One year of joy
One year, only one year, the castle was enjoyed by its founder: Krzysztof Ossoliński. He built the largest and undoubtedly the most beautiful building in Europe at that time (!!!), resembling a fortified palace. He wanted to overshadow all castles in Poland, and at the same time overshadow everything that has been built in Europe so far.
Krzyżtopór lost the priority palm to the Versailles, which was expanded a bit later.
Ossoliński died in 1645, a year after the construction was completed. So he only enjoyed his life's work for one year.
Mystery and symbolism
Unfortunately, little can be said about the history of the castle, as almost no documents have survived. Of course, this is conducive to the creation of various theories related to the castle itself, which in the case of Krzyżtopor is completely fine for me. This exceptionally beautiful, even thrilling building, preserved today in the form of a romantic ruin, deserves every unbelievable story that will additionally warm the heads of tourists.
I believe in some of them willingly and thoughtlessly (and what! I am allowed!), And in others I do not.
Which will you believe? We will see.
One thing is for sure: read on, it will be interesting!
Money for Krzyżtopór
Let's start with the money. It is not difficult to imagine that the construction of a palace-fortress on such a scale (not to mention the splendor of the furnishings) had to cost unimaginable amounts. Different sources give different amounts. Once it is 30 million, and sometimes 50 million zlotys, which does not say anything anyway. It is rather difficult to imagine the real value of such a sum in the 10th century. Another valuation is more illustrative. Suffice it to say that the cost of building Krzyżtopor was roughly equal to the XNUMX-year income of a magnate belonging to the group of the richest Polish magnates. Where did Krzysztof Ossoliński have so much money?
Part of the estate is an inheritance from his father (Zbigniew Ossoliński), but a very significant contribution to Krzysztof Ossoliński's estate was made by his three wives in the form of a dowry. Favorable marriages brought him a considerable fortune.
However, it is commonly believed that the interest in life on which Ossoliński made the most money was the contract he concluded for the supply of food for the Polish army during the Swedish wars.
As it turns out in a moment, history will come full circle soon and we will return to the Swedish theme again.
The location of Krzyżtopor
A palace and a fortress in one must be manned abundantly. On the one hand, they were residents of the comfortable palace part, and on the other, the military cast of the fortress part. For this livestock. So the location of the building was dependent on… of course, water!
The lock had to be located so as to have constant access to a high-capacity water supply. The spring had to work always, regardless of the season and weather.
The choice fell on the hill located on the marshy valley of the Koprzywianka River. In this way, within the walls of the castle there was an efficient source of water, and it was it that determined the location of the building. You will find them in the basement of the octagonal tower, which I marked on the castle plan later in the entry (No. 5).
Miracles, miracles Lord!
Krzysztof Ossoliński was well educated. He studied in Lublin, Krakow, Würzburg, Graz, Florence, Bologna, Padua and Paris. He was interested in, among others art, literature, symbolism and astrology. Over the years of traveling and studying at universities all over Europe, he was naturally permeated with European culture. No wonder then that when planning the construction of his life's work, he used the most beautiful buildings in Europe as a reference point and wanted to create something equally significant.
Unfortunately, no information about the author of the castle design has survived. We only know that the architect Wawrzyniec Senes was in charge of the construction of the castle.
Many sources indicate that the main author of the project may have been Krzysztof Ossoliński himself, supported by the practical knowledge of Senes. Ossoliński had the appropriate education, and the symbolism contained in the building corresponded well with Ossoliński's ambitions. On the other hand, Wawrzyniec Senes has other buildings, but their character is completely different in style from what can be seen in Krzyżtopor. Hence the conclusion that, as a builder and architect with considerable experience, he could provide Ossoliński with significant, practical support.
Pentagon and pentagram
Looking at the building plan, its regular shape is immediately noticeable. It is clearly visible that Krzyżtopór was built on the plan of a pentagon (regular pentagon). Many argue (not without reason) that the starting shape was a pentagram.
In the 180th century, the pentagram was a clearly positive symbol. Known since the Neolithic, for many centuries it symbolized perfection, it was associated with life and health. Only in the nineteenth century (that is quite recently) it was given a negative color associated with Satan (but only in the form inverted by XNUMX degrees, with two vertices up, where the resemblance to the head of a goat was found).
In the animation below, on the satellite photo of Krzyżtopor, I have put both shapes: a pentagon and a pentagram. Decide for yourself which of them optically best suits him.
