Castles and fortifications in Poland

Wawel Castle

Wawel Hill – a Jurassic limestone rock, a dominant feature in the landscape of Kraków, have provided a safe haven for people who have settled here since the Paleolithic Age. It is supposed that the Slav people started living on Wawel hill as early as the 7th century. Early medieval legends tell stories about a dreadful dragon that lived in a cave on Wawel Hill, about his slayer Krakus, and about the latter’s daughter ...
Founded: 9th century AD | Location: Kraków, Poland

Warsaw Royal Castle

The history of the Royal Castle goes back to the 14th century when the Great Tower was erected. In the 16th and 17th centuries during the reign of Sigismund III Vasa, the Castle underwent large-scale expansion and was transformed into a five-winged edifice with an inner courtyard. It was a royal residence, the place where parliamentary deliberations were held and the administrative and cultural centre of the country. Des ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Warsaw, Poland

Kraków Defence Walls

The defences of Kraków date back to the 13th century and consisted of a wall with 39 towers and 8 gates, surrounded by a moat. The Wawel Castle defended one end of the town, and the Barbican the other. Today you can still see the Castle and the Barbican, and a small section of the wall by St Florian"s Gate. But the site of the old wall has been replaced by a garden, The Planty, that encircles the city. As you walk ...
Founded: Medieval | Location: Stare Miasto, Poland

Kraków Barbican

The Kraków Barbican is a fortified outpost once connected to the city walls. It is a historic gateway leading into the Old Town of Kraków. The barbican is one of the few remaining relics of the complex network of fortifications and defensive barriers that once encircled the royal city. It currently serves as a tourist attraction and venue for a variety of exhibitions. The Gothic-style barbican, built around ...
Founded: 1498 | Location: Kraków, Poland

Malbork Castle

The Castle of the Teutonic Order in Malbork (Ordensburg Marienburg), completed in 1406, is the largest castle in the world by surface area, and the largest brick building in Europe. The castle is a classic example of a medieval fortress. UNESCO designated the 'Castle of the Teutonic Order in Malbork' and the Malbork Castle Museum as the World Heritage Site in 1997. The castle was built by the Teutonic Order after the con ...
Founded: 1274-1406 | Location: Malbork, Poland

Czocha Castle

Czocha Castle is located on the Lake Leśnia, what is now the Polish part of Upper Lusatia. Czocha castle was built on gneiss rock, and its oldest part is the keep, to which housing structures were later added. Czocha Castle began as a stronghold, on the Czech-Lusatian border. Its construction was ordered by Wenceslaus I of Bohemia, in the middle of the 13th century (1241–1247). In 1253 castle was handed over t ...
Founded: 1241 | Location: Czocha, Poland

Upland Gate

The Upland Gate was built along with the surrounding fortifications between 1571-1576. Formerly, it was the main entrance to the town. The western embankment (built up in 1573) was equipped with a basic looking brick gate building, initially devoid of any kind of decoration. It should be emphasised that this was the first gate in Gdánsk built according to the latest fortification techniques at that time. Credit fo ...
Founded: 1571-1576 | Location: Gdańsk, Poland

Royal Castle

Construction of the Royal Castle in Poznań was probably started by Przemysł I in 1249 on hill later called Góra Zamkowa. The first building was a habitable tower made of bricks with a well inside, and the rest of the hill was surrounded by a rampart with a palisade. A small ducal residence was incorporated into the system of city walls in the late 13th century. The son of Przemysł I, Przemysł II, hoping for reunific ...
Founded: 1249 | Location: Poznań, Poland

St. Hyacinth Tower

In front of the Market Hall is the tall octagonal Hyacinthus" Tower, one of the remnants of the medieval fortifications. It was built around 1400 and, apart from its defensive role, it also served as a watchtower. Today it houses a photo shop.
Founded: c. 1400 | Location: Gdańsk, Poland

Ksiaz Castle

Książ Castle, the third largest castle in Poland, is located on a majestic rock cliff by the side of the Pelcznica River. Beautifully surrounded by the forest within a 315500 actre nature reserve, at the height of 395m above sea level, castle is often called ‘the Pearl of Lower Silesia’. Such location corresponding to the size of the building is very rare in Europe. Książ (in German Fü ...
Founded: 1288-1292 | Location: Walbrzych, Poland

Imperial Castle

The Imperial Castle in Poznań was constructed under the German rule in 1910 by Franz Schwechten for William II, German Emperor, with significant input from William himself. Since its completion, the building has housed government offices of Germany (to 1918 and during the Second World War) and Poland (1918–1939, 1945–present). Construction began in 1905, and five years later, on 21 August 1910, during a ...
Founded: 1905-1910 | Location: Poznań, Poland

Szczecin Castle

The Ducal Castle in Szczecin was the seat of the dukes of Pomerania-Stettin of the House of Pomerania (Griffins), who ruled the Duchy of Pomerania from 1121 to 1637. Barnim the Great of Pomerania-Stettin erected the castle within Szczecin's walls against the will of the burghers in 1346. An older Pomeranian burgh had been leveled in 1249. In 1490 the castle was partially reconstructed for Boguslaw X's wedding with Anna Ja ...
Founded: 1346 | Location: Szczecin, Poland

Zupny Castle

Żupny Castle is a Gothic castle, the former headquarters of the Wieliczka and Bochnia Salt Mine. The castle is located in the former mine complex and was designated as part of the Wieliczka and Bochnia UNESCO World Heritage Site, since an expansion in 2013. A castle was built on top of the hillside in the 13th century, under the reign of Casimir III the Great and Sigismund I the Old. The current castle was built in a sq ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Wieliczka, Poland

