Lubomirski Castle - Museum of the Wiśnicz Region, Stary Wiśnicz
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Lubomirski Castle - Museum of the Wiśnicz Region

Stary Wiśnicz

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Kmitas’ and Lubomirskis’ castle is one of the most valuable early Baroque residential and defensive complex in Poland. The oldest part of the castle was built in the 14th century by the Kmita family. The body of the castle is built on a quadrilateral plan with an internal courtyard and four towers at the corners. From the north-east, there is a chapel from 1621 and from the south-east the so-called Kmitówka. Some of the most noteworthy decor includes the Baroque portals and window frames, stuccowork and murals. The palace is surrounded by fortifications of the early 17th century with an early Baroque entry gate in the east section.

History

In 1242, the House of Gryfit granted the settlement called Wiśnicze to the Benedictine nuns from Staniątki. From the 14th to the 16th century, the site was owned by the Kmita family and in the 17th century by the Lubomirskis. In 1616 Lubomirskis’ efforts led to the incorporation of Wiśnicz under Magdeburg Law. A characteristic feature in the landscape of Wiśnicz is a castle built by the Kmita-Szreniawit family. The beginnings of the castle are closely linked to the economic activity of the Kmita family of the Szreniawa coat of arms who, ca. mid-14th century, began to establish a huge estate around the Wiśnicz settlement. Probably erected at that time, the castle served as a defensive residence for the owners. Research shows that the founder of the fortified family seat was Jan Kmita, in the 1370s serving as the starost of Sieradz, Ruthenia and Kraków. Any mentions in the literature referring to the existence of a fortified building in Wiśnicz before the mid-14th century held by the Kmita family are only speculations. The first reliable confirmation of the existence of a defensive complex rising above the Leksandrówka River valley (“castrum”) is found in the accounts of the Bochnia salt mine from 1396-1397. Other document making references to the castle come from 1419 and 1441 and a record from 1443 mentions the local chaplain. The defensive residence remained in the possession of the Kmitas until the death of Piotr (1553), governor of Kraków in the years 1536-1553. The property was administered by, for example, the Kraków governor, Piotr V Kmita; his house was visited by such members of the nobility as Marcin Bielski, Jakub Przyłuski and Stanisław Orzechowski. In 1550 Sigismund Augustus stopped at Wiśnicz with Barbara Radziwiłłowna; the legend has it that it was there that Barbara was administered a slow-acting but deadly poison. From 1554 the castle belonged to the Barz and Stadnicki families, and in 1593 it was purchased by Sebastian Lubomirski who requested Emperor Rudolf II to be granted the title of the Count of Wiśnicz. During the heyday of the Wiśnicz complex, its military garrison numbered 650 people (including 200 dragoons and 400 Hungarian infantrymen) and 80 cannons. The castle dungeons made a very harsh prison for captured bandits (e.g. the famous leader of the highwaymen of the Beskidy Mountains, Procpak). During the Polish-Swedish War, Lubomirski supported the king but surrendered the castle to the Swedes trying to save his residence from demolition. Having taken the castle, the Swedes used it to control the entire upland area. However, before their departure, they looted the castle and, reportedly, needed as many as 150 carriages to carry the plunder. The castle never regained its former glory despite the efforts of successive heirs. In October 1707, during the Great Northern War, the building was a retreat for troops commanded by Gen. Rybiński who sent them out to control the region of Kraków and Sandomierz. Wiśnicz suffered a lot during the Bar Confederation. The complex was held by the Lubomirskis until the mid-18th century when it went into the hands of the Sanguszkos and next of the Potockis and Zamoyskis. It lost its function of a lord’s seat already in 1780. After a fire in 1831, the castle was abandoned and began to fall into disrepair. It was saved from the total devastation by the organization Lubomirski Family Union which re-purchased their former seat in 1901 and undertook renovation works. The works were supervised by Adolf Szyszko-Bohusz until 1928. The castle remained the Lubomirskis’ property until nationalization and the land reform in the years 1945-1946. Thorough reconstruction and restoration of the former aristocratic seat began in 1949 under the supervision of Alfred Majewski. Regular restoration works have been carried out regularly since 1970.

