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The Southern Castles
By Pogranicze Media
Published: 10.05.2009

castle in Niedzica

   Niedzica village existed already in the 13th century, and at the beginning of the 14th century, together with the whole Spiš land from the Măgura River to the Dunajec River, it was the property of Kokosz from Brzozowica. In 1320 he sold a part of his landed property to his brother John and to his son, Michael.  Niedzica was among the sold land. There is no mention about the castle in a document. It only writes about the village, which may lead to a conclusion either that at that time there was no castle yet, or that Kokosz left for himself a fortress in order to control the track running through the Dunajec River basin. In 1325 the castle is first mentioned as the Berzeviczy’s property. In 1326 a confiscation of Niedzica goods by Charles Robert took place. He passed the goods on to Sáros Wilhelm Drugeth. Probably, it was Sáros who erected the castle on the rocks, on the highest part of the hill, where it is till today. The castle consisted of an irregular circumferential wall and of a habitable building called kremenets in the Western part of a courtyard in the line of the brick-walls. A gate was in the close proximity of the building within the Southern part of the walls. A castle-yard, surrounded by a dirt wall, spread from the gate alongside the castle’s brick-walls to the West.

   In 1330 Sáros Wilhelm Drugeth bequeathed the castle together with  some other castles to his brother Nicolas. In 1342 the castle became the property of the state, and in 1347 Niedzica came back into the hands of the Berzeviczy family. At the turn of the 14th century they expanded the castle. A well appeared in the place of a cistern for water, next to the Eastern wall a new building was erected. It had a big Gothic hall in its Southern part and, in the Northern part, in the place of the former cistern, there was a chapel. The castle’s courtyard was decorated with a cloister, and the castle-yard was surrounded by a defensive wall with a square gate tower and a foregate to the South. An entrance to the castle leads through the prior gate probably through a wooden bridge along the Southern wall.
   In 1412 in the castle in Niedzica, situated within the Hungarian border, Ladislaus Jagiello’s delegation paid the Hungary 37 threescore of Prague pennies, in deposit 13 Spiš towns including Niedzica itself.
   In 1425 the castle belonged to a descendant of John Berzeviczy, Peter Schwarz from Łomnica, and after that time, it went into the hands of his son, John Schwarz. Berzeviczy’s castle must have been a strong fortress because in the 30’s of the 15th century the Hussites destroyed the neighboring area, but they even did not try to attack the fortress in Niedzica. In 1463 John pledged the castle to Emeryk Zápolya, who took it over permanently after a childless death of Berzeviczy.
   He expanded his seat, heightened the castle’s buildings adding a square tower and he enlarged the castle-yard. A new contour of the wall embraced the present area and the castle-yard enlarged. The entrance to the yard was situated in the square gate tower added to the Southern wall and was strengthened with a neck. After a death of Stefan, Emeryk’s son, his widow committed a transaction with Andrew Horváth and she gave him Niedzica and paid in addition 2000 guldens in exchange for Likava.
   During the civil war between Ferdinand of Habsburg and John Zápoly in Hungary the castle changed its owners. In 1527 Stefan Potturniański was a head of the district reigning from Niedzica castle, but already in 1528 Zápoly’s army under the command of Piotr Kostka recaptured the fortress.
   In 1529 Niedzica became the property of the Polish magnate Hieronim Łaski, who earned the king Zápoly’s gratitude in negotiations with  Turkey. He established an office of the Spiš district’s authorities in the castle. In 1534, as a result of intrigues, Zápoly was stirred up against Łaski, who left the Hungarian king’s prison only thanks to the mediation of some exalted Polish and French misters. Łaski started to support Ferdinand and removed Minkwitz, who supported Zápoly, from the Niedzica castle. He also made Hieronim Bobol a starost. Minkwitz recaptured the castle for a short period of time in 1535. Łaski soon delivered the castle in pledge to Spiš provost John Horvath, and till 1538 he gave it to him permanently. During the roaring 30’s of the 16th century, the castle was temporarily a seat of robbers. Horvath turned out to be a harsh ruler and in 1544 he was forced to resign from his position and to withdraw from political life.
   The castle came back into the hands of the Łascy family. In 1576 the son of Hieronim Olbracht Łaski pledged the castle in Niedzica to Andrzej Balassa, and in 1589 he sold it to Jerzy Horváth from Palocsa. In 1601 Jerzy extended a mediaeval fortress adding to it a middle and a lower castle, which formerly functioned as a farming castle-yard. A former entrance through the gate in the square.
    Southern tower was walled up, and a new gate was built to the West. At the premises of the lower castle new habitable buildings were erected. The castle remained in Horváth’s hands till 1670, when due to a difficult financial situation; Stefan Horváth rented a part of goods in Niedzica together with the castle to Sylwester Joanelli. In 1683 the castle was conquered by insurgents of Emeryk Thököly, and, after the fall of the uprising, it came back into the hands of the Joanelli family. At the end of the 17th century the castle chapel, formerly damaged in fights or in a building disaster, was rebuilt. After a death of Jan Joanelly, Niedzica came back to the Horváth family. However, in 1776 the castle was so destroyed that Horváths stayed in their castle in Palocsa. A fire of their ancestral seat in 1817 caused that Andrew Horváth decided to rebuild the castle in Niedzica instead of the one in Palocsa. The repair was performed in 1821-1823. In the southern tower, formerly the gate tower, in the upper storey a chapel under the invocation of St. Andrew was built. The reconstruction and the modernization for the representative purpose embraced buildings belonging to the middle and the lower castle, while the damaged walls of the upper castle were preserved as picturesque ruins.

