The first mention of the castle Frankenstein was recorded in 1321, when a document was issued in the presence of the castellan of Ząbkowice. Its construction was probably started by Prince Bernard of Świdnica at the beginning of the 14th century or perhaps at the end of the 13th century by Prince Bolko I the Strict, the founder of many castles in the Duchy of Świdnica, who died in 1301.
In 1335, the castle was besieged by the Czech army, and the next year it was pledged to Luxembourgs by Bolko II. Eventually, it was sold to them together with the town by Bolko’s son, Nicholaus the Small. Since then, it was the seat of the starosts of the Czech kings. During the Hussite Wars, the castle in Ząbkowice was destroyed, and then modernized and strengthened by the new owners. In the mid-15th century, it became the property of the sons of the Czech king George of Poděbrady. Attacked by the townspeople of Wrocław, Świdnica and Nysa, it was damaged in 1468. In 1489, it was besieged for several months by the Hungarian king Matthias Corvinus. Captured, it remained in his possession until 1490. In the years 1522–1532, Karol I, the Prince of Ziębice, partly demolished the walls and rebuilt the castle in the Renaissance style. The builder was probably the well-known architect Benedict Rejt (sources mention that master Benedict was brought from Prague).
In the first half of the 17th century, the castle was destroyed during the Thirty Years’ War. It was besieged and captured by the imperial army in 1632, and then shelled and occupied in 1646 by the Swedes, who blew up part of the fortifications and destroyed the rooms after plundering. In the third quarter of the 17th century, local district starosts attempted to partially rebuild the castle, but it was finally abandoned in 1728, and its condition was even worsened by the fire of 1784. In the interwar period, a regional museum and a tourist hostel operated in the castle.
The original, Gothic castle layout was irregular, probably oval, with dimensions of about 55 x 45 meters. The gate probably led into the walls from the east. In the courtyard there was a well in the western part and residential and economic buildings, probably added to the defensive wall. The fortifications of the castle were included in the south-western corner of the town (a record from 1376 about “castrum civitatis”).
Probably in the second half of the 15th century, a late-Gothic residential house was built in the southern part of the courtyard. In 1504, this building was to receive the form of a three-story palace with a tower on the façade axis, equipped with tracery architectural details. On the second floor, the tower had a monumental pointed arcade opened to the inside of the building, which could indicate the existence of a castle chapel there. The eastern part of the former defensive wall was replaced with new buildings containing a gatehouse.
The rebuilding from the 16th century made the castle a four-sided structure measuring 65 x 70 meters. In the two corners there were three-story, cylindrical towers, in the north-eastern corner there was a slender stair turret, and in the middle of the eastern wing a four-sided gate tower. The courtyard was surrounded by wooden cloisters. From the outside, the castle was surrounded by a ring of earth fortifications. An additional line of defense were also the walls of the residential wings with arrowslits at the ground floor and attic level. The walls of the castle were preceded by a deep ditch.
The northern wing of the castle was probably not completed due to the death of Prince Charles I. Everyday life took place in the southern wing, and court life with its extensive ceremonial in the eastern wing. It had two rooms measuring 9 x 22 meters, on the high ground floor and first floor. They stretched between the gate tower and the corner tower. The lower hall may have had a vault, the upper one was topped with a wooden ceiling. The west wing on the ground floor housed the kitchen. In the upper rooms in the west and south wings, private residential chambers were arranged. This would be evidenced by many independent entrances from the courtyard, accessible by means of a porch or stairs. The decorative portal in the vicinity of the tower at the southern wing led to the largest, centrally located room, measuring 16.5 by 7.5 meters. Two side rooms of medium size were adjacent to it. The eastern one was heated by a fireplace, and the western one had access to the latrine. Even further to the east there were two small vaulted chambers with a latrine. The whole was complemented by an alcove in the tower and a vestibule.
The 16th-century renaissance castle is preserved today as a ruin. It have survived the gate tower, the south tower, the walls all around and some corner low towers. The remnant of the first building from the 14th century is a bulge on the southern wall, which is the line of the walls of the first medieval building. The monument is generally available.
Atlas historyczny miast polskich. Tom IV Śląsk, red. R.Czaja, M.Młynarska-Kaletynowa, zeszyt 17 Ząbkowice Śląskie, Toruń 2016.
Chorowska M., Rezydencje średniowieczne na Śląsku, Wrocław 2003.
Leksykon zamków w Polsce, red. L.Kajzer, Warszawa 2003.