The oldest evidence of settlement in the castle hill in Cieszyn dates back to the 6th and 5th centuries BC. With time the Cieszyn castle gained in importance, in the 12th century it was promoted to the rank of castellany, and a century later it became the capital of the independent Duchy of Cieszyn, playing an important role as the state administrative centre of the first Piasts and as a border post.
The wooden castle acquired a new, Gothic character in the 14th century, when it was rebuilt in stone. It was divided into two parts: the upper and lower. The upper part, surrounded by a wall and bastions, consisted of living quarters. The castle chapel and the still-surviving defensive tower called the Piast Tower were also located there. In the lower part there were stores and utility rooms, the living quarters of the court servants, an armoury, stables and also dungeons for prisoners.
Unfortunately the following centuries were not kind to the castle. The Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648) and the dying out of the Cieszyn Piasts (1653) sealed the decline of the ducal residence. The castle became the property of the Hapsburgs for whom it served no strategic purpose.
Only in the 19th century (1840) was the hill modified in Neo-classicist style according to plans by Joseph Kornhäusel. A summer hunting palace was built on the foundations of the lower castle, which contained the guest rooms of the Cieszyn archduke and the offices of the Teschener Kammer. A park was established in the remaining part of the hill which contained the Piast Tower and the Rotunda of St. Nicholas.
Before the First World War artificial ruins were built on the remains of the keep whose original appearance was restored in the 20th century. The Supervisory Council of the Cieszyn Duchy was located here until the end of 1918 and subsequently the Directorship of the State Forests. Since 1947 some of the rooms of the hunting palace have been occupied by the State Music School, and since 2005 the castle has been the home of a regional design centre – Zamek Cieszyn. Thanks to funding from the EU’s Structural Funds the building underwent a makeover and the palace orangery was totally reconstructed. In 2005 a regional design centre, Zamek Cieszyn – Research Centre into Material Culture and Design was opened.References:
The Beckov castle stands on a steep 50 m tall rock in the village Beckov. The dominance of the rock and impression of invincibility it gaves, challenged our ancestors to make use of these assets. The result is a remarkable harmony between the natural setting and architecture.
The castle first mentioned in 1200 was originally owned by the King and later, at the end of the 13th century it fell in hands of Matúš Èák. Its owners alternated - at the end of the 14th century the family of Stibor of Stiborice bought it.
The next owners, the Bánffys who adapted the Gothic castle to the Renaissance residence, improved its fortifications preventing the Turks from conquering it at the end of the 16th century. When Bánffys died out, the castle was owned by several noble families. It fell in decay after fire in 1729.
The history of the castle is the subject of different legends. One of them narrates the origin of the name of castle derived from that of jester Becko for whom the Duke Stibor had the castle built.
Another legend has it that the lord of the castle had his servant thrown down from the rock because he protected his child from the lords favourite dog. Before his death, the servant pronounced a curse saying that they would meet in a year and days time, and indeed precisely after that time the lord was bitten by a snake and fell down to the same abyss.
The well-conserved ruins of the castle, now the National Cultural Monument, are frequently visited by tourists, above all in July when the castle festival takes place. The former Ambro curia situated below the castle now shelters the exhibition of the local history.