Before 1124, on the castle hill, there was a Slavic earth and timber stronghold with the court of prince Warcisław I, located in the outer ward. After the transfer of the capital of the duchy to Szczecin in the 13th century, the castellan stronghold was liquidated. Under the pressure of the privileged middle class, permission for its destruction was issued in 1249 by prince Barnim I. He handed over the stronghold area to the town, and kept for himself the court on Trzygław Hill. Barnim I pledged, on behalf of himself and his vassals, not to build any new seat within 3 miles of the town. The inhabitants of Szczecin joined the stronghold complex into the boundaries of the town, which was to prevent future rulers from erecting a new stronghold, independent of the town. In 1263, however, the prince took this area and donated it to the Marian collegiate church.
In 1345, duke Barnim III began reconstruction of the timber court to a brick one, meeting with protests from townsmen who were afraid of losing the city’s independence. As a result of the settlement, the city council built a new house for the prince, located parallel to the town walls. At that time, the chapel of Saint Otto was established west of the court house (completed in 1347). The prince established its chapter composed of up to 12 canons, although it was only a branch of the Marian collegiate church. In the mid-fourteenth century, the castle was enlarged by the so-called Great House.
In 1428 a revolt caused by the poor and craftsmen broke out in the city. In connection with the threat of attack on the castle, where a patrician and town council sheltered, prince Kazimierz V escaped from Szczecin. Later, in exchange for the suppression of the rebellion, the prince received a considerable sum from the city council to expand and strengthen the brick court. At that time, the southern wing, maintained in the late gothic style was extended, although four years later the dying prince ordered to dismantle part of the fortifications.
After the fire in 1530, prince Barnim XI continued work on the expansion of the castle. In the years 1573-1582 prince Jan Fryderyk made a general reconstruction of a late gothic residence into a renaissance residence. The prince’s house from the 14th century and the chapel of St. Otto were demolished, and in their place new wings of the palace were created. In the northwest corner was built the massive Bell Tower. At the beginning of the 17th century, during the reign of Philip II and Francis I, a two-storeyed fifth wing was added, thus forming a second small courtyard.
After the extinction of the Gryfits dynasty, from 1637 the castle was the seat of the Swedish governor and since 1720 the Prussian garrison. In 1752 Fryderyk the Great founded a mint in the museum wing. During the Prussian rule the castle was rebuilt several times, adapted to the garrison located there. The greatest devastation of the castle was made by the Prussian garrison in the 19th century when the vaults in the eastern wing were destroyed, the south wing was completely rebuilt, the cloisters were demolished, and the stairwells and corridors were built inside the castle. After leaving the garrison in 1902, the castle gradually fell into devastation. Restoration work to restore the appearance of the former residence was taken in 1925, but was discontinued a year later. Despite many plans, the German authorities did not undertake a comprehensive restoration of the castle until the outbreak of World War II. In 1944 the castle was seriously damaged during the Allied air raids. In the years 1958-1980 the castle was rebuilt.
Destroyed by the townspeople and unfinished castle house of prince Barnim III, was probably located near the city walls. It was to have the dimensions 10.8 x 25.8 meters and probably two floors. The building erected for the prince by the city council (“stenhus”) in the mid-fourteenth century, was located parallel to the city walls and built of stone and bricks (which was used in reveals, partition walls and cellars). It had a basement, vaults and was divided into three rooms with an uneven area. In the basement they had from the west: 4.5 x 8.4 meters, 8.8 x 8.4 meters, 7.8 x 8.4 meters. The thickness of the external walls was 1.5 meters, and the partition walls were 1 meter. The basement rooms were connected with each other by passages, and the descent to the basement was located in the eastern part. Originally the cellar had barrell vaults; after the destruction at the beginning of the sixteenth century replaced with cross one.
Chapel of St. Otto had a rectangular plan (15 x 37 meters) with a presbytery ended pentagonal. At 1.5 meters thick walls, erected from erratic stones to at least 1 meter high, it had an interior with a width of 11.5 meters. Its external façades have been reinforced with buttresses. The chapel was surrounded by a defense and cemetery wall distant from the temple by 5 meters and repeating its outline. It was probably a compromise solution between the townspeople and the prince, for if the chapel were included within the “Stenhus” wall, the Szczecin residents would lose access to the city walls at the length of 120 meters.
Southern residential building, so-called Large House had dimensions of 15,5 x 52.6 meters. The residential wing was reinforced with the Prison Tower attached to the western end of the south façade. The whole was surrounded by a defensive wall with a height of 5 meters with a gate and a wicket from the west, as a result of which the castle received a trapezoidal plan with sides: 60 meters in the north, 55 meters in the south, 86 meters in the west and 106 meters in the east. As already mentioned, the chapel was located outside the castle grounds.
Around the year 1400 to the north-eastern corner of the castle, between the city wall and the cemetery, a pentagonal building with a 7-meter interior span was added. In the underground store, it was covered with a two-span cross vault. In the wall thickness, a staircase from the basement to the ground floor was led. The lack of connection between the basement and the cemetery and the strong advance beyond its area, indicate that it could have been a defensive tower.
In 1490, prince Bogusław X expanded the Large House. From the original building, a north-west corner connected with the western defensive wall and cellars were adopted, which were covered with new cross vaults supported by seven pillars. The new house was built of a much larger bricks. In the ground floor, a single-space, large hall was created, topped with a rib or stellar-shaped vault, also supported by pillars. The windows were placed in wide recesses, and the ogival entrance portal was in the middle of the façade from the side of the courtyard. After 1503, the third floor was added to the southern wing and furnished with late gothic tracery decorations on the roof, the Prison Tower and the Clock Tower built from the side of the courtyard.
After the fire of 1551, the large hall of the southern wing was divided into a five-column room covered with a magnificent beam ceiling and two smaller rooms with new net and stellar vaults. In the place of medieval economic buildings based on the castle’s wall, an east wing was erected with a decor similar to the late-gothic southern wing.
The castle was rebuilt after the war and restored to its 16th-century renaissance appearance. Unfortunately, many relics of original equipment have not survived. Survived gothic vaults in the basement, the two halls of the southern wing and frescoes in the clock tower. The lower parts of the towers are also medieval, where the blende decoration has been preserved in the form of curtain arches. Under the northern wing there are also remnants of the gothic church of St. Otto. The attic of the southern wing with late-gothic tracery was rebuilt during the post-war reconstruction.
The castle houses cultural institutions including a concert hall and exhibition halls. There are concerts, artistic and historical exhibitions, literary and scientific meetings, cultural events and concerts in the courtyard. Information about the tours can be found on the official website here.
Jarzewicz J., Architektura średniowieczna Pomorza Zachodniego, Poznań 2019.
Leksykon zamków w Polsce, red. L.Kajzer, Warszawa 2003.
Radacki Z., Średniowieczne zamki Pomorza Zachodniego, Warszawa 1976.