Palace, Siemczyno
Narodowy Instytut Dziedzictwa pl

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One of the most intriguing and best-preserved Baroque palaces in Western Pomerania.

History

During the Middle Ages, Siemczyno formed part of the domain of the Knights Templar; later on, it was taken over by the Knights Hospitaller, based in Drahim. Siemczyno was located near the erstwhile border between Poland, Brandenburg and the Duchy of Western Pomerania. For the above reason, the area saw frequent instances of armed conflict between the three states. Following the acquisition of the former monastic domains by the Kingdom of Poland in 1438, the entire area became the seat of crown land tenants (royal demesne), its administration based in the Drahim castle. Later on, however, in 1668, the entire district was handed over to Brandenburg by way of a pledge. The Great Elector Frederick William established new, modern state administration in the district, although it continued to enjoy a certain degree of formal autonomy right until the first partition of Poland in 1772. During that period, Siemczyno was located near the eastern boundary of the former Drahim district and was partially owned by the von der Goltz family, who were invited to settle here many years before by the Knights Hospitaller. Somewhere around the year 1554, Siemczyno became the main seat of the noble family. Despite the fact that the members of the von der Goltz family residing in the region of Drahim remained the subjects of the Polish king between the 15th and the 17th century, they continued to maintain much stronger links with the Pomeranian nobility than they did with the Polish one. During the 15th and the 16th century, they were known to take part in instances of highway robberies along with other members of the Pomeranian nobility, their victims being primarily various merchants making their way across Pomerania and Neumark. In 1531, the armed intervention of George I, the duke of Pomerania, has finally put a stop to these nefarious practices. In the 17th century, the members of the von der Goltz family followed a different path, climbing the ranks of the Brandenburg and Saxon armies. In 1678, the Emperor in Vienna issued a document which confirmed the knighthood held by Joachim Rüdiger von der Goltz and conferred upon him the title of the Baron of the Reich (Reichsfreiherr). In 1691, this title was reaffirmed by Frederick III, the elector of Brandenburg, who would later become Frederick I, the king of Prussia. In the 16th and 17th century, members of the von der Goltz family became involved in property disputes against the aldermen (district governors) of Drahim as well as against the von Borcke family based in Złocieniec in Neumark, with many of these feuds ending in armed clashes.

During the second half of the 17th century, the status of Siemczyno as the main residence of the von der Goltz family was reaffirmed. The appearance and the precise location of the erstwhile manor house remain shrouded in mystery. It has been determined that the manor houses of the 16th century and the first half of the 17th century were picturesque, often irregularly arranged ensembles of half-timbered residential and utility buildings which still maintain certain defensive features. One may suspect with a high degree of probability that the residence of the von der Goltz family must have followed a similar pattern. The irregular arrangement of the utility buildings and the gate positioned alongside the street is believed to form a relic of the 17th-century manor house complex, although the buildings themselves were erected in the 19th century. A stone plaque bearing the date “MDLXXXVI” is embedded in the wall of one of the buildings. Another notable feature of the complex is the group of ponds, which had most likely formed part of some unspecified system of fortifications. According to the regional historian Fritz Bahr, the manor house itself may have been a half-timbered structure back in the 16th century, although by 1640 it had already been replaced by a masonry structure. An interesting fact which deserves a mention at this stage is that the painting which portrays Berndt Henning von Goltz, created in the early 18th century, one can see the Siemczyno manor - along with the manor house itself - standing in the background. Yet this portrayal is believed to be a symbolic one, with scant attention to realism. The painting depicts a large complex of buildings, their castle-like appearance clearly indicative of a defensive function it was designed to perform.

The existing palace was erected in the years 1722-1728 by Henning Berndt von der Goltz. H. B. von der Goltz served in the Polish armed forces in the rank of rittmeister, which was hardly unusual, since many members of Western Pomeranian nobility served in the Polish army at the time. The local nobles, forced to farm the infertile Pomeranian land, have always viewed the art of war as a viable second source of income, at least until the reforms introduced by Frederick the Great came into force. The residence in Siemczyno was designed as a Baroque building with Classical influences - a recurring motif in the Prussian architecture of the era. At that time, a part of Siemczyno was already part of the Prussian state domain in Drahim. The reign of Frederick William I of Prussia is considered to be the beginning of modern building administration, coupled with a surge in the construction sector.

