The remains of the Opaliński family castle, Sieraków
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The remains of the Opaliński family castle

Sieraków

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Ruins of a medieval castle dating back to the 14th century. During the 17th century, the castle underwent major alteration works, becoming transformed into a monumental residence of the noble house of Opaliński. The plans for the redesign are believed to have been drawn up by the architect Krzysztof Bonadura the Elder. During the 19th century, the building was torn down. The Opaliński Castle Museum operates in the southern wing of the palace, reconstructed in 1995. The exhibition presents the history of the land of Sieraków, from the earliest times in known history right up to the present day. The 17th-century sarcophagi of the Opaliński family displayed in the ground floor mausoleum deserve a particular attention, for these artefacts have virtually no equal anywhere else in Europe.

History

The history of Sieraków goes back to the Middle Ages. It was mentioned in written records for the first time in 1251; in 1388, it was referred to as a town. Most probably, Sieraków was granted municipal rights in 1358 (according to other sources — in 1334). King Władysław II Jagiełło confirmed the conferral of municipal rights in 1419. The town was privately-owned town. Before 1338-1450, it was owned by the Borkowic and the Zaremba noble families; later on, it was acquired by the Sierakowski family of the Nałęcz coat of arms. In 1450, the Sieraków estate was purchased by a member of one of the most prominent families of Greater Poland — Łukasz Górka, the province governor or voivode [wojewoda] of Greater Poland. In 1571, the Górka family sold the estate to the Rokossowski family. From 1591, Sieraków belonged to the Opaliński family of the Łodzia coat of arms. Under the Opaliński family, the town began to flourish. The family remained the owners of Sieraków until 1749, when it was purchased by Henryk Brühl. In the years 1789-1818, the town belonged to the Bniński family of the Łodzia coat of arms. In 1818, it was purchased by the Prussian state treasury in order to serve the needs of the local horse breeding farm. In 1827, Sieraków became the property of Frederick III, King of Prussia.

The very first fortified building was erected on the site of the present castle back in the 14th century. It is being mentioned in documents dating back to 1397, where it is referred to as a structure that has been destroyed. It was then rebuilt by Dobrogost from the noble house of Nałęcz in the early 15th century. The appearance of the structure, built over a number of distinct phases, can be reconstructed on the basis of both source documents and archaeological research. The castle was erected on a quadrilateral floor plan. It consisted of two rectangular, two-storey wings - the southern wing and the northern wing - covered with gable roofs. These wings were connected by a transverse western wing. The buildings were surrounded by a small courtyard, terminating with a curtain wall with a gate towards the east. The vaulted rooms on the ground floor performed defensive and utility functions, while the residential section was located on the first floor. The works performed by the members of the Górka family were limited to rearranging the castle interiors and acquiring various interior fittings. In the late 16th century, the castle was lost to the blaze, with extensive refurbishment and alteration works being performed during the first quarter of the 17th century by Piotr Opaliński, castellan and province governor (wojewoda) of Poznań, who wished to turn the castle into a sumptuous palace for himself. The plans are believed to have been drawn up by Krzysztof Bonadura the Elder. In the course of the aforementioned works, the preserved Gothic walls were extended upwards by two storeys. The castle also received a fourth, eastern wing; as a result, the inner courtyard has now turned into a smaller quadrangle. The buildings had tall roofs with decorative gables designed in the Renaissance style. In Krzysztof Opaliński’s times, a representational staircase was added to the eastern part of the building, while newly planted gardens now surrounded the palace. In the second half of the 18th century, the building, now under the care of administrators, has begun falling into ruin. The northern wing was torn down somewhere around the year 1774. The remaining structures were demolished in 1832, with only the vaulted ground floor rooms of the southern wing being left standing; these remained in use as an ice house. A new road was built right across the castle site, connecting the town with the horse breeding farm.

In 1991, it has been decided that the southern wing of the castle would be reconstructed in order to serve as a mausoleum where the recently restored sarcophagi of the Opaliński family, discovered in the catacombs beneath the Bernardine monastery in Sieraków, could be exhibited to the public. An inventory of the site was prepared that same year. In years 1993-94, the preserved relics of the castle were thoroughly studied. These works made it possible to determine the chronology of the structure as well as to reconstruct the original appearance of the southern wing. This, in turn, made it possible to prepare the design for the reconstruction thereof. Construction works were completed in May 1995. The reconstructed wing was adapted to serve as a museum, with the Opaliński family sarcophagi being displayed in one of the vaulted ground floor rooms.

Description

The remains of the castle are located on the southern bank of the Warta river, in the north-eastern part of Sieraków, east of the Market Square. The reconstructed southern wing is located on the southern side of the road (Stadniny street, named after the horse breeding farm) which cuts across the site of the vanished complex. The outline of the former northern wing and the external courtyard have only been marked on the ground level. The buildings of the manor farm and the horse breeding farm are located east of the castle ruins.

The southern wing was erected on a rectangular floor plan. The surviving Gothic walls and vaults have been carefully preserved. The first floor was reconstructed using bricks from the Gothic period. The entire structure was then covered with a tall gable roof clad with ceramic roof tiles. The façades were reconstructed using new bricks shaped to resemble those of the Gothic period; the simplified detailing of the façade is reminiscent of the designs uncovered in the course of archaeological research. The eastern and western façades are topped with simple, brick gables. The layout of the reconstructed first floor was designed to resemble the original layout of the Baroque period, with its square, vaulted antechamber, the vestibule housing the staircase and the lavish, vaulted dining room. In addition, the Baroque vaulting was also reconstructed on the basis of the research performed.

The ground floor section, with its surviving barrel vaults, currently serves as the mausoleum of the Opaliński family. Inside lie the tin and copper family sarcophagi, dating back to the 17th century. The remaining rooms house an exhibition dedicated to the history of the town, from the earliest times of its existence right up to the present day.

The site is accessible to visitors. The building currently serves as a museum (the Opaliński Castle Museum). The ground floor mausoleum serves as an exhibition space where the valuable sarcophagi of the Opaliński family are displayed. More information is available on the website: muzeum-sierakow.pl

compiled by Krzysztof Jodłowski, Regional Branch of the National Heritage Board of Poland in Poznan, 28-11-2014.

Bibliography

  • Jurek T., Początki Sierakowa, „Sierakowskie zeszyty historyczne”, 1, Sieraków 2008, s. 11-47.
  • Katalog zabytków sztuki w Polsce, t. V, z. 13: powiat międzychodzki, Warszawa 1968, s. 14, 21.
  • Łożyński J. T., Kolejni właściciele Sierakowa nad Wartą. Najważniejsze wydarzenia - kalendarium, „Sierakowskie zeszyty historyczne”, 1, Sieraków 2008, s. 49-57
  • Skuratowicz J., Zamek w Sierakowie, „Kronika Wielkopolski, 1994, nr 1(68), s. 58-69.
  • Skuratowicz J., Rekonstrukcja zamku w Sierakowie, „Kronika Wielkopolski, 1996, nr 2(77), s. 66-76.
  • Wielkopolskie zamki, koncepcja, opracowanie tekstów, wybór fotografii M. Strzałko, Poznań 2006, s. 90-93.

General information

  • Type: castle
  • Chronology: pocz. XIV – poł. XV w.
  • Form of protection: register of monuments
  • Address: Stadnina 3, Sieraków
  • Location: Voivodeship wielkopolskie, district międzychodzki, commune Sieraków - miasto
  • Source: National Heritage Board of Poland

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