Czersk – castle of Mazovian dukes

History

   The construction of the castle can be connected with the Mazovian prince Janusz I the Elder and the years from around 1388 to the beginning of the 15th century. Then the capital stronghold of the Czersk Principality went into the hands of grandson of  Janusz I, Bolesław IV, and later other Mazovian Dukes. After the incorporation of Mazovia into the Polish Crown in 1526, the castle became one of the centers of the estate of queen Bona and was extended. In the following years, used by the starosts, it was blown up by the Swedes in the mid-seventeenth century, losing utility values. After the fall of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, it was finally abandoned, and subsequent destruction were caused by its use as a quarry.

Architecture

   Four main phases of castle construction can be distinguished. In the first, at the end of the fourteenth and the beginning of the fifteenth century, the basic framework was established. In the second phase of the first quarter of the fifteenth century, polygonal, irregular perimeter walls and three towers were finally formed. They were superstructured in the third phase in the years 1526-1547. In the last phase of the expansion after 1547, the wooden interior of the castle was replaced with a brick one. In the northern part, the so-called Bona’s residence, an irregular, adjacent palace with dimensions of 10×30 meters, and also a southern house were created.
   The walls’ circumference consisted of straight sections, the longest of which were east and west, respectively 50 and 40 meters long and it ran almost parallel. The northern line, 38 meters long, was almost perpendicular to them. The walls were 1.8 meters thick on average and survived up to 6 meters high. They were built of brick on a foundation and pedestal made of stones.
   
The Gate tower is 22 meters high and has been strongly extended outside the perimeter. It was founded on a rectangular plan similar to a square with external dimensions 8.8×8.6 and internal 5,3×4.9. In its grounf floor there is an ogival gate opening and a smaller gate for pedestrians, both placed in recesses intended for the raised drawbridges. These bridges made possible to get through the artificiall moat. The gate did not have a portcullis. The tower had four floors, of which the first floor was accessible by timber stairs, located along the eastern defensive wall. The first floor had a typically defensive function, it had exit to the sidewalk of defenders on the walls, it was also a gate’s watchman chamber. Probably there were winches for handling drawbridges. The man who used them could watch road through a narrow window above the gate. This level was low (2.7 meters) and topped with a timber ceiling. In the southern wall there was a vestibule from which led two strings of stairs, both leading up. The upper floor was a high chamber with a barrel vault. Probably it served as the apartment of the castle’s burgrave. The room was warmed by a fireplace, it had a window in a niche with two benches, and a small door to a timber latrine in the south wall. In addition, the room had three shallow, once plastered, ogival niches. The second string of stairs from the first floor led directly to the third floor, omitting the burgrave chamber. It was a defensive storey, having arrowslits in recesses in all walls. It was also accessible by separate stairs from the burgrave chamber. The fourth floor finished the tower wall, it was low and accessible only by a ladder. In each of the walls there were three arrowslits, in addition there were hoardings, that is a timber porch that ran around the tower, and was hung on the outside wall. It allowed to attack through holes in the floor, straight from above.

   The eastern tower, with a final height of over 24 meters, is located in the corner of the wall and almost completely inside the perimeter. It was probably a protection if you wanted to make a digging. Its walls have a thickness of 2 meters in the lower part, and on the outer walls there are battlements of its original height, which did not exceed the level of the guard’s sidewalk on the walls. Tower interior was accessible only from defensive walls. The lowest level was occupied by the prison dungeon, located about 10 meters below the hatch in the first floor. Food and prisoners were probably abandoned using ropes. Communication with higher floors was ensured by stairs placed in the wall thickness. The lack of heating devices indicates that they were not used to dwell.
   
The western tower, 9 meters in diameter, was almost entirely placed outside the perimeter. Originally not high (10 meters), it was topped with battlements, later it was elevated. Its role was to flank the adjacent parts of the wall. The stairs led to the interior from the level of the courtyard. Below the main storey, lit with one narrow window, there was a small cellar, accessible by a flap in the floor. Nothing is known about the purpose of these rooms. Above were also two floors, crenellation and hoarding. The second floor was probably connected by a preserved portal and a timber bridge with a residential building.

Current state

   The castle located on the Vistula escarpment has been preserved in an advanced state of ruin. The full elements are: a four-sided gate tower with a height of 22 meters, two cylindrical towers added to the external face of the walls, and a large part of the perimeter walls. The remains of the courtyard buildings are poorly visible. The monument is open to visitors during the hours described on the official website of the castle here.

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bibliography:
Leksykon zamków w Polsce, L.Kajzer, S.Kołodziejski, J.Salm, Warszawa 2003.