The Baroque residential complex established in the 1720s followed the example set by the French palaces of the entre cour et jardin (between courtyard and garden) type, which was a general trend followed by all of the European nobility during that period. The complex in Siemczyno featured an axial, symmetrical layout, with the palace preceded by outbuildings and a grand driveway positioned in the middle. Behind the palace stretched a geometrically arranged garden with a transverse pond positioned on the axis thereof. The garden is believed to have featured a number of fountains, their relic today being the system of underground brick canals where wooden pipes had originally been concealed. An identical system of canals dating back to the years 1729-1732 was discovered in Szczecin, on the White Eagle Square (Plac Orła Białego), where they formed part of the water distribution network. The palace itself was designed on a rectangular floor plan, with small side avant-corps facing the garden. The two-storey building was covered with a mansard roof. The façades were divided horizontally by a series of cornices and further accentuated by rusticated giant order lesenes. Inside, the palace featured a representational entrance vestibule with a resplendent three-flight “imperial” staircase as well as an equally grand drawing room on the garden side of the palace, with parts of its original décor in the form of a corner niche with a conch-shaped ceiling and an ornate fireplace surviving to the present day. In the basement, the palace featured a number of utility spaces, most likely including a stable. Since both the architectural form and the projection of the Siemczyn residence remain strikingly similar to those of the Palace in Stolec near Szczecin and other Baroque palaces of Western Pomerania, one may conclude with a high degree of probability that both of these buildings may have been designed by a Prussian official of the building administration (the so-called Landbaumeister). The façade decorations and the general outline of both of the aforementioned palaces follow the styling principles typical of the erstwhile Prussian state architecture, as represented by buildings such as the Prenzlau town hall (1720s), the now-vanished correctional house in Szczecin on Św. Ducha street (years 1724-1726) or the buildings forming part of the Fortress of Szczecin, built during the 1720s. The son of Bernd Henning von der Goltz have made a career for themselves in the Prussian army, climbing the military ranks with great success. After general Georg Konrad von der Goltz - previously awarded with the Pour le Merite medal - died in 1747, king Frederick II the Great himself came to the funeral and made a speech commemorating the departed general. During his lifetime, Georg Konrad von der Goltz was not only a high-ranking officer, but also a honorary member of the Royal Academy of Sciences (Königliche Akademie der Wissenschaften) in Berlin Georg Konrad was immortalised in 1851 on a relief which adorns the plinth of the well-known equestrian statue of Frederick the Great in Berlin.

In 1746 and 1751, Siemczyno was visited by Friedrich Wilhelm von Hohenzollern, member of the collateral line of the Hohenzollern family and margrave of Brandenburg-Schwedt. Friedrich Wilhelm von Hohenzollern was known to be on friendly terms with Joachim Kasimir von der Goltz, hence it should be no surprise that he accepted the invitation. In the years 1758 and 1762, Siemczyno found itself amidst the chaos of marching armies, with both Russian and Prussian forces making their way through the area. As a result, the palace was at various times temporarily seized by Russian and Prussian army officers.

In 1793, the Siemczyno manor became the property of the von Arnim noble family. Heinrich August von Arnim had the palace extended towards the south, with the impressive new annex exhibiting both Baroque and Mannerist influences, the result being quite original - even unusual - for its time. The façade of the new wing, covered with a gable roof with a jerkin head, was accentuated by a series of giant order pilasters. The pilasters themselves were adorned with slender niches and Mannerist ornamental decoration. The southern wing was designed to accommodate both sleeping quarters and guest rooms. Somewhere around the year 1796, the main body of the palace was also modernised. The highly intriguing trompe l’œil paintings on the ceiling of the drawing room on the garden side of the palace are believed to have been executed during that period as well. The painted decorations were designed to create an impression of the inside of a temple, its coffered ceiling featuring a skylight surrounded by a gallery with a balustrade. The main theme of the paintings was the portrayal of Apollo’s chariot soaring high above the gallery. The walls of the drawing room were adorned with textile wallpapers; their appearance, however, remains unknown.