   In 1843 Ferdynand died and the castle became a property of  his son, Alexander and his daughter, who had married Alapi Salomon. When in the half of the 19th century the castle was destroyed by a fire, its restoration began. In 1856 the last male representative of the Horváth family from Palocsa, Alexander, died and the restoration was finished in 1861 by Alapi Salomon. After defining new national borders in 1929, Niedzica started to belong to Poland. Until 1943 the Salomon family seasonably stayed in the castle, however only a part of rooms in the lower castle was used, because the rest of the buildings were already seriously damaged at that time.
   By the end of the II World War the abandoned castle  started to be devastated and demolished. After the II World War the castle became a property of the state and in 1950 it was transferred to The Association of Art Historians. In the same year, as a result of a wind-storm, a few hundred years old oak standing in front of the castle collapsed. According to a legend, the oak had been planted by a Gipsy woman when the castle became a property of Jerzy Horváth and was supposed to represent the history of the Horváth family from Palocsa. Works carried out in the castle in 1949-1952 protected the ruins. For the three following decade’s works aiming at a complete reconstruction of the middle and the lower castle and at the preservation of the upper castle as a permanent ruin had taken place.

Legends from Niedzica

A will of the Inca people.
   In unclear circumstances Sebastian Berzeviczy married in Peru a Peruvian Indian and their daughter Umina married the last descendant of the Inca’s royal family - Tupac Amaru. Fate threw them to the Niedzica castle, where Umina died stabbed, and in June 1797 ill Sebastian wrote in Niedzica a document in which he entrusted the care of his grandson Antonio to Sebastian’s nephew Wacław Benesz-Berzeviczy. The document said also about the Inca’s “will” and about their treasures sunk in the Lake Titicaca. In 1946 Andrzej Benesz from Bochnia, Antonio’s descendant, visited the castle with documents and witnesses. Following the hints included in the parchments, an 18-centimeters lead tube containing a mysterious will written with knots on a strap was extracted from a safe. The information about this finding leaked to the press through Jalu Kurek. Presumably, all documents referring to Antonio’s adoption and to the issue of the remarkable will disappear in Cracow. In the 70’s Andrzej Benesz were a deputy and vice-marshal of the Sejm. He died in a car accident in 1976.

