The first wooden and earth fortifications on today’s castle hill were built in the 12th century in relation with the creation of the Lublin castellany. Located in the fork of the Bystrzyca River and its tributaries: Czechówka and Czerniejówka, Lublin lay on an important route leading from Rus to Wielkopolska and Silesia. When the Polish-Ruthenian border on the Wieprz River became established in the 12th century, the Lublin shielded Poland from invasions from the east and gave shelter to the inhabitants of nearby settlements. As it was mentioned, it was the castellan’s seat, whose duties included commanding the castle’s crew, extending it, collecting supplies, holding courts, and collecting tributes to the ruler. The first known castellan of Lublin was Wojciech, mentioned in 1224.
At the beginning of the 13th century, the importance of the Lublin grew. The adjacent lands were at this time the subject of battles between the Ruthenia and Małopolska principalities. In 1205, the Lublin stronghold put up effective resistance to the besieging armies of Ruthenian prince Roman and in 1244 to the army of prince Daniel. Damaged by multiple sieges Lublin stronghold required strengthening, that’s why in the first half of the 13th century, a cylindrical brick defensive-residential tower was built inside the upper part of the castle. Then at the end of the thirteenth century, a free-standing tower was built on a square plan on which the chapel was later built.
The gradual replacement of the wooden and earth defensive fortifications with a brick wall began during the reign of Władysław the Elbow-high and Casimir the Great. Then, most likely, a gothic castle Holy Trinity church was erected, which served as the royal chapel. Yet in 1341, when Lublin was invaded by the Tatars, most of the fortifications were still wooden. Although the town was captured, but the castle’s crew, who defended bravely for eight days, managed to save the castle. After this event, work on reconstruction has certainly intensified. King Casimir the Great visited the castle in 1350, and also among the dignitaries and advisers in 1358. The works were probably already completed at the time.
In the Jagiellonian era, located on the peaceful border of Poland and Lithuania, the castle was already a safe place, often visited by kings. On several occasions Władysław Jagiełło stayed there. For the first time he was solemnly greeted by Małopolska magnates with the voivode of Kraków, Spytek from Melsztyn and the supremus thesaurarius Dmitry of Goraj. In 1421, Jagiełło together with prince Vytautas greeted Hussite deputies in the castle, who asked to receive the Czech crown. In the second half of the 15th century, the Polish and Lithuanian congress was held in Lublin, convened in 1448 by king Kazimierz Jagiellończyk. Also later, Kaziemierz visited Lublin repeatedly, especially when his sons lived here in the years 1473-1476, studying under the direction of the chronicler and canonist Jan Długosz.
In the 16th century during the reign of Zygmunt Stary, the main, renaissance extension of the castle was carried out. Lublin was at that time one of the most important commercial and administrative centers in Poland. Its favorable location was appreciated by the kings, seeing it as a convenient place for regional assemblies and councils. In 1569, the parliament was sitting in the castle walls, where the act of the Polish-Lithuanian Union, the Lublin Union, was signed.
The splendor of the castle lasted until the early seventeenth century. The building suffered especially in the years 1648-1657 when it was affected by the destructive invasions of Cossack, Moscow, Swedish and Hungarian troops. The devastated castle did not rise from the ruins anymore. In the 1820s, a neo-gothic prison was erected on the site of the demolished building, which also absorbed the medieval keep and chapel. It was not until 1954 after the adaptation works, that both monuments were separated.
The castle was erected on an oblong, oval hill with longer sides on the east-west line. Its first brick element could be the castle church, while the oldest brick defense element was a cylindrical tower with a diameter of 15 meters and a height of about 25 meters, situated at the southern edge of the hill, built in the lower part of limestone, and in a higher of bricks. The thickness of the tower walls reached 3.4-4 meters. It has a low underground floor and three above-ground storeys, connected by a spiral staircase in the wall thickness. The original entrance was at the height of the first floor (about 5 meters). On each floor there was only one, vaulted chamber. In addition to the defensive function, it also fulfilled residential functions. This is evidenced by the large interior space and large decorative windows of profiled bricks, illuminating the upper floors.
The next brick element was a square tower in the eastern part of the castle. The first section of the brick perimeter wall was erected in the south-western part, and king Casimir the Great erected a quadrangular tower, called the Jewish one, outside the northern section of the wall. Then probably (second half of the 14th century) also the older four-sided tower on the eastern side of the castle was rebuilt into a chapel. The entrance to the stronghold was in the middle of the western curtain.
Residential building was located on the western side. It was a single-storey, had massive walls and housed a number of small, vaulted rooms. On the first floor there was one large room, 18×15 meters, supported by a stone column. Probably there were land courts and meetings there, as well as councils, feasts, etc. The ground-level chambers were intended for the staroste and castle administration as well as for the king’s court when he was in Lublin.
The gothic church of the Holy Trinity was erected on the basis of the eastern tower. In the mid-fourteenth century, it had one storey with a crypt. It consisted of a square nave and a polygonal chancel, which was extended outside the perimeter of the defensive walls. It was crowned with battlements and connected with a walkway on the crown of defensive walls. Two steep, stepped gables prevailed in the exterior of the church. Inside the presbytery and the nave were topped with rib vaults, that supported one central pillar in the nave. At the beginning of the fifteenth century, from the foundation of king Władysław Jagiełło, the chapel was covered under the direction of master Andrzej of Byzantine-Ruthenian paintings and raised by an additional floor. The work was completed in 1418, which was uniquely set in the cyrillic alphabet on the church’s chancel arch. The lower part of the nave and the presbytery were decorated with a paintings in the form of a curtain, figural scenes of religious content were presented above it, and the figure of Christ was placed on the vault, surrounded by symbols of evangelists and angels. There was also a place for two portraits of Jagiełło depicting a kneeling king in a coat and in armor and on a horse. Window frames and ribs were decorated with a variety of floral and geometric ornamentation.
At the beginning of the 16th century, the residential wing was raised to the second floor, the entry gate was extended, and a new four-sided tower was erected on the south side. In the ground floor of the palace a prison was placed. On the first, gothic floor, there were starost and treasury rooms. In a large hall with a column located in the western corner of the palace, court sessions and various meetings were held. The first floor was accessible by external wooden stairs. The second, representative floor was used only by the king. All rooms had flat, timber ceilings and were warmed by fireplaces and stoves. The castle was also equipped with a water supply and latrines. It was serviced by a pipe master who was collecting water from a local well, equipped with a treadmill and two wheels. The water tank was probably located on the third floor of the eastern tower.
In the northern part of the hill, parallel to the palace, stood a residential building, connected to it by timber bridge at the height of the second floor. To the east, a wooden house adjoined it, intended for a granary and rooms for servants. In the 16th century, in the courtyard of the castle, there were also three small economic houses: the kitchen, the chicken coop, and the flats of the cook and the baker.
Only two elements have survived from the royal castle in Lublin, however, they are the most valuable monuments of the Middle Ages in Poland. Cylindrical keep is a valuable monument of romanesque art and one of the oldest buildings in the Lublin region. The chapel of the Holy Trinity is a place where, in the form of gothic and Ruthenian-Byzantine paintings, the culture of East and West met and co-exist. Information about the castle museum, dates and opening hours can be found on the official website here.
Buczkowa I., Zamek w Lublinie, Lublin 1983.
Leksykon zamków w Polsce, L.Kajzer, S.Kołodziejski, J.Salm, Warszawa 2003.
Widawski J., Miejskie mury obronne w państwie polskim do początku XV wieku, Warszawa 1973.