Ciechanów – castle of Mazovian dukes

History

The castle was built on empty place, probably in the 20s of the 15th century, because in 1429, master Niklos introduced building accounts to the prince of Mazovia Janusz I. After the fire in 1467, the castle was extended, among others, the towers were raised. After the incorporation of Mazovia into the Polish Crown in 1526, the castle was taken over by queen Bona and rebuilt after 1539. From the turn of the sixteenth and seventeenth century, the castle began to lose its importance, especially after being burned by the Swedes during the “deluge”. It was used until the end of the eighteenth century by the starosts, as the seat of the court and archives. After the fall of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1795, the Prussians dismantled the princely palace standing by the northern curtain of the walls.

Architecture

    The castle’s research has distinguished three stages of development of the stronghold. In the first phase, at the initiative of Janusz I, there was a regular castle of the shape of a quadrilateral with dimensions of 48×57 meters, consisting of perimeter walls, two corner towers and the Great House, that is a ducal palace. It was a two-storey building with four rooms on each floor. In the second half of the fifteenth century, the perimeter walls and cylindrical towers were raised and the palace’s floor was added. In the third phase, probably at the beginning of the sixteenth century, the old gate was removed from the south, and a new one was pierced in the western curtain. It was preceded by a foregate and a timber bridge. Once again towers were raised and adapted to the use of firearms. The Great House was also raised, and a row of brick buildings was added to the southern curtain. This was the so-called Small House, in which there was an economic infrastructure, including a castle kitchen.

     Thanks to early modern lustrations, we know what was the layout of the Large House. To its façade from the side of the inner courtyard, a tower with an open, gothic loggia was added, to which led a side staircase from the courtyard. From the loggia, the entrance led on the high ground floor to the great hall with a stove (courtroom). On the eastern side was a banquet room with a stove and an additional entrance for service in the facade wall from the courtyard. In the western wall of the great hall there was a passage to the chamber which was probably originally a prince’s bedroom and later a room used as a pantry. From the front of the tower, there was an entrance with a brick staircase down to the original ground floor (later a shallow basement), to a room covered with a gothic vault, supported by two central pillars. This room, together with the eastern, neighboring one, after locating the economic facilities in the Small House, could serve the prince’s knights. The original cellars were equipped with timber ground. The western hall of the cellars, after the liquidation of the connection with the hall, was accessible only from the prince’s chamber. It could be used to store wines. On the third floor of the tower there was a chapel of St. Stanislaus, accessible from the upper, large entrance hall (also referred to as a painted hall). From it in the western wall there was a passage to the prince’s bedroom, equipped with a toilet and stove, a chamber, a prince’s treasury and stairs in the western wall leading to an apartment in Kurza Noga (bay window) and a timber staircase to the living rooms in the attic, equipped with a stoves and brick fireplaces. Behind the eastern wall of the painted room, the passage led through the room with an annex to the warmed by stove chamber, originally residential, and re-used as an arsenal with a small powder store. The passage of stairs in the thickness of the wall led from it to the east defensive porch of the walls. All rooms of the Large House were covered with timber ceilings.

Current state

    The castle in Ciechanów is one of the best preserved Polish gothic brick castles. The sadder is the fact that since 2013 it has been disfigured by the insertion of a modern, glass and concrete building at the castle inner ward, which essentially destroyed the interior of the castle. We can say ‘thank you’ to the Museum of the Masovian Nobility and the local notables, who destroyed Polish cultural heritage with their small-town cravings. It remains to be hoped that in the future the manager of the castle will change, which will lead to the removal of the hideous pavilion. I recommend admiring the castle only from outside.

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bibliography:
Leksykon zamków w Polsce, L.Kajzer, S.Kołodziejski, J.Salm, Warszawa 2003.
Lewicka L.M., Konserwatorski problem rewaloryzacji zamku w Ciechanowie.