Olsztyn Castle

Olsztyn castle is the oldest building in the town. It was built in the 14th century and originally consisted of two wings. The archaeological research proves that the fortress was built from scratch, on a raw piece of land, where no traces of any earlier settlement have ever been found. The castle belonged to the chapter of the Warmia diocese, which along with the bishop of Warmia was subjected to the military protection ...
Founded: 1346-1353 | Location: Olsztyn, Poland

Moszna Castle

The Moszna Castle is one of the best known monuments in the western part of Upper Silesia. The history of this building begins in the 17th century, although much older cellars were found in the gardens during excavations carried out at the beginning of the 20th century. Some of the investigators, including H. Barthel, claimed that those cellars could have been remnants of a presumed Templar castle, but their theo ...
Founded: 1900 | Location: Moszna, Poland

Lancut Castle

Łańcut Castle was the residence of the Pilecki, Lubomirski and Potocki families. The complex includes a number of buildings and is surrounded by a park. The history of Łańcut stretches back to the early Middle Ages, founded as a town in 1349 under King Casmir the Great. The major landowning families in Łańcut were, successively, the Pilecki’s, Stadnicki’s, Lubomirski’s and the Potocki’s. The first residenc ...
Founded: 1629-1642 | Location: Łańcut, Poland

Ujazdów Castle

Ujazdów Castle dates to the 13th century, and it was rebuilt several times. Like many structures in Warsaw, it sustained much damage in the Warsaw Uprising (1944). Reconstructed 30 years later (1974), it now houses Warsaw"s Center for Contemporary Art. The first castle on the spot was erected by the Dukes of Masovia as early as the 13th century. However, in the following century their court was moved to the f ...
Founded: 1624 | Location: Warsaw, Poland

Lidzbark Warminski Castle

Lidzbark Gothic Castle was built in 1350-1401 on a site previously occupied by a small Prussian fort called Lecbarg, which had been situated between two rivers: the Łyna and the Symsarna. For many years Lidzbark Castle was a residence of the bishops of Warmia and a stronghold protecting the eastern border of their domain. The basic structure of the castle consists of four wings enclosing the inner ward, surrounded b ...
Founded: 1350-1401 | Location: Gmina Lidzbark Warmiński, Poland

Krasiczyn Castle

The construction of the Krasiczyn Castle started in 1580, initiated by a local nobleman Stanislaw Siecienski of Siecin, who came to the area from Mazovia. Works lasted for 53 years, and the castle was not completed until 1633, by Marcin Krasicki, son of Stanisław and Voivode of Podolia, who in the meantime had changed his name. Originally, the castle was a fortified stronghold, protecting southern border of the Polish-Li ...
Founded: 1580 | Location: Krasiczyn, Poland

Krzyztopór Castle

It is unknown when the construction of Krzyżtopór impressive fortress began. The first documented proof of the construction of the castle comes from 1627, when it was uncompleted. It was probably finished it in 1644, having spent the enormous sum of 30 million Polish zÅ‚otys on the work. The castle was inherited by OssoliÅ„ski's son Krzysztof Baldwin OssoliÅ„ski, who died in 1649 in the Battle of Zbor&o ...
Founded: 1627 | Location: Ujazd, Poland

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Hagios Demetrios

The Church of Saint Demetrius, or Hagios Demetrios, is the main sanctuary dedicated to Saint Demetrius, the patron saint of Thessaloniki. It is part of the site Palaeochristian and Byzantine Monuments of Thessaloniki on the list of World Heritage Sites by UNESCO since 1988.

The first church on the spot was constructed in the early 4th century AD, replacing a Roman bath. A century later, a prefect named Leontios replaced the small oratory with a larger, three-aisled basilica. Repeatedly gutted by fires, the church eventually was reconstructed as a five-aisled basilica in 629–634. This was the surviving form of the church much as it is today. The most important shrine in the city, it was probably larger than the local cathedral. The historic location of the latter is now unknown.

The church had an unusual shrine called the ciborium, a hexagonal, roofed structure at one side of the nave. It was made of or covered with silver. The structure had doors and inside was a couch or bed. Unusually, it did not hold any physical relics of the saint. The ciborium seems to have been a symbolic tomb. It was rebuilt at least once.

The basilica is famous for six extant mosaic panels, dated to the period between the latest reconstruction and the inauguration of the Byzantine Iconoclasm in 730. These mosaics depict St. Demetrius with officials responsible for the restoration of the church (called the founders, ktetors) and with children. An inscription below one of the images glorifies heaven for saving the people of Thessalonica from a pagan Slavic raid in 615.

Thessaloniki became part of the Ottoman Empire in 1430. About 60 years later, during the reign of Bayezid II, the church was converted into a mosque, known as the Kasımiye Camii after the local Ottoman mayor, Cezeri Kasım Pasha. The symbolic tomb however was kept open for Christian veneration. Other magnificent mosaics, recorded as covering the church interior, were lost either during the four centuries when it functioned as a mosque (1493–1912) or in the Great Thessaloniki Fire of 1917 that destroyed much of the city. It also destroyed the roof and upper walls of the church. Black-and-white photographs and good watercolour versions give an idea of the early Byzantine craftsmanship lost during the fire.

Following the Great Fire of 1917, it took decades to restore the church. Tombstones from the city"s Jewish cemetery - destroyed by the Greek and Nazi German authorities - were used as building materials in these restoration efforts in the 1940s. Archeological excavations conducted in the 1930s and 1940s revealed interesting artifacts that may be seen in a museum situated inside the church"s crypt. The excavations also uncovered the ruins of a Roman bath, where St. Demetrius was said to have been held prisoner and executed. A Roman well was also discovered. Scholars believe this is where soldiers dropped the body of St. Demetrius after his execution. After restoration, the church was reconsecrated in 1949.