa 1971, s. 680-681.
  • Iwanek W., Kilka uwag o romańskiej rotundzie zamkowej w Cieszynie, [w:] Cieszyński Rocznik Muzealny I, Cieszyn 1969, s. 81-99.
  • Katalog zabytków sztuki w Polsce, T. VI, woj. katowickie, z. 3: Miasto Cieszyn i powiat cieszyński, red. I. Rejduch-Samkowa, J. Samek, Warszawa 1974, s. 26-29.
  • Świechowski Z., Architektura romańska w Polsce, Warszawa 2001, s. 47-48.
  • Zabytki Sztuki w Polsce. Śląsk, red. S. Brzezicki, C. Nielsen, Warszawa 2006, s. 215.

General information

  • Type: chapel
  • Chronology: poł. XI w.
  • Form of protection: register of monuments
  • Address: Zamkowa , Cieszyn
  • Location: Voivodeship śląskie, district cieszyński, commune Cieszyn
  • Source: National Heritage Board of Poland


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