Jelenia Góra Basin - The Valley of Palces and Gardens,
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Jelenia Góra Basin - The Valley of Palces and Gardens

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In the 19th century the Jelenia Góra Basin was a distinctly superior location. It was regarded - and with good cause - to be just as attractive an area as the Harz Mountains or the Rhine Valley. Guide books of the day mentioned Lower Silesia in the same breath as the Loire Valley and Tuscany. Royalty and nobility, including the Hohenzollern and Radziwiłł families, and members of the House of Hesse and the Dutch Orange dynasty, chose to build their stately residences at the foot of Śnieżka Mountain. The most celebrated landscape architects (such as Joseph Peter Lenne, who designed the famous park of the Sanssouci Palace in Potsdam and the Tiergarten garden complex in Berlin) created focal points for these residences by installing belvederes and summerhouses from which to contemplate views of the Karkonosze Mountains. The Valley of Palaces and Gardens represents the largest concentration in Europe of residential properties integrated into extensive landscape parks. Izabela Czartoryska, a garden aficionado, wrote in 1816 “The penchant here for English gardens is visible everywhere, though primarily it is evidenced by the following details: splendid cultivated fields, the choice of trees, and the highly sophisticated layout of shrubs and plants lining the roads and paths. Following them one reaches a variety of appealing buildings”.

The distinctive feature of the Valley’s multicultural landscape is its amassed range of exceptional works of architecture and garden art, from medieval Chojnik Castle to 19th-century residences. Eleven homes and their surrounding parks, belonging to aristocrats and factory owners, were jointly given the status of a scheduled monument, as they exemplify this composite cultural landscape, being both of great artistic merit and historic value. The chosen complexes are found in Bukowiec, Łomnica, Wojanów, Wojanów-Bobrów Karpniki, Mysłakowice, Kowary (Ciszyca), Staniszów Górny and Jelenia Góra (the Paulinum and the Schaffgotsch palace and park complex in Cieplice). The key to selection was the idea which inspired the founders and designers of these residences in the late 18th and 19th centuries, and stemmed from a fascination with nature, whose components provided the canvas on which to create an Elysium on Earth - a place of eternal happiness.

The parks in Bukowiec, Staniszów, Wojanów, Łomnica and Mysłakowice constituted one large interrelated complex which both complemented and provided a buffer zone for the residential buildings. The existing natural and geographical links between the individual properties, skilfully highlighted by urban and architectural solutions expressed in the layout of particular settlements and their interconnection through the use of avenues and tracks and through the creation of vistas, defined the exceptional character of this part of the Jelenia Góra Basin.

The original Renaissance manor house in Wojanów (1603-1607) was raised at the foot of the Sokole Mountains on the River Bober. It was, however, destroyed in 1643 during war with Sweden. Christoph von Zedlitz, owner of the estate, rebuilt it in Baroque style, making use of the extant wall remains. In 1833 it was comprehensively remodelled by Karl Friedrich Schinkel (1781-1841) [it is now widely believed that Schinkel’s design was implemented by his student, Friedrich August Stüler (1800-1865)] and rather ineptly ‘improved’ around 1900. The palace, which by 1667 was already being acclaimed as one of the most sumptuous buildings in Silesia, was accompanied by a large park (designed by Joseph P. Lenne) stretching along the River Bober. In 1839 the Wojanów Estate was purchased by the King of Prussia, Frederick William III, for his daughter Luiza (the purchase deeds record that the palace was “built in medieval style with turrets”). Towards the end of the century the estate became the property of Princess Maria zu Wied. The eclectic Boberstein Castle (Wojanów-Bobrów) was raised on the opposite riverbank, looking to all intents and purposes like the setting for a Gothic horror story. Surveying the maze of staircases, cornices, balconies and turrets, one has the impression that the castle was designed by someone who could not bear to see so much as an inch of plain surface. Count Karl von Rothkirch, who commissioned the design, surrounded the castle with a mighty enclosure wall complete with towers and a majestic entrance gate. The nearby village of Łomnica, which lies at the confluence of the Łomnica Karkonoska and the Bober, was recorded in 1305 as a manor village. In 1645 the estate became the property of one Tomagniniani, an officer of the Habsburg Army, whose descendants ruled Łomnica for 80 years. It was under their governance, in the early 18th century, that a Baroque palace was built. Its construction is linked to the architect Martin Frantz. The original design was, however, obscured by later remodelling work carried out in the late 19th century. In 1737 Łomnica was bought by a merchant from Jelenia Góra - Christian Mentzel, the estate being subsequently inherited by his son, Christian, in 1798. It was their idea to raise a second manor house in the late 18th century, which was known as the Dowagers’ House. In 1841 Łomnica was made an entailed estate of Gustav von Kuester, and remained in the hands of his successors until 1945. The extensive park blended and combined with the gardens on the other side of the River Wojanowa.

It is both the natural surroundings and the buildings themselves that make the Jelenia Góra Basin a unique destination attracting visitors from around the world, among them historical figures such as Johann Wolfgang Goethe, Alexander von Humboldt, the Russian Tsar Nicholas I and his wife Alexandra Feodorovna, as well as the future President of the USA, John Quincy Adams. Some came and went, others stayed, but no-one was left unmoved by this place. “So we shall celebrate our beautiful meeting in beloved Silesia” were the enthusiastic words penned by Princess Marie of Hesse 200 years ago in a letter to her friend Luiza Radziwiłł.

General information

  • Type: cultural landscape
  • Chronology: koniec XVIII - XIX w.
  • Form of protection: Historical Monument
  • Location: Voivodeship dolnośląskie, district jeleniogórski, commune
  • Source: National Heritage Board of Poland

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