Sandomierz timber stronghold on the castle hill was one of the main princes residences. From the 12th century it served as a castellan center and in the 12th and 13th centuries the capital of province. In 1241, the Sandomierz stronghold was captured during the Mongol invasion and destroyed again by them at the turn of 1259 and 1260. After rebuilding and strengthening, it resisted the Ruthenian-Lithuanian invasion in 1280, as well as the next Mongol invasion a few years later. In 1328, the leaseholder of the Sandomierz goods, Andrzej Ciołek, promised a part of the proceeds to spend on repairs, but probably condition of the stronghold was deteriorating, and probably most of the wooden fortifications and buildings did not meet the requirements of the high Middle Ages.
The main reconstruction of the castle was probably begun in 1349-1352 on the initiative of king Casimir the Great. Originally it was a separate defensive post, but after the erection of the city walls in the second half of the 14th century, the castle and the town formed a joint fortification system, although the direct connection between the town walls and the castle could have taken place a little later.
The castle once again was rebuilt around 1520 on the initiative of king Zygmunt I the Old. Under the direction of Benedict of Sandomierz, another ranges were than started. Further renaissance works continued in the years 1564-1565 during the reign of king Sigismund Augustus and in the years 1586-1597 on the initiative of king Stefan Batory. In 1655 the castle was captured by the Swedes, who withdrew a year later and blow up the building. The survived west range was rebuilt at the end of the 17th century. It served as the seat of the starost, the court, the archives and the treasury. In 1825, the Austrians rebuilt it to the prison and the seat of the criminal court. Liquidation of the prison took place only in 1959.
Prince’s hillfort of XII-XIII century was built on a hill on the left bank of the Vistula River. Probably at that time it covered both hills: Cathedral Hill and Castle Hill. It consisted of a timber-earth ramparts and outer bailey with a moat. It is possible that some of the stone buildings were built within its interior, for example building in the form of a palatium (palas), which supposed relics date back to around the mid-twelfth century. At the outer ward, before the mid-twelfth century, the churches of Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Nicholas were built. Their location is disputable, but it is most commonly assumed that the church of the Blessed Virgin Mary had to stand near the later gothic temple, and the church of St. Nicholas maybe on the Castle Hill. Separation of fortifications of the Cathedral and Castle Hill took place at the reconstruction after the destructions of the Mongol invasion of 1241 and 1259, probably at the beginning of the second half of the 13th century, when a ditch was dug with a bridge leading over it.
The layout of the gothic castle due to the destructions and reconstructions is not fully explained. Its outline was probably irregular, with lines aligned to the form of the hill, wherein a part of the perimeter from the town side was probably made of timber. The entrance to the castle was located on the side of the city and was probably in the north-eastern corner. The fortifications of the original castle included an octagonal tower with walls in the ground floor 3 meters thick and a small cylindrical basement, mentioned in 1428. It was located in the north-east corner, next to the gate. The earliest castle house stood on the south or east side of the site. In the inventorys it is identified as standing opposite the Vistula. Apart it, the building of the former palas was still functioning until the end of the 15th century. Around 1480, a diagonal tower called the “chicken foot” was added to the southern building at the western corner. Perhaps around 1480 or a little later, the southern building was also extended to the east and west and ended with a second, small corner tower.
There were a kitchen and a brewery on the outer bailey, and at the river, at the foot of the castle, an horse mill and a granary. The kitchen and brewery were located on the eastern slope, in the vicinity of the Kraków Gate. Perhaps in the time of king Casimir the Great there was a connection of the castle with the brick town walls of Sandomierz, by a earth rampart crowned with a timber palisade. The expansion of the 16th century led to the creation of a quadrangle of the renaissance castle.
Until modern times only renaissance, west range of the castle has survived, which eastern façade additionally has a classicist style. The interesting western side is flanked by two towers, from which the south comes from the 15th century. At present, the Castle Museum in Sandomierz is located in the castle, which also offers accommodation on commercial terms and allows accommodation in hotel rooms. Prices, opening times and other information can be found on the official website of the castle museum here.
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