Description

The original castle was made up of a quadrangular peripheral wall with a square tower. Almost nothing is known about the earliest history of the castle as any traces of the then structure were mostly destroyed during subsequent transformations. The researchers are of the opinion that the seat of the Kmitas consisted of a rectangular line of defensive walls, approx. 30 m by 50 m, built of the local sandstone, and of a square tower built of the same material and located in the south-east corner. The remaining buildings were wooden. The castle was protected from the south-east by a moat guarded by a rampart, and from the north by a semicircular palisade connecting both ends of the rampart. As a result of successive conversions by the Kmita family, ca. 1500 the residence began to resemble a four-wing palace with a courtyard and three towers at the corners. Besides the earth and stone fortifications, there were two gatehouses raised at both ends of the rampart and offering an additional defensive capacity. General conversion of the complex into the Renaissance style was conducted after 1516 by the most prominent representative of the family Piotr Kmita. All residential wings were raised by one floor. To the south wing of the castle, a large outbuilding was added, the so-called Kmitówka. Also the defensive system was upgraded. The former west gatehouse was transformed into a donjon equipped with crenels and cannon stations. In place of the fence along the north side of the yard, a powerful curtain wall was raised. The castle defence was also strengthened thanks to the artillery tower, adjacent to the north-west corner of the castle, soon replaced by the so-called Bona’s tower. In the final period of extension, Piotr Kmita erected the so-called “ear” bastion in front of the gatehouse, thus enabling an effective defence of the access road to the castle and of the whole Renaissance fortification. The castle was rebuilt thoroughly in the 2nd half of the 16th century and in the early 17th century by Stanisław, Sebastian’s son. The defensive mansion got its final shape after the development project held by Stanisław Lubomirski between 1615 and 1621. He surrounded the castle with bastion fortifications on a pentagonal plan, thus turning Wiśnicz into one of the most powerful aristocratic strongholds in Poland. Maciej Trapola designed the pentagonal bastions in the new Italian style built in the years 1615-1621 accessible via an early Baroque gate. He also designed the defence system of the monastery of the Discalced Carmelites, built south of the castle in the area of the castle garden. In the 17th century, the Lubomirskis’ castle also fulfilled representative functions; that is why the cloisters and the chapel were added (with the stuccowork by J.B. Falconi). The sarcophaguses of the family members can be seen in the crypt under the chapel.

Museum of the Wiśnicz Region Visiting hours from 1 May to 31 October: Monday to Friday 8:00am-6:00pm, Saturdays, Sundays and holidays 10:00am-6:00pm. Off-season visiting hours from 1 November to 30 April: Monday to Friday 8:00am-4:00pm, Saturdays, Sundays and holidays 9:00am-7:00pm.

Compiled by Roman Marcinek, Regional Branch of the National Heritage Board of Poland in Kraków, 12.08.2014.

Bibliography

  • Bogdanowski J., Trapola, Mieroszewski, Tylman i twierdza wiśnicka, Spraw. PAN, t. XVIII/1, Kraków 1975
  • Cetera J., Nowe odkrycia na zamku w Wiśniczu, (w:) Badania archeologiczne w województwie tarnowskim w 1990 r., Tarnów 1995.
  • Dworaczyński E., Zamek Kmitów w Wiśniczu w świetle źródeł archeologicznych, (w:) Badania archeologiczne Pracowni Konserwacji Zabytków. Studia i Materiały, Warszawa 1988.
  • Kajzer L., Kołodziejski S., Salm L., Leksykon zamków w Polsce, Warszawa 2001.
  • Majewski A., Zamek w Wiśniczu, Nowy Wiśnicz 1992.
  • Małkowska-Holcerowa T., Główne etapy historii zamku w Wiśniczu Nowym, Spraw. PAN, t. XVIII/1, Kraków 1975.
  • Małkowska-Holcerowa T., Holcer Z., Wczesnobarokowa rezydencja Lubomirskich w Wiśniczu, Spraw. PAN, t. XVIII/1, Kraków 1975.
  • Wójcik-Łużycki A., Problemy konserwatorskie zamku w Wiśniczu, „Wiadomości Konserwatorskie”, 13/2003.

General information

  • Type: castle
  • Chronology: XIV w.
  • Form of protection: register of monuments
  • Address: Stary Wiśnicz
  • Location: Voivodeship małopolskie, district bocheński, commune Nowy Wiśnicz - obszar wiejski
  • Source: National Heritage Board of Poland

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