Bishop's Castle, Sławków
Narodowy Instytut Dziedzictwa pl
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The ruins of the castle of the Cracow bishops in Sławków, dating back to the second half of the 13th century, are a unique example of 13th-century fortified architecture. The remnants and cultural layers preserved on the site, atop a small hillock, remain an extremely valuable archaeological artefact. From a historical perspective, the site is also significant as a silent witness to the struggle for the reunification of the Kingdom of Poland.

Location and description

The historical monument is situated at the edge of the town, about 250 metres south-east of the market square, near the Browarna and Staropocztowa streets. The relatively small hill where the castle had once stood lies about 300 metres west of the Biała Przemsza river.

The main part of the preserved remnants of the castle are the lowermost parts of a monumental keep which had once served both residential and defensive functions. The dimensions of the keep, designed on a rectangular plan, are 12 x 11 metres, with the walls being about 2.3 metres thick. The surviving walls are about 4 metres in height; originally, the tower had as many as three or even four storeys. The tower was built using split stone bound with lime mortar. The structure was erected in two stages. Initially conceived as one of the open-gorged towers of the castle, opening towards the west, the structure was then modified through the addition of the western section, becoming a fully enclosed structure. This most likely occurred in the years 1284-1286. During the initial phase of its development, the tower was surrounded by a moat almost 7 metres wide as well as by a wooden fence; apart from that, however, no additional revetments were known to exist. In the early 14th century, a small gatehouse and a staircase annex were added to the keep, its eastern wall now reinforced by a pair of buttresses. In addition, the tower was surrounded with an earthen rampart between 6 and 8 metres wide, most likely equipped with a wooden palisade at the top. The moat was widened to about 10 metres in total. According to J. Pierzak, the castle of the Cracow bishops was originally supposed to come equipped with a peripheral wall. The construction of the walled enclosure, designed on a quadrangular plan (124 x 90 x 75 x 90 metres) has never been completed, however; on the contrary, due to the change in design concept, the parts of the structure which had already been built were torn down soon afterwards. As a result, very little of the peripheral wall has survived to the present day. It needs to be added at this stage that, in the view of J. Pierzak, the Sławków castle does not have any counterparts in the Małopolska (Lesser Poland) region, although it does have many similarities to the Silesian castles in Wrocław and Opole.

History

The castle was erected in the second half of the 13th century; the structure was constructed from scratch - “in cruda radice”, which means that no previous settlement had existed there before. According to J. Pierzak, the construction process was initiated in the years 1280-1283 by Paweł from Przemankowo, the bishop of Cracow, although it was only completed after he had been succeeded by Jan Muskata. It needs to be added at this stage that, according to the findings made by J. Pierzak, the overall design concept has changed in the meantime; due to various political and financial reasons, the complex ultimately erected was smaller than originally planned. The castle - a scaled-down version of the original design - had already been completed by 1289, since it is known to have been taken over by Henry IV Probus (Henry the Righteous), who led his armies from Wrocław towards Cracow in an attempt to seize the Cracow throne. This fact has been recorded in historical sources and is also the very first written mention of the Sławków castle. The castle was then taken over by the Bohemian Přemyslid dynasty in 1291, becoming a strategic foothold which was to aid their scheme to seize the Polish crown. Two years after the death of Paweł from Przemankowo, i.e. in 1294, the castle was acquired by his successor, the Cracow bishop Jan Muskata, who was a staunch supporter of the Přemyslid dynasty and, as such, was given permission by Wenceslaus II to erect fortifications around the towns and cities he controlled, including Sławków. Whether he actually managed to erect fortifications around the town has not been determined so far; however, in the early 14th century, he definitely did manage to perform extension works covering the existing residential keep and the accompanying revetments. The existing written sources also indicate that he used the Sławków castle as an outpost for his loyal mercenaries, who would launch raids against the towns and villages of the Lesser Poland (Małopolska) region, hoping to aid the Přemyslid dynasty in their struggle for the throne. In 1306, King Wenceslaus III of Bohemia - the last of the Přemyslid dynasty - was assassinated; one year later, Sławków was successfully besieged by Władysław the Elbow-high, who would later become the king of Poland. Seeing that his struggle against the man who would soon claim the crown was increasingly pointless, Jan Muskata, who had been a staunch enemy of Władysław the Elbow-high, was forced to watch his coronation ceremony in the Wawel castle in Cracow in 1320.

In years 1433, 1434 and 1455, the Sławków castle was plundered and set on fire by the invading Hussite forces. During the most recent of these armed raids, the castle was destroyed by an army of Polish and Moravian mercenaries led by Jerzy Stosz and Mikołaj Świeborowski. It is believed that this proved to be the tipping point for the castle, which would never be rebuilt after this devastating onslaught.

Condition and results of archaeological research

A total of seven seasons of archaeological works have been performed on the site (1983, 1985-1990), with Jacek Pierzak, PhD, being in charge of all the excavations conducted. In the course of excavations, numerous relics of fortifications have been discovered and identified, accompanied by a variety of moveable artefacts. The summary of the conclusions reached in the course of excavations is included above.

The site is surrounded by a fence, but it remains accessible all year round. Keys to the gate and archaeological artefacts are kept at the Municipal Community Centre in Sławków, in the Ancient and Medieval Art Department at 9 Rynek st.

compiled by Michał Bugaj, Regional Branch of the National Heritage Board of Poland in Katowice, 08-08-2014.

Bibliography

  • Kajzer L., Kołodziejski S., Salm J. 2007. Leksykon zamków w Polsce. Warszawa, 459.
  • Pierzak J. 1988. Średniowieczny Sławków odsłania tajemnice. Katowice
  • Pierzak J. 1994 Wyniki najnowszych badań nad zamkiem biskupów krakowskich w Sławkowie, woj. Katowickie. Śląskie Prace Prahistoryczne 3, 137-161.
  • Pierzak J. 2002. Zamek biskupów krakowskich w Sławkowie. Rocznik Muzeum Górnośląskiego w Bytomiu Archeologia, issue 15. Bytom.

General information

  • Type: castle
  • Chronology: prawdopodobnie 1280-1283 r.
  • Form of protection: register of monuments
  • Address: Sławków
  • Location: Voivodeship śląskie, district będziński, commune Sławków
  • Source: National Heritage Board of Poland

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