Palace complex, Grabki Duże
Narodowy Instytut Dziedzictwa pl

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An exceptional example of a small, central-plan palace complex designed in the Rococo style and exhibiting numerous Italian influences, with hardly any direct counterparts anywhere else in Poland. Due to the masterfully executed concentration and gradation of aesthetic effects and the unusual layout of the complex, many have sought to prove that the inspirations for the design of the manor were taken from the architecture of the Orient.

History

One of the most unique ensembles of its kind in early modern Poland, the palace complex in Grabki Duże was erected somewhere around the year 1742 at the request of Stanisław Rupniewski, the castellan of Małogoszcz and the erstwhile owner of both Grabki and Gnojno. The design for the palace was created by the atelier of the eminent Cracow-based architect Franciszek Placidi, one of the leading representatives of the Rococo architectural movement known as the “architecture of free imagination”. Despite the various events which occurred throughout the years, the core of the complex – the palace flanked by a pair of symmetrically arranged pavilions – has survived virtually unchanged to the present day. Before 1809, the erstwhile owners of the Grabki manor – the Załuski family – have given in to the Classicist trends of their time and connected the palace and the two pavilions with covered walkways; these, however, were demolished as early as the mid-19th century, with the original appearance of the complex being restored in the process. However, the two-storey outbuilding located north-east of the palace, exhibiting features of the Classicist style, was suffered to remain. In 1831, the roof of the palace was lost to the blaze; however, it was reconstructed soon afterwards, its original appearance being retained. During World War I, the palace itself sustained negligible damage, unlike the surrounding park and the peripheral walls with a trio of fortified towers, where the losses were much more substantial. The originality of the manor was noted by marshal Józef Piłsudski himself, for having spent a night at the palace outbuilding in September 1914, he later recalled his stay at the manor in his book Moje pierwsze boje (My First Battles), calling it “a truly wonderful place on earth”.

In 1945, the entire manor was nationalised, with the palace itself being abandoned for a number of years; it was only in 1953 that the building found a new tenant. It was during this period that the worst damage to the building in history was done. Only when the complex was taken over by the National Centre for Machine Industry could the necessary renovation works be performed. The outbuilding was the first to be restored, while the palace and the accompanying pavilions underwent a comprehensive restoration in 1962. The perimeter walls, on the other hand, were allowed to descend into a state of ruin, with only one of the three fortified towers surviving intact. The remnants of the wall and the south-eastern fortified tower were finally demolished in 1996. The palace was finally abandoned in 1992 and was sold to a private individual two years later.

There are many legends surrounding the palace, most of them referring to the allegedly promiscuous lifestyle of its founder. Stanisław Rupniewski spent many years in Turkish captivity and was only released after he converted to Islam. It is this fact, coupled no doubt with the unusual appearance of the palace itself, which has led many to refer to the palace as a “harem” shortly afterwards.

Description

The palace complex lies in the south-eastern part of the village, on the southern side of the road from Szydłów to Chmielnik. The complex consists of the palace itself, preceded by two symmetrically arranged pavilions, the outbuilding on the north-western side of the palace, the south-western fortified tower as well as the remnants of the park, including the avenue which leads up to the palace, just as it did for many years before.

The palace, erected in the Rococo style, is a central-plan structure designed on an octagonal plan, adjoined by lower, axially positioned annexes. The middle section of the building containing the spacious, two-storey hall is covered by a tall, two-tier, eight-faced roof with dormer windows, crowned with a decorative spire topped with a sphere. The entrance annex features a convex façade with an oval pediment, adorned with sandstone ornamental urns perched above the crowning cornice. All of the façades are decorated with paired pilasters at the corners and feature pronounced crowning cornices. Most of the window surrounds, formed out of binding mortar, feature an eared design. The sandstone dormer window surrounds are particularly impressive, with their semi-circular arches and volute-shaped side sections. The interiors have sadly been substantially remodelled, with only the original shape of the central hall as well as the vaulted ceilings of the barrel and sail type in the cellars surviving intact. It was traditionally believed that the palace had originally featured a hypocaust heating system, which was later proved by the discovery of the traces of shafts leading from the basement into the drawing room; in addition, the palace also featured a number of conventional stoves. The building itself is made of split stone, with only the later additions being made of brick. The building’s unique design has been described by many as oriental, most likely due to its overall silhouette, reminiscent of an Arabian harem, coupled with the tales and legends related to the original owner of the palace.

The symmetrically arranged pavilions flanking the palace are identical buildings designed on a square floor plan with truncated corners, each of them containing one room with a vaulted ceiling of the barrel type; both pavilions are covered with two-tier hip roofs. The façade decorations follow the pattern set by the façades of the palace itself.

The Classicist outbuilding, erected in 1819 and currently serving as council housing, now retains only fragments of its original design, including the projecting middle section topped with a triangular pediment.

The remnants of the surrounding park are vestigial at best, with the avenue leading up to the palace being the most notable fragment of the original layout. The octagonal fortified tower, reconstructed in recent years, had once served as a garden pavilion.

The building is not accessible to visitors (private property). The palace may be viewed from the other side of the fence.

Compiled by Aleksandra Ziółkowska, 26-11-2015

Bibliography

  • Record sheets of monuments of architecture, Grabki Duże, Zespół pałacowy, Pałac, Oficyna, Baszta, Pawilon wschodni, Pawilon zachodni (Grabki Duże, palace complex, palace, outbuilding, fortified tower, eastern pavilion, western pavilion), prepared by A. Myślińska, 1997, Archive of the Regional Monuments Protection Office in Kielce
  • Katalog zabytków sztuki w Polsce, vol. III, issue 1, Warsaw 1954.
  • Lepiarczyk J., Architekt Franciszek Placidi, “Rocznik Krakowski”, vol. 37, Cracow 1966.
  • M. Karpowicz, Sztuka polska XVIII wieku, Warsaw 1985.

General information

  • Type: palace
  • Chronology: 1742 r.
  • Form of protection: register of monuments
  • Address: Grabki Duże 86
  • Location: Voivodeship świętokrzyskie, district staszowski, commune Szydłów
  • Source: National Heritage Board of Poland

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