Kazimierz Dolny – castle and tower

History

   The building of stone fortifications in Kazimierz nad Wisłą can be related with the customs chamber that has existed since the 13th century. The tower, commonly known as the Łokietek Tower, was built at the turn of the 13th and 14th centuries, possibly because of the foundation of this ruler. It guarded the communication and trade route of Vistula river and the ferry at which the duty was collected. The construction of such fortifications has numerous analogies in the Slovak (formerly Upper Hungary) and Polish territories (eg, the castles in Rytro and Czchów), whereas the tower in Kazimierz would be the easternmost object of this type.
   The castle was erected a little later, because in the reign of king Casimir the Great, around the mid-fourteenth century, and most probably in the 1340s. The stimulus for its construction, just like the fortifications in Lublin, could have been the Tatar invasion of 1341, which devastated the surrounding lands. Both foundations had a defensive as well as administrative function as a staroste. For this reason, they later remained in the hands of tenutarians. In the fifteenth century, it was a family of Grots from Ostrów, and the longest, from 1509 to 1644, the starosty of Kazimierz was held by the Firlej family.
At that time, thanks to Mikołaj Firlej, the renaissance reconstruction of the castle took place. Its slow demise began after the destruction made by the Swedes in 1655-1657 and 1707-1714. From 1774, the stronghold was already abandoned.

Architecture

   The complex of medieval fortifications in Kazimierz Dolny consisted of a royal castle and a cylindrical tower located 180 meters away. It was erected on a hill overlooking the town and the river. It was built of unworked stone on a plan of a circle with a diameter of 10 meters. Its height reaches 20 meters, and the thickness of the walls reaches in the ground floor up to 4 meters. It received a characteristic barrel shape, rarely found in Poland, but often in the Thuring – Saxon region. This form was supposed to make difficult to add siege ladders, and the arrows were reportedly falling at an angle dangerous for the attackers themselves. The entrance to the tower was placed six meters above the ground level. Perhaps led to it a bridge from timber fortifications that would have to surround the tower, or possibly the entrance was led along the wooden stairs straight from the courtyard. In case of danger, such a platform could be disassembled or pulled inside, completely cutting off the tower from enemies. The oldest source records indicate that tower could have been covered with a conical roof supported by wooden pillars, while maintaining a defensive gallery, covered with a crenellated breastwork. In tower’s interior, traces of three utility storeys have survived: the entrance floor, the higher defensive flooor and the most extensive residential and economic with preserved traces of the fireplace. They all had flat, wooden ceilings and were connected by means of ladders and openings in the ceilings. In the lowest storey there was a dark and stuffy dungeon. With a wall thickness of up to 4 meters, its internal space was very small. The upper floors were equipped with single slotted window openings with stone benches.
   The castle was located on the neighboring hill, closer to the town, which could have been its economic base and whose defense it was to serve. The original castle consisted of perimeter walls in the shape of an elongated polygon with dimensions of 30×65 meters. On the north-east side, the corner was originally cut off to adjust the walls to the terrain and slope of the hill. In its vicinity was the original entrance to the castle courtyard, leading from the direction of the cylindrical tower. On the western side, the defensive wall was formed into a several-storey tower, open from the side of the courtyard. The defensive walls were crowned, like the cylindrical tower, with crenelage. The entrance to the pavement in their crown led up the stairs created in the thickness of the wall. Their relics have been preserved in the south-western corner of the courtyard. Due to the limited number of residential buildings, there probably must have been some wooden buildings in the courtyard. There also was a well near the eastern line of the walls. It had an oval shape, but the above-ground part was passing into a rectangular shaft. This shape was probably associated with the use of a turnstile with two buckets, as mentioned in sources from 1509.
   Expansion in the fifteenth century caused the construction of a three-story residential wing in the south-western part of the courtyard. As the level of the courtyard was uneven then, the decline towards the south-west was used for the construction of the lower storey. Internal divisions are poorly legible, but probably the building at the ground level and the first floor had two rooms. Relics of architectural detail indicate the use of ogival windows in the building. A little later, probably at the end of the fifteenth century, a second residential wing from the river side was added, one-storey and finished with a four-sided tower. The sequence of its rooms was added to the outer façades of the defensive wall. The tower, unlike the rest of the castle, was built of bricks. Located in the middle of the north-west section of the walls, it was built on a square plan with a side of 10 meters and strongly extended in front of the perimeter. For this reason, its external corners were reinforced with buttresses. The interior of the tower was single-space on each storey, and it had three or four levels above ground and a barrel vaulted cellar. Originally, it must have been covered by a tent roof. Near the tower, a ceramic tile floor was discovered, a remnant of a small room. It is possible that it was a bathhouse, described in the sources as “extra castrum” (outside the castle walls). From the period of the end of the Middle Ages, there also comes a dry moat, blocking access to the castle from the south (it made impossible to carry out mining works).

Current state

   The castle is currently secured as a ruin with a readable layout. However, the XIII / XIV century tower has been fully preserved, being one of the most valuable monuments of this type in Poland. Both recently renovated buildings are adapted for sightseeing. Dates and opening times can be checked on the official website of the castle here.

show castle on map

show tower on map

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bibliografia:
Leksykon zamków w Polsce, L.Kajzer, S.Kołodziejski, J.Salm, Warszawa 2003.
Teodorowicz-Czerepińska J., Zamek w Kazimierzu Dolnym, Lublin 1987.