Ruins of “Wronin” castle in Czorsztyn
   An analysis of the oldest texts and archaeological works conducted at the castle hill dates the origins of the fortified settlement to the second  half of the 13th century. Its origins are connected with the activity of duchess Kinga, the wife of Bolesław the Chaste, and the Clarisse from Stary Sącz. The name Czorsztyn is probably derived from the polonized German “Schorstein” or “Schorrenstein”, which meant “a pointed protruding rock”. First written mentions about the settlement come from 1320, but they refer to the name Wronin, which is interpreted by some historians as the existence of two castles situated not far away from each other. However, the researches carried out recently excluded such a possibility. The castle was erected on a trade route from Cracow to Buda and was a barrier for the progress of the Hungarian colonization reaching the right bank of the Dunajec River. Customs situated in the castle initially belonged to the Clarisse but in the half of the 14th century, together with the whole Nowy Sącz region, it was incorporated to the royal domain. Czorsztyn and the surrounding villages created a non-town county. Formerly, a brick tower with a diameter of 10 m and thickness of 3 m, and a wooden settlement surrounded by a natural wood shaft constituted the castle.
    In the 14th century, on a high rocky hill by the Dunajec River there was a watch tower in which Bolesław the Chaste with his wife Kinga found a shelter when escaping the Tatars’ invasion. At the turn of the 13th century in the Northern part of the foundation, a detached round tower was erected on the rock. Not long after that, probably around 1350, Casimir the Great striving for safety of the border with Hungary erected a brick castle. In the following centuries the castle was a centre of the king’s authority and a seat of starosts appointed for life.
   Zawisza the Black had his seat there when he took up the Spiš County.
   Old chronicles write about rides and visits of monarchs. The castle and the top of the hill were surrounded by a stone wall over 2 meters thick. The foundation was divided by a wall running across the courtyard into the upper and middle castle. The tower was within the middle castle, and in the upper castle, along the southern part of the circumferential wall, a residential building was raised. In the eastern wall of the middle castle, next to the tower, an entrance gate appeared. The castle was at that time the royal property and, because of its border location, it belonged to a series of castles protecting the state from the South.  The office of the  district’s authorities was situated there. Several times during its existence, the castle was destroyed in invasions and sieges. In 1598 the castle was conquered and robbed by Olbracht Łaski. In 1652, Aleksander Kostka Napierski , who started a rebellion in the Podhale Region, defended himself here. The fortress was conquered during the peasant’s rebellion. The first attempt of recapturing the castle by the Polish army of starost Mikołaj Jordan did not succeed. Soon after that, a second expedition departed. The castle was conquered and the leaders of the rebellion were sentenced to death. In 1769 Bar confederates looked for a shelter in the castle.
   Around 1795 the castle burnt because of a lightning strike. In the 19th century the castle was only a picturesque ruin.
   In the 15th century the next enlargement took place. During the enlargement a gatehouse was built next to the former entrance with a drop pit and a second sequence of walls expanding the castle’s area to the West was added. The new entrance gate was situated in the southern part of the new wall. It was strengthened with a gatehouse located in the southeast corner. In the 16th century, during a modernization, the area below the castle was surrounded with a wall, which created a wide lower castle, and in the place of the destroyed tower, in the middle castle farm buildings were erected. Before the half of the 17th century the last rebuilding was made by Czorsztyn’s starost Jan Baranowski, who modernized a protection system, enlarged the residual part in the upper castle and the farm buildings in the lower parts of the castle.
   A building which existed formerly next to the entrance gate leading to the middle castle was replaced by a four-storey gate bastion adapted to use artillery.
   In 1655, during the Swedish Deluge, John Casimir hid in the castle and, before departing to Głogówek, he left there a crown treasury.
    In the 18th century the castle went into ruin and was put up for auction by the Austrian authorities. In 1819, the Drohojowscy family bought the castle and the idea of rebuilding it appeared. This task was undertaken in 1992 by Pieniny National Park during the conservation works.
   The Drohojowscy family lived in the court, at the foot of the castle. Stanisław Konstanty, the third in the family owner of Czorsztyn, did not devote much time to husbandry, but he developed his interest in history. He wrote a guidebook to the Pieniny Mountains. The history of the castle fascinated him, he searched the ruins. Around 1909, in the castle’s basement, he dug out a medieval sword from the 14th/15th century.  It is a two-edged, two-handed sword forged from one piece of iron, 132 cm long. It was a centerpiece of the collection of finds exhibited first in the park pavilion and then in the Czorsztyn court. In 1945, after breaking up of the Drohowscy’s property, it joined the collection in The Tatra Museum in Zakopane.
    The route of sightseeing goes from the courtyard of the lower castle surrounded by the remnants of the circumferential wall, through the hall of Baranowski Bastion, to the rooms of the middle castle.  From the middle castle, after having seen some archeological relicts, tourists go through a staircase from the 16th century to the upper castle. There is a wonderful view at the Czorsztyn Lake enclosed by a dam’s rampart. To the right from the dam there is a white Niedzica castle and housing estate Niedzica-Castle. The horizon is closed by Pieniny Spiskie and the Tatras. From the terrace one may climb down the cleaned and partly reconstructed basement. A museum exposition is arranged there (boards cover the history of Czorsztyn and the history of the dam) and there is also a stylish café, where a highlander’s band from Kluszkowce often plays in summer.
   At the end of the 20th century conservations works began. They continue till today but the castle is already partly open to public.

Bohdan Zhukievicz
translated by Joanna Hardukiewicz
photos granted by (vico, bo, zakapior)

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Bohdan Zhukiewicz

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