In 1807, the Siemczyno palace was plundered by the invading French forces. According to the regional historian Fritz Bahr, the attackers caused a lot of damage, including the destruction of exquisite mahogany furniture with tortoiseshell inlays and brass fittings, which were allegedly hacked into pieces with axes. Other valuable items destroyed by the plundering troops included fine porcelain objects and expensive musical instruments such as the grand piano, cellos and flutes. The wallpapers were torn into pieces, while the wall-paintings were blotched with ink. Not even pillows and duvets were spared. A group of Polish marauders following in the wake of the French army have plundered and destroyed the rich collection of books in the palace library. The entire Napoleonic period was a veritable catastrophe for the Prussian nobility, including those of the Brandenburg and Pomerania regions. The continental blockade and various war contributions have driven many noble families to the edge of bankruptcy. A peculiar fireplace surround adorned with the image of a dog, surviving in one of the palace rooms, is believed to be a witness of those turbulent times, having most likely been installed in the early 19th century. Compared to other fixtures and fittings of the palace, this fireplace surround appears primitive, vernacular even; one may suspect that it is the work of a local craftsman from Czaplinek or Złocieniec, whose services could be obtained at an affordable price.

During the second quarter of the 19th century, a new, northern wing was added. This single-storey structure, covered with a jerkin head roof, was designed to accommodate various utility rooms. It is believed that the distinctive eyebrow dormers piercing the surfaces of the roof above the corps de logis of the palace were added during that period as well. Some of the palace interiors have also been redesigned. Subsequent modernisation works followed in the fourth quarter of the 19th century or the early 20th century. It is during that period that the surviving plasterwork ceiling decorations were executed.

During the 19th century, the manor farm complex was extended; in addition, a new landscape park was also established. The irregular arrangement of the 19th-century utility buildings with a gateway in the centre, however, is most likely a relic of a much older complex which had once stood there. The former Baroque garden was incorporated into the park, where some of the hornbeam-lined alleys can still be admired.

Siemczyno remained the property of the von Arnim family until 1895; during the period that followed, the manor changed ownership on numerous occasions. In years 1907-1945, the palace remained in the hands of the von Bredow family. After 1945, the palace initially served as a military hospital. In 1947, the former residence also served as temporary living quarters for the people resettled during the Operation Vistula. In 1950, the palace was taken over by the local primary school. In years 1959-1960, the building underwent renovation works; these, however, were not entirely advantageous to its historical value, for the surviving painted decorations in the drawing room have been painted over. The decorations which had graced the chimney breast above the fireplace were also either destroyed or covered with plaster. During the period between 1959 and 1988, the palace served as a school, while during the summer holidays it was used as accommodation for children who came there for various summer camps. In 1990, the palace was sold to a private individual. From 1999 onwards, the historical building remains in the hands of the Andziak family. They have managed to conduct the restoration of the former utility buildings, which now serve as a hotel. The palace was secured against further damage, with various clean-up works performed in the surrounding park. There are already plans for the palace to be thoroughly restored and revitalised. The Heinrichian Society in Siemczyno, established for the purposes of safeguarding and promotion of regional culture, was formed in 2004 at the initiative of the owners of the palace. Today, numerous cultural events and research conferences are organised on the site of the palace. In addition, the owners also release a periodical known as “Zeszyty Henrykowskie” (The Heinrichian Journal).

Description

The residential complex in Siemczyno is located in the middle of the village, inside a meander of the main village road. The church and the former chapel are located in its immediate vicinity, on the western side thereof. Positioned alongside the road, the residential complex consists of the palace and park section in the south and the utility section (manor farm) in the north. In the former manor farm (grange) there are two distinct groups of buildings, differing markedly from one another in terms of arrangement. A line of tightly clustered buildings with a gatehouse in the centre lies on the north-western side of the complex, while a group of free-standing buildings in a regular layout can be seen on the north-eastern side. A large pond is located between the manor farm buildings. The palace and park complex consists of the palace itself, located in the middle and flanked by a pair of side outbuildings, a representational driveway located west of the palace as well as the park which surrounds it from the east and the south. A large meadow with a rectangular pond is located inside the park, on the axis of the palace. A small, oval pond can be seen on the northern side palace. A number of alleys lined with old trees, dating back to the 18th and the 19th century, can still be admired in the park.

The palace itself was designed on a rectangular floor plan, with a large, late 18th-century annex adjoining its southern side as well as a small side wing positioned north of the main body of the palace, erected during the second quarter of the 19th century. The eastern façade of the palace, overlooking the garden, features a pair of projecting avant-corps flanking an orangery positioned in the middle. Remnants of grand, brick and stone stairs can still be seen near the pond. The building features a basement underneath the entirety of its structure. The outline of the palace consists of a two-storey corps de logis with a tall mansard roof as well as a two-storey southern annex and a northern side wing, both of them featuring clipped-gable roofs.

