Krasiczyn – The Castle and Park Complex, Krasiczyn
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Krasiczyn – The Castle and Park Complex

Krasiczyn

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The castle and park complex at Krasiczyn is one of the most valuable Polish monuments of Renaissance and Mannerist architecture, located in the village of Krasiczyn, in the Podkarpackie Voivodeship, about 10 kilometres west of Przemyśl. The residential complex of the Polish magnates, situated in the picturesque valley of the San River, covers an area of over 14 hectares and includes a castle with historical buildings (including horse-riding stables, coach house, Swiss house, hunting pavilion, gates) and a vast park in a landscape style.

The first mention of a wooden defensive court in the village of Śliwnica dates back to the end of the 14th century. In 1525, Jakub of Siecin became the owner of the village, with his descendants assuming the surname “Krasicki”. He began transforming the existing manor house into a fortalice surrounded by ramparts and a moat.

The origins of the present brick castle date back to ca 1580, when Jakub’s son, Stanisław Krasicki, began to rebuild the seat into a bastion castle in the form of a four-sided structure with its walls oriented towards the four corners of the world, surrounded by a curtain wall, with an extensive inner courtyard and towers in the corners. In the north wing, there was a residential part. In 1598–1633 his son, Marcin Krasicki, regarded as one of the most prominent patrons of art in the then Poland, transformed the raw castle into a magnificent, grandiose residence in the Renaissance and Mannerist style. A typical residence of the palazzo in fortezza type was built according to a design by Italian architect Galeazz Appani. In the north-west corner, a fortified tower called the Papal Tower was extended by adding a roof parapet at the top in the form of a copy of the crown of Pope Clemens VIII. It owed its name to the inclusion of guest rooms for high church dignitaries. The northern wing was extended, including the owner’s rooms and the most representative chamber – the Grand Royal Dining Room. One-storey arcaded cloisters were erected on the side of the courtyard. The next three fortified towers were rebuilt and called: Boska (Divine), Krolewska (Royal), and Szlachecka (Noble). Together with the Papal Tower they were supposed to reflect the eternal order and the roles of the Church, king, pope, and the nobility. The Divine Tower, covered with a dome, housed a chapel, one of the most valuable works of architectural art in the castle, compared by craftsmanship to the Sigismund Chapel in Wawel. To this day, impressive (partly reconstructed) stucco, painting, sculptural and woodcarving decorations, which were created under the influence of Dutch 16th- and 17th-century graphics, and the original ceramic floor have survived inside the chapel. The Royal Tower, with six corner turrets, housed royal apartments. The Noble Tower was topped with a crown, a copy of the crown of King Sigismund III Vasa. A two-story belvedere was erected between the Royal Tower and the east wing. The castle then gained a lavish decor, including sculpted portal stonework, loggias, arcades and unique wall decorations – sgraffito decorations depicting images of Polish kings, Roman emperors, silhouettes of people and animals, filling the curtain walls of the courtyard and walls of the chapel.

To the north and west, the castle was surrounded by floodplains, which further strengthened its defensive character. In the centre of the west wing, there was a foregate with a gate and the Clock Tower, which was an access route connecting the town to the castle by means of a drawbridge, later replaced by a stone bridge. At that time, a garden was set up in the Italian style, which was characterised by the then fashionable form of geometric quarters. The resulting residence was one of the most magnificent residences in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. It was eagerly visited by Kings Sigismund III Vasa, Władysław IV, John Casimir or August II, and the nobility. The name of the owners gave the name to the town that developed at the residence – Krasiczyn.

In 1682, the family line of Krasiczyn disappeared. The next new owners of the residence, Modrzewski, Tarło, Potocki, Szembek, Wielopolski family, who acquired it by purchase or inheritance, carried out further renovations and reconstructions, and continued decorating the facade and interiors. In 1726, Krasiczyn was invaded by the Cossacks and Muscovites, making enormous damage to the castle interiors. They robbed the fixtures and fittings, devastated the castle chapel and demolished the Papal Tower.

In 1835, Krasiczyn, along with the adjacent property, came under the rule of the Sapieha family, who significantly contributed to its development. They rebuilt the castle according to the design by Viennese architect Wilhelm Englerth, surrounded it with a picturesque park, established a sawmill, a brewery and a farm machinery factory, and also played an active role in the development of economic and social life in the region. Prince Adam Stanisław Sapieha invited Jan Matejko to paint here the Battle of Grunwald. In May 1852, a fire broke out in the castle, which caused huge damage. Around 1860 owners, who risked falling into debt, began to rebuild the complex. With the support of architects Adolf Kuhn and Michał Zajączkowski, the old appearance of the outer walls and roofs was restored, and a new entrance to the courtyard was made in the eastern wing. Larger residential interiors required larger repairs. The painted decoration in the chapel was renovated by painter Zygmunt Griner.

The period from the mid-19th century to the 1930s is the time when, around the castle, in the place of the former bastion fortifications, a large landscape park was created on the initiative of the Sapieha family. The park features the lime tree lines preserved from the previously existing geometric castle garden, magnificent oaks dated to the period preceding the establishment of the fortress and the water system, which was significantly modified – ponds on the north side of the residence were drained, the shape of the western pond was changed and the pond in the southern part of the park was enlarged, forming a peninsula and an island on it. Vast floodplains, moats and ramparts around the castle were levelled. In the park, there were about 200 species of domestic and introduced trees and shrubs, such as Amur cork tree, hickory, plane tree, tulip tree, Douglas-fir, locust tree, cypress and ginkgo. The edges were planted with coniferous species, thanks to which most of the viewing corridors were directed from the outside to the castle and the centre of the complex. The park in Krasiczyn features the Sapieha family trees growing to this day, planted on the occasion of the birth of descendants – limes commemorating their daughters and oaks commemorating the sons. By cultivating a custom derived from the Polish noble tradition, all the Sapieha family generations were linked with their family nest by special bonds in this symbolic way.

During World War I, the castle was damaged. On the initiative of Prince Leon Sapieha, in 1928–1939 it underwent restoration under the direction of Adolf Szyszko-Bohusz. The next difficult moments for the complex came after the outbreak of World War II, when in September 1939 the Soviets entered Krasiczyn, adapted the castle for use as barracks, and displaced the town’s inhabitants. Leon Sapieha managed to save a valuable library, but all interior furnishings were destroyed. The corpses buried in the owner’s chapel were also desecrated. To this day, losses have not been estimated, and it is not known what has happened to the collection of European paintings adorning the walls of the castle. The first post-war conservation activities began in 1958; the work carried out by Professor Gerard Ciołek involved the restoration of the park. Then, in 1963, the focus was on renovation, construction and conservation work on the complex buildings, which has been systematically conducted to this day.

The castle and park complex in Krasiczyn is one of the most valuable monuments of the 17th-century defence and residential architecture in the Renaissance and Mannerist style in Poland. The unique body of the castle, built on a square plan with four corner fortified towers crowned with a roof parapet, is considered one of the leading architectural monuments in Poland, while the richness of architectural and sculptural detail, stucco decorations and paintings, and above all the sgraffito decoration covering the walls is what makes the castle in Krasiczyn rank first in Europe in terms of the amount of this type of decoration.

General information

  • Type: residential comlpex
  • Chronology: 1580 - 1633
  • Form of protection: Historical Monument
  • Address: Krasiczyn
  • Location: Voivodeship podkarpackie, district przemyski, commune Krasiczyn
  • Source: National Heritage Board of Poland

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