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 famous Italian Medici family have given two queens to France: Catherine, the spouse of Henry II, and Marie, widow of Henry IV, who built the current Luxembourg palace. Maria di Medici had never been happy at the Louvre, still semi-medieval, where the fickle king, did not hesitate to receive his mistresses. The death of Henry IV, assassinated in 1610, left the way open for Marie's project. When she became regent, she was able to give special attention to the construction of an imposing modern residence that would be reminiscent of the Palazzo Pitti and the Boboli Gardens in Florence, where she grew up. The development of the 25-hectare park, which was to serve as a jewel-case for the palace, began immediately.
The architect, Salomon de Brosse, began the work in 1615. Only 16 years later was the palace was completed. Palace of Luxembourg affords a transition between the Renaissance and the Classical period.
In 1750, the Director of the King's Buildings installed in the wing the first public art-gallery in France, in which French and foreign canvases of the royal collections are shown. The Count of Provence and future Louis XVIII, who was living in Petit Luxembourg, had this gallery closed in 1780: leaving to emigrate, he fled from the palace in June 1791.
During the French Revolution the palace was first abandoned and then moved as a national prison. After that it was the seat of the French Directory, and in 1799, the home of the Sénat conservateur and the first residence of Napoleon Bonaparte, as First Consul of the French Republic. The old apartments of Maria di Medici were altered. The floor, which the 80 senators only occupied in 1804, was built in the middle of the present Conference Hall.
Beginning in 1835 the architect Alphonse de Gisors added a new garden wing parallel to the old corps de logis, replicating the look of the original 17th-century facade so precisely that it is difficult to distinguish at first glance the old from the new. The new senate chamber was located in what would have been the courtyard area in-between.
The new wing included a library (bibliothèque) with a cycle of paintings (1845–1847) by Eugène Delacroix. In the 1850s, at the request of Emperor Napoleon III, Gisors created the highly decorated Salle des Conférences, which influenced the nature of subsequent official interiors of the Second Empire, including those of the Palais Garnier.
During the German occupation of Paris (1940–1944), Hermann Göring took over the palace as the headquarters of the Luftwaffe in France, taking for himself a sumptuous suite of rooms to accommodate his visits to the French capital. Since 1958 the Luxembourg palace has been the seat of the French Senate of the Fifth Republic.