In the times of Krzysztof Ossoliński, the pentagram did not have any negative tints. He was considered a perfect symbol. Its five arms reflected the five human senses (taste, hearing, touch, smell and sight), the five elements (earth, water, wind, fire and light), and the five worlds (physical, etheric, astral, mental and spiritual).
Looking at the matter from the position of the XNUMXth century, it becomes quite probable that Ossoliński, who knew and understood the symbolism perfectly, used the shape of the pentagram as an ideal posture to build a perfect castle.
To better understand the harmony of shapes, I did a little experiment. I combined the pentagram, the silhouette of a man with the proportions of the body and the outline of the shape of the Krzyżtopór castle into one image. It is true that it fits nicely?
It was supposed to go on forever
The symbolism of Krzyżtopor is not limited to its basic, external shape. Also, what filled this shape, i.e. the palace buildings, were designed to reflect the passage of time, symbolizing the survival of the Ossoliński family. So we have four corner towers on the palace buildings, symbolizing the four seasons. And further? Further - as the rumor has it and the guides say during the tour - the palace was supposed to have 12 rooms, 52 rooms and 365 windows ... in the image of 12 months, 52 weeks and 365 days a year.
Here, unfortunately, I regret to add that modern research is inclined to confirm this version. A serious problem is to count the halls, rooms and windows so that the expected number is obtained.
On the other hand, the current condition of the castle and the lack of any architectural plans from the time of its construction do not exclude that such a division was possible. So?
Looking with delight at the castle, I thought that I would be sorry if after the conversion I ran out of, for example, one window. As a precautionary measure, I decided not to count, and I am pleased to believe that there were 365 of them.
For those willing, I present a short video below, where everyone can quickly count all the windows on their own and check if everything is okay 🙂
For the inquisitive:
When entering the castle, it is worth paying attention to the huge hieroglyph with the letter "W". You can find it on the tower building with the entrance gate (No. 1 on the map), to the left of the gate, under the cross. In Aramaic ornamentation, this symbol means eternal duration. Is it true that it fits perfectly with the idea of the castle?
It was supposed to impress
There is no doubt that the word "delight" was inscribed in the concept that guided Ossoliński during the construction of Krzyżtopor. The palace was supposed to arouse admiration, and maybe even envy.
Entering the castle through the gate tower, you will enter the main courtyard (No. 2). In front of you, you will see a palace building (No. 4) with an elliptical courtyard (No. 3), and farm buildings (No. 6) on the left and right. On the lower floors of the farm buildings there were famous stables, which in their heyday were to be equipped with marble mangers and large mirrors to illuminate the interior.
A tunnel leads from the elliptical courtyard of the palace part to the interiors, leading directly under the huge, two-story ballroom. Further in the axis of the building there is an octagonal tower (No. 5). A source of water flows out of its basement, which determined the location of the palace. In the tower (apparently) there was also a dining room with a glass ceiling, through which you could see the interior of the aquarium with exotic fish ...
I have some doubts here. Everyone who has had an aquarium knows what accumulates at the bottom of such a tank. Fish - like every living creature - after digesting what they have eaten, they get rid of unnecessary contents from the body. This content immediately sinks to the bottom. It is hard for me to imagine that anyone would come up with the idea of observing fish from such an unattractive side ... especially in the representative dining room. However, I will not go into this matter further.
Krzyżtopór or Krzysztofopór?
At the beginning of construction, the castle was called Krzysztofopór. The name was a combination of the founder's name with the name of his family coat of arms (Krzysztof Ossoliński was of the Topór coat of arms). With time, during the construction, the name was changed to Krzyżtopór. The name change is related to the construction of a tower with the main entrance gate in 1631, on which there were placed two huge bas-reliefs: a cross and an ax. At that time, there was also an inscription on the gate, of which there is no trace today: Cross defense / Krzyż podpora / Dziatki our Topor.
Krzysztof Ossoliński was a zealous Catholic and thus expressed his personal attitude to the principles of faith.
Eleven years of greatness
The castle was supposed to last forever and lasted only 11 years. Unfortunately. Due to historical circumstances, this building, unique in every respect, has survived to our times only in the form of a permanent ruin. I am very sorry.
