Ostrzeszów castle, situated at a short distance north-west of the town’s centre and probably originally separated from it by a moat, constituted an independent fortified establishment, although it was associated in the old times with the town’s fortification system. Built around mid-14th century, the endowment of King Casimir the Great, it was part of the ruler’s large-scale construction venture aimed at reinforcing the State’s borderline area.
Situated on a small, possibly artificially heaped-up hill, it once formed an installation embracing a rectangular area of ca. 27 m x 30 m, surrounded with tall brick walls, supported and reinforced on the angles with buttresses. In its south-eastern line – that is, on the town’s side – an enormous tower has been built, quadrilateral on its basement, turning into an octagon in its higher sections. By the tower, at its southern side, there was an entrance gate opening toward an extensive wall-surrounded courtyard. The courtyard’s inner developments were originally wooden and were replaced by brick structures around mid-15th century. A brick one-tract two- or three-storey building, rectangular in its projection, probably covered with a tall roof, was erected then along the yard’s north-western side, opposite the gate.
The castle developments so formed were meant to exercise a fortified/defensive function, in the first place, along with an administrative and residential function; they were the seat of consecutive castle-town starosts who represented the royal authority in the province. The castle was destroyed during the Swedish invasion, but was rebuilt afterwards in as early as 1661. Although it lost its defensive function, still being the seat of starost, it continued to be a centre of authority, also as home to magistrates’ and land courts.
Toward the end of 18th century, the castle’s walls and buildings were much neglected, and by mid-19th c., their condition threatened with construction disaster and the decision to have it demolished was made.
Relicts of perimetric walls and the tower (renovated and preserved in 1960) have survived till this day – the tower being made of bricks, founded on a square projection, on combined stone-brick foundations, turning into an octagon at a height of ca. 11 m above the area’s surface. Its brick elevations, with a gothic strand of the walls, have preserved remnants of former architectonic décor, in the form of a double ogival blind window in the upper section of the front wall.
Presently, the tower houses a display of torture appliances of yore, its top part offering a beautiful view of the town. For a tourist group, in order to use the tower, it is advised to contact the Regional Museum beforehand.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.