Ujazd – The Ruins of Krzyżtopór Castle, Ujazd
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Ujazd – The Ruins of Krzyżtopór Castle

Ujazd

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In the Świętokrzyskie Province, in the village of Ujazd, one of the most original Polish monuments is located – the ruins of the Krzyżtopor castle. A monumental building, which at the time of its erection was one of the most impressive residential buildings on the continent, rises above cosy buildings, having meadows and the Świętokrzyskie Mountains as a backdrop. Outside the fortifications, at the back of the building, a garden was established, now signalled by its outline that corresponded with the rural greenery.

At the beginning of the 17th century, the Ossoliński family acquired lands near Iwaniska which, in 1619, were given to Krzysztof Ossoliński by his father. Soon afterwards, probably in 1621, the owner initiated the construction of the Krzyżtopor castle in the village of Ujazd. The author of its design is unknown, it could have been an architect associated with the Roman circle of Vignola’s successors. The builder, Wawrzyniec Senes, and the founder himself could also have a great influence on the final building shape. Ossoliński belonged to one of the most illustrious Polish magnate families of that time. He studied both in Poland and abroad: at the Jesuit college in Lublin, at universities in Wurzburg, Bologna and Padua; he travelled a lot around Italy. He held a number of important functions, first of all: post of voivode of the Sandomierz Province. Senes, an architect born on the border between Italy and Switzerland, worked closely with the Ossoliński family. He is credited with the construction of a collegiate church at Klimontow, funded by Chancellor Jerzy Ossoliński, brother of Krzysztof. Presumably, he also worked on other investments of the Ossoliński family.

The monumental residence was erected in a surprisingly short time. Already in 1644, excellent guests came to the castle, including King Władysław IV, to witness the marriage of the owner’s son, Krzysztof Baldwin. Most likely, finishing and furnishing works were going on in following years. Perhaps they were continued by Krzysztof Baldwin, who after his father’s death in 1645 became the next owner of Krzyżtopor. Unfortunately, four years later he fell in the Battle of Zborow, leaving no heirs. Until 1944, the residence remained in private hands; its owners were the Denhoff, Kalinowski, Morsztyn, Pac, Sołtyk, Łempicki and Orsetti families. After the Swedish invasion of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1655, the Swedish troops were stationed in the castle for several months. The residence was ruined and plundered, the library and family archives, among other things, were stolen. Presumably, based on the stolen materials, an extremely valuable iconographic source was created: an engraving by Erik Dahlbergh – the oldest plan of Krzyżtopor. The castle never returned to its former glory and was used only in part. Further damage took place in 1770. That year, the Bar Confederates who were supported by the host of the residence, Michał Jan Pac, were defending themselves at the castle. Since the end of the 18th century, Krzyżtopor has remained uninhabited; the subsequent owners moved to a mansion in Planta.

The building, falling into ruin, has witnessed many events important for the country. It served as shelter for the January insurgents, civilians during World War I and partisans during World War II.

Today, the castle ruins are managed by the Cultural Institution Krzyżtopor Castle in Ujazd.

The building, preserved in the form of a ruin, is in a good condition and has a legible form, reflecting both the original magnitude of the residence and its spatial layout. The high degree of authenticity, combined with the fact that the object has never been significantly remodelled, gives it a particular scientific value.

The building, created in the spirit of Mannerism and Baroque, represents a palazzo in fortezza concept. Its form is a peculiar combination of defensive and residential architecture. Road to the building runs through a bridge and a gate tower, located on the south-east side. The central part of the trapezoidal main courtyard is occupied by a palace with a front elevation split by a neck leading to an inner elliptical courtyard. Behind the courtyard, on the axis, representative rooms were arranged, including a dining room and a ballroom, closed by an octagonal tower (called the High Barbican), where a legendary aquarium with a glass bottom was allegedly located above the parlour. The whole structure is complemented by wings of residential and utility functions, flanking the main courtyard and overlooked by four towers. The complex is surrounded by fortifications in the so-called New-Italian type, based on a pentagon plan, with bastions in the corners. The object is characterised by a varied saturation of elevations with architectural detailing, depending on the function of each building. The partly preserved rich decor of the palace facades contrasts with the severity of the walls in the auxiliary wings. The palace elevations are articulated, inter alia, with Palladian motif, and the numerous niches were originally filled with decorations.

Once rich decoration of the castle was supposed, in line with the spirit of the era, to glorify the founder and his family by, among other things, adorning the palace facades with portraits (not preserved) and inscriptions (partially preserved). Also, the very name of the residence is meaningful: on the one hand, it refers to the founder’s name, on the other, it combines two words: cross (krzyż) and axe (topór). The cross refers to the Counter-Reformation attitude of Ossoliński and the coat of arms of his mother, Jadwiga Sienieńska. The axe is a reference to the Ossoliński family’s coat of arms. Both symbols, along with an element of the Sienieński family’s coat of arms – the letter W – are still visible at the entrance to the castle.

For centuries, the object has been stirring the imagination of visitors. It is attributed with a complex symbolism referring to astronomy. The residence allegedly had as many towers as there are seasons, as many halls as there are months, as many rooms as there are weeks, as many windows as there are days in a year.

The enormous, extremely original defensive residence of Krzysztof Ossoliński is characterised by splendour, theatricality and an attempt to surprise. The building is an extraordinary monument to the founder and his times that excellently depicts the social significance and wealth of Polish gentry.

General information

  • Type: masterpiece of architecture and engineering
  • Chronology: 1. poł. XVII w.
  • Form of protection: Historical Monument
  • Address: Ujazd 73
  • Location: Voivodeship świętokrzyskie, district opatowski, commune Iwaniska
  • Source: National Heritage Board of Poland

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