Rydzyna Castle was built in the early 15th century by Komes Jan of Czernina. Eighteenth-century architecture and town planning were such as to have made it a classic example of a baroque urban configuration joined to a manor house.
Rafał Leszczyński, then owner of Leszno, purchased the property in late 17th century. He oversaw construction work in 1690-1694 to convert the medieval castle into a baroque manor with four four-storey wings arranged around an internal courtyard, with four alcove towers in the corners. The conversion was led by the Royal Architect Giuseppe Józef Szymon Belotti. The interior arrangement, with its economical basement, first floor private apartments, and lavishly decorated second floor with its elegant interiors, are his work as well. The architect Pompeo Ferrari was commissioned to complete the work c. 1700. He redesigned the western wing of the castle with a two-storey ballroom over an elliptical vestibule. To the west, a garden was built over the former castle moats.
Rafał’s son, Stanisław Leszczyński, became King of Poland in 1704. The castle was burnt down during the Saxon Wars and Rydzyna was placed under Saxon administration from 1709. Stanisław Leszczyński left for France.
Aleksander Józef Sułkowski, a minister of Augustus II the Strong, purchased the Leszczyński property in 1738. Sometime around 1740, he hired Silesian architect Karol Marcin Frantz and set about reconstructing the manor. The monumental, elegant stairway added to the north wing is his work. The stairway is connected to each floor via a stately vestibule. The west wing ballroom was rearranged and stucco decoration added by Jan Chrystian Grünewald from Legnica. The polychrome ceiling features Apoteoza Rodu Sułkowskich (The Apotheosis of the Sułkowski Family) by Silesian painter Georg Neunhertz. He probably painted the polychrome on the internal courtyard walls as well (their remains were uncovered during work carried out in the 1970s and 1980s.
The castle island was also extended and new moats were dug. A semi-circular courtyard was installed in front of the northern elevation of the castle. This was enclosed by annexes, a stable, a coach house and a dressage arena connected via galleries. August Sułkowski inherited the property in 1762. He aligned the manor and the city along a composition axis. In 1776, Ignacy Graff placed a semi-circular closed pool in the garden, surrounded it with stone sculptures by Jan Rimpler, and designed several park pavilions, including an orangery in which plays were staged. Graff is also credited with rebuilding the ballroom and having monumental marble columns installed inside it. The city also experienced a boom during the time of August Sułkowski, who created Rydzyna as an entailed estate in 1775.
The German government purchased the estate and turned the castle into a collegiate school when the last male heir in primogeniture died in 1909. When the country regained independence in 1918, the Rydzyna property was acquired by the Ministry of Education and converted into a boys’ high school with a dormitory. The castle was seized by Germany during WWII and was almost completely burnt down in 1945. Renovation, restoration and conservation work was carried out in the 1970s and 1980s.References:
The Cloth Hall in Kraków dates to the Renaissance and is one of the city's most recognizable icons. It is the central feature of the main market square in the Kraków Old Town (listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1978).
The hall was once a major centre of international trade. Traveling merchants met there to discuss business and to barter. During its golden age in the 15th century, the hall was the source of a variety of exotic imports from the east – spices, silk, leather and wax – while Kraków itself exported textiles, lead, and salt from the Wieliczka Salt Mine.
Kraków was Poland's capital city and was among the largest cities in Europe already from before the time of the Renaissance. However, its decline started with the move of the capital to Warsaw in the very end of the 16th century. The city's decline was hastened by wars and politics leading to the Partitions of Poland at the end of the 18th century. By the time of the architectural restoration proposed for the cloth hall in 1870 under Austrian rule, much of the historic city center was decrepit. A change in political and economic fortunes for the Kingdom of Galicia and Lodomeria ushered in a revival due to newly established Legislative Assembly or Sejm of the Land. The successful renovation of the Cloth Hall, based on design by Tomasz Pryliński and supervised by Mayor Mikołaj Zyblikiewicz, Sejm Marshal, was one of the most notable achievements of this period.
The hall has hosted many distinguished guests over the centuries and is still used to entertain monarchs and dignitaries, such as Charles, Prince of Wales and Emperor Akihito of Japan, who was welcomed here in 2002. In the past, balls were held here, most notably after Prince Józef Poniatowski had briefly liberated the city from the Austrians in 1809. Aside from its history and cultural value, the hall still is still used as a center of commerce.
On the upper floor of the hall is the Sukiennice Museum division of the National Museum, Kraków. It holds the largest permanent exhibit of the 19th-century Polish painting and sculpture, in four grand exhibition halls arranged by historical period and the theme extending into an entire artistic epoch. The museum was upgraded in 2010 with new technical equipment, storerooms, service spaces as well as improved thematic layout for the display.
The Gallery of 19th-Century Polish Art was a major cultural venue from the moment it opened on October 7, 1879. It features late Baroque, Rococo, and Classicist 18th-century portraits and battle scenes by Polish and foreign pre-Romantics.