The palace is a masonry structure. The walls of the basement level of the northern wing are covered with split stone cladding with a smoothened surface, the individual stones retaining their rough edges. The basement level features vaulted ceilings of the double barrel type (beneath the main body of the palace), whereas simple barrel vaults are used for the basements beneath the annex and the side wing.

The façades of the Baroque corps de logis are partitioned with cornices and framed with rusticated giant order lesenes. A pseudo-avant-corps crowned with a triangular pediment is positioned in the middle of the front façade. The façades of the southern annex are accentuated by a row of pilasters, spanning the height of both storeys of the building. The pilasters themselves were adorned with slender niches and ornamental decoration combining Mannerist and Baroque influences. The corners of the northern wing are accentuated with rusticated lesenes, with the wall base featuring decorative rustication in the form of faux quoins. All of the façades are pierced with rectangular windows, the only round-arch windows being found in the gables of the side wing.

The interiors of the palace follow a two-bay layout in both the corps de logis and the side wing, with a one-and-a-half layout being used for the southern annex. The individual rooms are arranged in an enfilade layout. The front entrance vestibule is positioned on the middle axis of the main body of the palace, followed by the drawing room in the eastern section of the building, its windows overlooking the park beyond. The entrance vestibule is currently the most representational interior space of the entire palace. The imposing, three-flight “imperial” stairs positioned on the middle axis of the structure are supported by large, round arches. The pillars beneath the arcaded supports are accentuated by massive giant order pilasters. A doorway framed with an ornate surround, leading into the drawing room, is positioned on the axis of the staircase. Another notable feature is the sumptuously decorated, sculpted wooden balustrade forming an interlacing pattern. All that remains of the once-resplendent décor of the drawing room is the conch-shaped niche and a lower section (mantlepiece) of an ornate Baroque fireplace. Fragments of the wooden frames which had once been used to attach the textile wallpapers can still be discerned on the walls of the drawing room. The surviving traces make it possible to assume that the Classicist trompe l’œil decorations on the ceiling survive beneath the layers of paint. Plasterwork decorations from the late 19th century or early 20th century have survived in one of the rooms inside the southern annex. Other surviving items include two period fireplace surrounds. One of them, most likely crafted in the early 19th century, is adorned with a depiction of a dog in bas-relief. The relief is accompanied by a quote from one of the works of Aristophanes: Latratu fures excepi, mutus amantes; Sic placui domino, sic placui dominae, which means “At the robbers I bark'd, at the lovers was mute; So I pleas'd both my Lord and my Lady to boot”. The second fireplace surround is assembled from 18th-century stove tiles.

The building is private property and may only be viewed from the outside. Interiors may be explored by arrangement with the owners.

compiled by Radosław Walkiewicz, Regional Branch of the National Heritage Board of Poland in Szczecin, 21-05-2015.

Bibliography

  • Bahr F., Das Golzen-Schloss zu Heinrichsdorf, “Unser Pommernland”, Jahrhang 17, 1932, pp. 153-157
  • Bahr F., Georg Conrad Freiherr von der Goltz, “Unser Pommernland”, Jahrhang 17, 1932, pp. 157-161
  • Bąk L., Ziemia wałecka w dobie reformacji i kontrreformacji w XVI -XVIII w. Piła 1999
  • Bredow, M. Geschichte der Famielie von Bredow in Heinrichsdorf, “Zeszyty Siemczyńsko-Henrykowskie”, vol. I, Siemczyno 2013, pp. 30-43
  • Kalita-Skwirzyńska K., Siemczyno, pałac. Dokumentacja historyczno-architektoniczna. Szczecin 1976. Available in the collection of the Regional Branch of the National Heritage Board of Poland in Szczecin
  • Leszczołowski J., Henrykowcy Golczowie. Siemczyno 2013
  • Leszczołowski J., Starostowie i Raubritterzy, “Zeszyty Siemczyńsko-Henrykowskie, vol. I, Siemczyno 2013, pp. 44-52
  • Połeć K., Powojenne losy pałacu w Siemczynie, “Zeszyty Siemczyńsko-Henrykowskie”, vol. I, Siemczyno 2013, pp. 68-79
  • Official website of the Siemczyno palace: http://www.palacsiemczyno.pl/

General information

  • Type: palace
  • Chronology: 1 poł. XVIII w.
  • Form of protection: register of monuments
  • Address: Siemczyno
  • Location: Voivodeship zachodniopomorskie, district drawski, commune Czaplinek - obszar wiejski
  • Source: National Heritage Board of Poland

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