The first record of Muszyna appeared in documents in 1288, when it passed into the hands of the bishops of Kraków, after their dispute with the heirs of Wysz from Niegowić was settled. At the beginning of the 14th century, the estate in Muszyna was in the hands of the Bishop of Kraków, Jan Muskata. It was probably then that a wooden and earth stronghold was built, about 100 meters to the north from the later castle. However, already around 1304 – 1308, Muskata lost its property as a result of the confiscation of Władysław Łokietek, due to fights with the ruler during the period of his unification of the fragmented Polish lands. In 1391, during the reign of Władysław Jagiełło, property was recovered for the bishopric of Cracow by bishop Jan of Radlica.
The stone castle was built at the end of the 14th century or early 15th century. Although work cannot be ruled out on the initiative of Bishop Jan of Radlica, it is definitely more likely that the founder of the castle was Zbigniew Oleśnicki, known for his investing and construction activities, holding the office of bishop in the years 1423 – 1455. In such a case, the raid of Muszyna by Stibor of Stiboricz in 1410 would still affect the old, timber castle, not a stone building.
The Muszyna castle in its original shape did not last long. Errors at the initial stage of construction, especially in the construction of foundations, as well as the low quality of masonry work led in 1455 to a major construction disaster certified by written sources. Certainly the gate and the north curtain wall adjacent to it from the east and west were destroyed. Such great damages, which the staroste of Muszyna, Jan Wielopolski estimated for a quarter of the castle, could not be repaired in a short time and with the means at his disposal. Therefore, the decision was made to make only temporary repairs at the defect locations using half-timbered structures.
The weakened fortifications of the castle certainly contributed to its fall in 1474, when the border land was devastated by the Hungarian invasion led by Thomas Tarczay. Undoubtedly, the battle that took place at that time was short, but extremely intense, as evidenced by the considerable number of military items found and numerous signs of burning from that period. Matthias Corvinus, however, undertook to return the castle and help in its rebuilding. The first major repair works were most probably undertaken only in 1488, but the castle regained its full splendor only at the beginning of the 16th century. The larger-scale reconstruction probably consumed significant resources and introduced many changes in the appearance of the building.
At the end of the 16th or at the beginning of the 17th century, the castle burnt down again. After this disaster, no residential buildings were rebuilt, and the function of the castle was limited to the role of a watchtower. It is known that on the castle were two-man guards, which were to grow five times in days of danger. The deteriorated stronghold was also prepared for defense during the Swedish invasion in 1655, gathering timber beams and boulders. Later documents fall silent about the castle. It probably played the role of the fortified seat of the bishop’s starosts and border stronghold until the middle of the 18th century, when it was abandoned and fell into disrepair.
The castle was situated on the top of a high hill, at the end of a promontory towering over the bend of the Poprad River in the south. It had excellent natural defensive conditions because the slopes of the hill dropped steeply from three sides, leaving the only convenient access from the north, from the rest of the mountain range. Additionally, from the east and west at the foot of the castle promontory, the Muszynka and Złocki Potok rivers flowed into Poprad.
The castle’s plan was a rectangular with a length of up to 80 meters and a width of up to 20 meters. Its perimeter was delimited by massive walls with a thickness of 2 to 2.5 meters, reinforced from the outside with irregular placed buttresses (especially from the side of steep southern slopes). In some sections of the wall were large, square putlog openings, were scaffolding functioned at the time of construction, which could be used later to erect more solid structures, e.g. hoarding porches. The main elements of the castle were two buildings located on the opposite sides of the courtyard from the east and west.
The eastern tower was built of carefully selected blocks of sandstone, laid in layers and joined with lime mortar. It received a plan of quadrangle with dimensions of about 10.3 x 12.2 meters and walls almost 2.5 meters thick. In the eastern corners it was reinforced with massive buttresses, and its ground floor interior was covered with a barrel vault. The height, by analogy with other buildings of this type, could be about 16-18 meters. It was probably one of the oldest elements of a stone castle, built together with the defensive perimeter of the walls at the end of the 14th century or at the beginning of the 15th century. Due to its large dimensions, it certainly served residential functions, it also flanked the access road.
The western building was built later, probably only during the reconstruction of the castle in the second half of the 15th century or at the beginning of the 16th century. A residential house measuring 13.5 x 28 meters was then added to the curtains of the wall, created by adding a 1.8-meter-thick wall from the side of the courtyard. The interior in the lowest storey was divided into three rooms with thinner transverse walls, 1.3-1.4 meters thick. It is possible that, as in other similar buildings of this type (e.g. bishops of Bodzentyn), it had three overground storeys.
The entrance to the castle was in the eastern part of the northern curtain. Its width and form are unknown, but it was probably only a ordinary portal pierced in the wall, closed with a door, perhaps also a drawbridge, because a ditch was dug on the northern side of the castle. Right next to the gate, in the courtyard on its west side, was a small stone building. It probably had economic functions, it could act as a granary (large amounts of grain were found). In 2/3 of the length, the castle courtyard was divided by a transverse wall, no less solid than the curtain walls. Perhaps in this way the western economic part was separated from the residential eastern part. It is also possible that the walls of the western part were lower, which may be indicated not so much by their width, which was almost identical to the rest of the castle, but the lack of buttresses.
The transverse wall was pulled down during reconstruction from the turn of the 15th and 16th centuries. Most probably, buildings added in the eastern part of the courtyard were also built at that time. Their partition walls were built of wood and covered with clay. They housed the castle kitchen and neighboring utility rooms. Inside them, remains of ovens and open hearths were discovered.
During the reconstruction, the gate was left in the old place, but it is possible that the function of the outer gate was taken over by one of the buttresses, added to the north-east corner and clearly longer than the others. It certainly secured access to the northern slope, forming a kind of foregate at an angle.
Until now, the relics of the lower parts of the four-sided eastern tower has survived, along with the passage to its basement, leading from the area of the former kitchen, and fragments of stone defensive walls, in the best condition visible especially near the tower. In recent years, they have been examined by archaeologists, slightly built-up, and a viewing platform has been created at the top of the tower. Admission to the castle grounds is free.
Ginter A., Zamek w Muszynie w świetle najnowszych badań archeologiczno – architektonicznych “Almanach Muszyny”, Muszyna 2014.
Leksykon zamków w Polsce, red. L.Kajzer, Warszawa 2003.
Muszyna – Plaveč: Odkrywamy zapomnianą historię i kulturę polsko-słowackiego pogranicza, red. A.Ginter, J.Ginter, Muszyna 2019.