Łęczyca – royal castle

History

   The castle was built by king Casimir the Great in the fourteenth century, but the exact date of creation has not been clearly determined. It probably took place between 1357 and 1370. Castle became a royal residence, and then the seat of the starost of Łęczyca. In 1406, it was burned by the Teutonic Knights, but after a short time it was possible to rebuild it. Already in 1409, king Władysław Jagiełło came to the castle to take part in the council at which decisions were made in relation with the forthcoming war with the Order. The king himself stayed at the castle many times. In 1410, after the battle of Grunwald prisoners of war were waiting here, awaiting the delivery of a ransom. In the following years, parliaments were held here four times, and the stronghold became the seat of the next king, Kazimierz Jagiellończyk, during the next war with the Order.
  
The castle was expanded in the 16th century by the starost of Łęczyca Jan Lutomirski and in the first half of the 17th century. During these works, in addition to strengthening and superstructure of existing elements, it received the so-called New House in the north-west corner. The defensive values ​​of the castle worked well during the Swedish wars, when in 1655 the city occupied by the Swedes had previously been captured by the Poles, and the Swedish crew successfully defended the castle for 4 weeks and received relief. The situation repeated itself in the following year, except that the Swedes capitulated. During the next war in 1705, the castle was completely devastated.
  
In the 18th and 19th centuries, the Prussian authorities tried to protect the ruins, but this did not stop the progressive destruction and the gatehouse and the second main castle tower partly collapsed. Over the years, local residents used the remains of the castle as a source of building materials. In 1964, castle was rebuilt.

Architecture

   Located on a 5-meter high embankment in the south-eastern part of the town’s fortifications, the castle occupied an area of ​​over 2,600 m2. It was a quadrangle, approximately 50 x 60 meters with two straight curtains and two slightly bent curtains. In the south – west corner stood the main tower, a square on bottom with a side of 9.5 meters and with an octagonal top. The tower could control the entrance to the town from the south and simultaneously the direct route to the castle from the west. In the basement, it had a dark and stuffy room, not illuminated by one window. The ventilation was provided only by small gaps in the walls, and the entrance led through the flap from the upper floor, through a ladder or lines. This chamber probably served as a prison. The upper, octagonal part was divided into two defensive-observation flooors with a passage to the porch in the crown of the walls. Vertical communication was provided by stairs hidden in the wall thickness.
   In the northern part of the western curtain there was a four-sided, protruding in front of the wall gatehouse to which led a drawbridge. Because it was turned towards the town, therefore the castle did not have direct access to the suburban areas. The whole was surrounded by a wall with a height of 10 meters and a moat powered by the river, which secured the castle and the town from the east. The corners of the walls were reinforced with buttresses, similarly to the eastern curtain, rising above the swampy Bzura valley.
   In the courtyard at the middle of the eastern curtain stood a small, three-story house with a side length of 15 meters, now called “powder”, and formerly an “old house”. Initially, it probably had a character similar to a tower house. On each of its storeys there were three rooms, probably occupied by a burgrave, scribe and archives, warmed by fireplaces and tiled stoves. On the top floor, two rooms were allocated for the granary. Among the rest of the buildings, it was distinguished by thicker walls and basements. From the level of the second floor, there was probably an entrance to the castle walls and further to the town walls. The south-eastern corner was occupied with a two-storey building with a entry hall from the north and a court chamber (3-4 meters high) in the south. Above it was the so-called “large hall” with dimensions of 8 x 6 meters and a height of about 7 meters, illuminated from the courtyard with four, large, ogival windows. In it in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries meetings of the parliaments of the kingdom took place.
   The medieval castle probably also had wooden buildings with economic functions. It is known that in the sixteenth century, the north-east corner was filled with a wooden building housing a kitchen, bakery and pantry, and the corner at the gatehouse had a wooden building in which the royal court stayed. The courtyard was probably paved or covered with wood. At front of the castle there was a small outer ward with timber economic buildings.

Current state

   At present, the castle, which has been largely renovated and rebuilt, houses a museum, presenting exhibits, mainly about the history of the region and related folk art. Opening hours and information about cultural events can be found 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.
Poklewski-Koziełł T., Zamek w Łęczycy, Łęczyca 1996.

Widawski J., Miejskie mury obronne w państwie polskim do początku XV wieku, Warszawa 1973.