The first, wooden and earth castle was built at the end of the 13th century. It is not known from whose initiative it was erected. Perhaps the Toporczyk family from Morawica was involved in it, as in 1318 the Nawoj z Morawicy signed ‘de Rabstyn’. Other hypotheses point to the bishop of Kraków, Jan Muskata or king Casimir the Great, after whom it was to pass into private hands as part of debt repayment. The first certain information about the castle comes from 1394, when the burgrave Iwo from Karniów was mentioned and from 1396, when the chaplain of the castle chapel, Grzegorz, was mentioned.
At the end of the fourteenth century, the castle was in a pledge at the Kraków voivode Spytek from Melsztyn. In 1412 it was renovated, because for works at the tower and digging well, the Olkusz townsman Piotr Kromer spent over 52 fines. He worked for Jan of Tarnów, the Leliwa coat of arms, the guardian of young sons of Spytek, who died in 1399 in the battle with the Tatars near Worskla. Probably the strengthening of the castle was related to the Polish wars against the Teutonic Order and the threat of hitting their allies from the south. At that time Peszek Momot of the Gryf coat of arms was the burgrave of Rabsztyn.
In 1439, Spytek’s son, with the same name, formed a confederation of Polish Hussites against the Cracow bishop Zbigniew Oleśnicki. After the attack on the royal council in Nowy Korczyn, he died in the Battle of Grotniki, and his goods with the castle was confiscated for the benefit of the royal treasury. Royal troops were to besiege Rabsztyn, whose crew eventually gave up. Under the pressure of the nobility, in the same year king Władysław III canceled the posthumous sentence on the Spytek and returned Rabsztyn to his widow – Beatrice. Then the stronghold, as the dowry of Jadwiga of Książ, passed into the hands of Andrzej Tęczyński. In 1442, at the behest of the king, he was to strengthen the fortress. Then the brick superstructure of the main tower was erected, and the castle was extended on the eastern and northern sides of the hill. In 1461, Andrzej Tęczyński was killed by Kraków’s burghers, in revenge for the heavy beating of the armorer who was to misbehave the ordered armor. In the process, which was later carried out, six townspeople were beheaded, and three were imprisoned in the castle in Rabsztyn and released only after the settlement with the city. After the death of Andrzej Tęczyński, his son Jan became a Rabsztyn starosts and took the name of Rabsztyński.
At the beginning of the 16th century, the castle was in the hands of Boner family, who for three generations held the office of Rabsztyn starostas. In 1573 king Henry Valois was invited on the castle by Seweryn Boner. In 1587, after the death of king Stefan Batory, Małopolska was invaded by the pretender to the Polish throne, Maksymilian Habsburg. On the way to Kraków he tried to capture Rabsztyn, but the commander of the castle garrison, colonel Gabriel Hołubek, prevented it. Supposedly, tempted with the promises of benefits in return for the change to the Habsburg side, he was to answer: “There are no traitors in Poland, all with you.” Later, with the help of the miners from Olkusz, he defeated a few hundred-strong unit of Maksymilians reinforcements and took part in the victorious battle of Byczyna, which he paid with his own life.
Another starost was Mikołaj Wolski in 1592, then the mareschalus Regni Poloniae Zygmunt Myszkowski, who built the lower castle. The effects of the 17th-century works have destroyed the invasion of the Swedes who burned the castle. Since then it has ceased to function as a residence, gradually falling into ruin.
The oldest part of the castle was built on top of the rock. Its main element was a high cylindrical tower, located inside the irregular perimeter of the walls, running along the edge of the rock. From the north and east side, the defense was ensured by a dry moat and an earth ramparts. On the southern side there was an outer ward, greatly enlarged in the 17th century by three three-story residential wings closing a small courtyard. The entrance to the castle led from the north through the bridge on the pillars and the four-sided gate tower.
To our times from the castle of Rabsztyn survived the relics of the late gothic castle, the fragments of the lower castle walls and the remains of the entrance gate. Since 2000, works have been carried out, as a result of which the gate tower was reconstructed, the lower castle was renovated, the walls of the upper castle were raised and at the same time adapted for sightseeing. In 2017, the next stage of the work was completed and unfortunately, according to the latest fashion of destroying the monuments, a steel-glass modernist pavilion was erected in the courtyard of the castle. In this way, another Polish castle is less and less like a historical monument.
Krasnowolski B., Leksykon zabytków architektury Małopolski, Warszawa 2013.
Leksykon zamków w Polsce, red. L.Kajzer, Warszawa 2003.
Sypek A., Sypek.R., Zamki i obiekty warowne Jury Krakowsko – Częstochowskiej, Warszawa 2004.
Sypień J., Zamek Rabsztyn, Olkusz 2018.