By the way, great bad luck meant that the castle was not lucky with its owners, or the next owners were simply not lucky, because:
the first owner - Krzysztof Ossoliński - died (in 1645) a year after the castle was built due to a sudden attack of fever
the second owner - Krzysztof Baldwin Ossoliński - the son of Krzysztof Ossoliński, died in the Battle of Zborów three years later (in 1648)
the third owner - Jerzy Ossoliński - Krzysztof Ossoliński's brother received the castle on the basis of inheritance and ... died two years later (in 1650)
the fourth owner - the castle was inherited by the daughter of Jerzy Ossoliński Urszula, together with her husband Samuel Jerzy Kalinowski, who ... after two years (in 1652) died in the Battle of Batah
... until fear was to inherit this castle ...
Three years later (in 1655, during the Swedish Deluge), the Swedes entered the castle without firing a single shot. They arranged for themselves exceptionally comfortable quarters there. The Swedish quartermaster Eryk Dahlberg, impressed by the castle, created a drawing of it, which he provided with a meaningful description: The most beautiful and well-fortified fortress.
Two years later (in 1657), the Swedes left the castle, having carefully robbed it of all decorations, equipment and library collections. Probably then disappeared, and then all plans to build the castle are lost. The walls of the castle remained intact.
History has come full circle. The castle, which (as we remember) was largely built thanks to the money Ossoliński earned during the Swedish wars, was robbed to its bare walls by ... the Swedes.
From that moment the systematic fall of Krzyżtopor begins.
For almost 50 consecutive years the castle was not inhabited. The Morsztyn family came after the Kalinowski family. The castle, however, was not renovated and slowly fell into ruin. The next owner, Michał Jan Pac, renovated the southern wing, but as a participant in the Bar Confederation directed against the Russian Empire, he fled to France after the Russian troops entered Poland. The castle was invaded and burnt down by the Russians in 1770.
After that, it changed hands several times, but no one ever undertook any renovation works. For over 200 years, the castle served mainly as a convenient resistance point during various skirmishes and fights: in the January Uprising, during World War I and, of course, during World War II.
It should be considered a miracle that, despite such a colorful history and complete lack of care, about 90% of the castle walls have survived to this day.
Below is a map of the castle with the most interesting places marked, which I mentioned in the entire description above. It will help you plan your visit to the castle.
On the map of the castle:
1. Clock tower with an entrance gate. On both sides of the gate there are great reliefs of a cross and an ax, a symbolic hieroglyph with the letter "W", and the date of construction "1631".
2. The main courtyard
3. Elliptical palace courtyard
4. The main palace building with a huge, two-story ballroom
5. Octagonal tower, which was supposed to be a dining room with a glass ceiling (aquarium). In the basement of the tower there is a source of water and there is a tank-cistern to store water supplies.
6. Wings with outbuildings.
7. Bastion "Gray Monk"
8. Bastion "Crown"
9. Bastion "High saucepan"
10. Bastion "Here is for you"
11. Bastion "Dragon"
12. Utility yards
Visiting Krzyżtopór Castle
The castle can be visited with a guide or independently. Guided tours are possible only in high season, which lasts in the castle from April to October. During this time, it is also possible to visit by night (only with a guide), which takes place on the second and last Saturday of the month.
Guided tours require prior booking, which must be made on the castle page - [click]
You can visit the castle on your own all year round and no reservation is needed.
Independent sightseeing is facilitated by four sightseeing routes marked with colors and plates:
- green route - bastion sightseeing route. It goes around the castle, through all five defensive bastions with historical names: "Gray Monk", "Crown", "Tall Pot", "Here's for You" and "The Dragon".
- blue route - it is basically marked with three shades of blue: navy blue and blue lead through the outbuilding and the palace, and the bright blue color leads to the water source and gardens
- yellow route - the tour of the cellars also leads to the water source and to the cistern used to collect spring water. You can see inside the cistern through the barred inlet opening
- red route - tour of the cellars for the brave. It leads through unlit basement rooms and in places very low ceilings, under which you will have to squeeze through. A flashlight and an efficient spine will be useful 🙂
You can see and download a detailed description of the sightseeing routes with maps by clicking on this link - [click]
Daily visits: PLN 12 / person (regular), PLN 9 / person (discounted)
Renting a guide: PLN 40 for a group of 10
Night tour: PLN 25 / person
April - August: 8:00 am - 20:00 pm
September - October: 8:00 a.m. - 18:00 p.m.
November - February: 8:00 am - 16:00 pm
March: 8 a.m. - 00 p.m.
Useful GPS coordinates
Parking P1 (free), GPS coordinates:
50.713493, 21.309533 - click and route
Parking P2, GPS coordinates:
50.714219, 21.311847 - click and route
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